Monday, March 3, 2014

Shifting Gears

A few months ago, I connected with Colleen Cruz, a Lead Senior Staff Developer for the Columbia University Teacher’s College Reading & Writing Project, on Twitter. Colleen is one of the authors of the popular Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing: A Common Core Workshop Curriculum. Working with Lucy Calkins, Colleen wrote the third grade module entitled The Art of Information Writing, which uses my book Deadliest Animals as a mentor text.

I’m honored that Colleen selected my book, Deadliest Animals, and was delighted that she invited me to participate in a Twitterchat with teachers using the Units of Study program. As I read The Art of Information Writing, I was thrilled to discover that one of its main focuses is structure in nonfiction writing. As far as I’m concerned, structure is the most critical element of nonfiction writing, and the one I struggle with most. 
The Twitterchat was a huge success, and I’ve continued to stay in touch with the #TCRWP and #UofS communities via Twitter. I love seeing the student work teachers post and hearing their stories of success with the program. It’s exciting to be involved.
Quite a few teachers have asked me questions about the creative process behind Deadliest Animals and some of my other books on Twitter or at conferences, such as NCTE, so I thought I’d blog about it here for the rest of the school year.
I’ll start today by explaining why I wrote the book in the first place. I began writing for the National Geographic Readers series in 2008 after being contacted by editor Amy Shields. I had known Amy since the late 1990s when she acquired a book I wrote for Millbrook Press, which is now part of the Lerner Publishing Group.
The National Geographic Reader series was just beginning and I was one of the prototype authors. My first book for the series was a Level 2 reader entitled Snakes!. Over the next couple of years, I wrote Ants (Level 1) and Dolphins (Level 2). Then in 2010, the series’s new editor, Laura Marsh, asked me to write my first Level 3 reader, Deadliest Animals. I thought it was a great topic, and said yes immediately.
What happened next? I’ll continue the story behind the book next week.


  1. My eyes always seek out titles like Deadliest Animals. Kids love to learn about extreme animals. That's why cobras are more popular with kids than grass snakes. Wonderful job on this post. I always enjoy reading everything you write.

  2. Thanks, Julee. I had a blast writing Deadliest Animals.

  3. This will be a fun journey through the book-writing process! So glad you're sharing it.