My Mentor, Mary Quattlebaum!

Mary Quattlebaum is not only my friend and fellow student from William and Mary, but also my very first writing mentor.  I remember sitting in her living room with other (much more talented) writers in awe of her abilities and her gentle way of critiquing my very poor drafts and, after pointing out all the beautiful bits she found (that was a monumental task), saying things like, “Might you want to consider …” and then giving me excellent advice when, really, she could’ve said things like, “Seriously, Kathy, have you ever heard the word plot?”

Her gentle insightfulness and talent appears in all her books — and she has written many — including her latest nature picture books.  Mary’s JO MACDONALD trilogy riffs on the Old MacDonald’s Farm theme but with young Jo at the center.  She’s an upbeat nature girl, much like Mary.  The text is upbeat, too, and will have kids (and adults) singing along.  They’re not only fun and adorable (wonderful illustrations by Laura J. Bryant), they’re very cleverly educational, too.  In JO MACDONALD HAD A GARDEN, we see what’s needed for a garden to grow.   JO MACDONALD SAW A POND explains a pond’s ecosystem.  And in JO MACDONALD HIKED IN THE WOODS, we see an entire forest community.  At the end of each book is an explanation (with pictures) of the items in the book and their importance to the theme.  The GARDEN book also tells young readers how to plant a garden, gives advice on gardening and also gives indoor activities that can be enjoyed year round.  In the POND book, there’s information on how to be a naturalist and a citizen scientist.  In her latest, JO MACDONALD HIKED IN THE WOODS, Mary tells us about different types of trees, how they work, various animals, forests, and even how to be a safe and considerate hiker (along with indoor activities, etc. like in the other books).  Simply put, these books are packed with great stuff for kids and all of us!

Now, for some fun for both readers and writers, here’s Mary Quattlebaum herself!

You love and appreciate nature.  How do you think nature can help our writing?  Do you every write outside?
Wow, nature feels like an endless source of inspiration, what with all the critters and plants, the shifting clouds and swaying trees.  Being in the natural world just makes my senses more alert (rather than overwhelmed and overstimulated, like going to a shopping mall).
I like to write on the front porch when the weather is nice.  One of my favorite writing places, though, is our kitchen table in the morning.  I can look out the window at the garden and enjoy the early morning rays.
What is your favorite outdoor place to hang out?
I love our front porch swing and our wildlife garden in the backyard, which has shrubs, coneflowers, and other native plants to help sustain birds and pollinators.  Even in winter, there’s something restful and calming about a garden.  And I love walking the dog daily, through all the seasons, in a field that is part of Fort Reno park in Washington, DC (where I live).  The hill there is the highest point in the city so it is a great place to view the changing landscape.  I love seeing how much my dog, Yoshi, relishes the outdoors.   I know you are a big fan of dogs, too, Kathy.  Don’t you just love walking Fletcher and seeing how he takes in the world?
[Kathy:  Yes, but mostly he lies down in the grass.  He can be a very lazy dog.]
What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Walking and gardening.
What is something nature-related that you think everyone should do at one time in their lives?
Grow a plant!  There’s something amazing about watching a seed sprout and grow.  A miracle of the ordinary.  It reminds us that the earth renews itself, and that we humans are part of a great cycle of life and death that includes many forms of life, over millions of years.
Kathy:   That’s beautiful, Mary–thank you!  Here’s Mary’s website for more information.  Enjoy the trilogy!


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4 responses to “My Mentor, Mary Quattlebaum!

  1. Lovely post! Enjoyed hearing more about this series. Thanks so much, Kathy and Mary :)!

  2. I love reading about Mary Quattlebaum!

  3. Thank you so much, Kathy! What a wonderful friend you are!

  4. Kathy, I enjoyed your convo with Mary.

    So here’s what I think of when I hear the name Mary Quattlebaum. I remember entering a contest for the Marguerite d’ Angeli prize and not winning. Mary Quattlebaum won for Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns.

    Mary, congratulations, a little late! Wow, you certainly are prolific!

    I live in the country and we enjoy many hikes in the woods with our grands.I’m gonna have to own this book!

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