I had the honor last weekend of joining an impressive panel of authors and illustrators to speak about writing nonfiction for children. The event took place at the annual convention for the National Council for the Teachers of English; it featured the creators of books that NCTE recognized on its 2011 Orbis Pictus award list, which distinguishes one top winner and five honor books.

Co-authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan and illustrator Brian Floca
discussed the intersections of collaboration and inspiration that resulted in Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, which won the top Orbis Pictus award.

Marc Aronson, If Stones Could Speak: Unlocking the Secrets of Stonehenge, spoke about how the challenge of nonfiction—being beholden to the facts—adds to the thrill of writing in this genre, and how there will always be questions that haven’t yet been asked.

I spoke about indulging curiosity and seeking the human connection to scientific topics in reference to Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age.

Larry Dane Brimner, author of Birmingham Sunday, spoke about finding the specific details of history that make a story come to life,

Rebecca L. Johnson shared how a decade of ocean diving led her to write Journey Into the Deep: Discovering New Ocean Sea Creatures.

Michael O’Tunnell spoke about how serendipity and follow-through lead writers to powerful stories such as Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot.”

Eight panelists spoke and we ended our hour-and-fifteen-minute session right on time. That’s worthy of an award in itself!

Plus I met many of the wonderful educators who have a passion for children’s literature and contribute their expertise and energy to serving on the Orbis Pictus Award Committee.

And as icing on the cake, when perusing the exhibit hall booths, I saw teachers admiring Hamline alumnus Molly Beth Griffin’s Loon Baby at the Houghton Mifflin booth. And they had already sold out of Claire’s Marching with Aunt Susan at the Peachtree booth.

It was a great day all round.