Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Behind the Books: Deep Thinking About Nonfiction

At the end of June, Alyson Beecher, Cathy Potter, Louise Capizzo, and Mary Ann Scheuer gave a great presentation about Common Core and informational text at ALA in Las Vegas. I didn’t attend the conference, but I read Alyson’s blog post and viewed the presentation via slide share a few days later.

One of the topics they discussed was brand new to me—nonfiction writing styles. I was curious, so I posed a couple of questions on Twitter. Soon I was engaged in a fascinating conversation with Alyson, Cathy, and Mary Ann as well as fellow authors Deborah Heiligman, Elizabeth Partridge, Loree Griffin Burns, and Nancy Castaldo.

I love Twitter. While we all sat comfortably in our homes spanning from sea to shining sea, we engaged in some incredible professional development. Thanks to the ideas that flew back and forth and a Nonfiction Detectives blog post that Cathy shared with us, I came away with a new way of thinking about what I do, how I do it, and how I might be able to do it better, or at least more efficiently, more deliberately. And perhaps most importantly, how other people—including children just learning to write—could do it, too.

Sure, I’ve given a lot of thought to structure and voice and point of view, but these tools have just been sort of floating around in my writer’s tool box. They needed an anchor. During the Twitter chat, I began to think about style as well as type. And for the rest of the summer, I kept discussing them with Alyson via Twitter, email, Skype, a google doc, and even once in person. I also discussed it with a slew of fellow nonfiction authors when I attended the annual SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles.

Thanks to these conversations, I’m beginning to see some patterns in what I do and recognize key elements to think about before I start to write. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about them separately and together, so stay tuned.


  1. Can't wait to see what you share, Melissa

  2. Interesting! Definitely want to follow this discussion. Thank you.

  3. Melissa - The twitter discussions, email, and in-person discussion has really stuck with me and influenced what I have been sharing and using in PD trainings and conversations with teachers. It is powerful stuff and look forward to seeing how it develops further.

  4. Laura and Mary, I hope you'll join in on the conversation. I'll be hear the thoughts of other NF writers.

    Me too, Alyson. It's great when authors and educators can discuss these topics together. We have so much to learn from one another.