Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Behind the Books: Gross and Goofy Body

Hey, guess what? The first six books in my Gross and Goofy Body series are now available. Here are the titles:

The Eyes Have It: The Secrets of Eyes and Seeing
Blasts of Gas: The Secrets of Breathing, Burping, and Passing Gas
Up Your Nose: The Secrets of Schnozes and Snouts
Pump It Up: The Secrets of the Heart and Blood
It’s Spit-Acular: The Secrets of Saliva
Now Hear This: The Secrets of Ears and Hearing
And here’s a series description:
The lively, conversational tone and blend of photos and cartoon-style art make Gross and Goofy Body a perfect blend of fun facts and serious science learning. These titles are irreverent enough to captivate young readers, yet authoritative enough to win the praise of teachers, librarians, and parents.
There will be twelve titles in all. The other six are schedule for release in 2010.

Originally, I had no intention of creating such a large series. I just wanted to write a single book.

It all started when I read an article in Natural History magazine in 2004. It was about all the amazing ways animals use spit—to build homes, to attract mates, to heal wounds. I was fascinated and knew kids would be too.

So I did a ton of research, wrote some sample spreads in a fun, irreverent voice and sent them to a few publishers. Over the next few months, the rejections piled up.

“Great idea, but not right for us.”

“There are too many gross books on the market.”

“The information is too educational.”

“Is spit really interesting enough to support a whole book?”

I couldn’t argue with most of these comments, after all every editor is entitled to his or her opinion. But I could address the last comment. All I had to do was write the whole book.

So that’s what I did. But the editor still had her concerns. Drat!

So I put the manuscript, It’s Spit-Acular: The Secrets of Saliva, on the back burner.

But a funny thing happened. I had mentioned my book idea to a lot of people—adults and kids. And they kept asking about it. They also kept sharing whatever gross, goofy, weird, or wacky body facts they came across.

I wrote all these facts down in a notebook. I didn’t know why I was doing it, but I kept on writing them down.

Then one day I realized I could probably write a series of books. Maybe even one for each body system. I sat down to make a list, and I ended up with twelve solid titles.

Hmmm. Could I sell a whole series?

While I was pondering that idea, I received some great news. Before I tell you what is was, you need a little background.

When I said I put It’s Spit-Acular on the backburner, what I meant was that I stopped submitting it. But I didn’t just stuff it in a drawer and forget about it. No way. I entered it in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Nonfiction Research Grant contest.

And guess what? I won.

That gave me the courage to start sending out the series proposal. And not long after that, I received an offer from Benchmark Books/Marshall Cavendish. Hooray!

I used the SCBWI grant money to subscribe to a medical research database at a nearby teaching hospital. The articles from that database formed the foundation of my research, but some of the most gross and goofy facts and ideas in the books came from my notebooks.
Some people say it takes a village to raise a child, and that may be true. It certainly took a village to gather the all cool facts and figures in my twelve Gross and Goofy Body books.

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