Wednesday, February 10, 2010
DMc: Your latest book, America’s Black Founders: Revolutionary Heroes and Early Leaders, celebrates the lives of Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and James Forten. How did you come about in focusing on these three individuals?
NS: When the capital of the United States was in Philadelphia during the late 1700s, all eyes of the newly-forming nation were focused on this city. During the time President Washington resided in Philadelphia, this city was home to the nation’s largest growing community of free blacks. Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and James Forten were leaders of this community, and they were also close friends. Through the petitions they signed, the sermons they preached, the newspaper articles they wrote, the churches they founded, and the organizations they started, these Black Founders influenced the newly forming nation in powerful ways.
DMc: You specialize in writing about African American history for kids. How do you filter out and expand on one particular incident in so much rich content in African American history?
NS: I try to fit into series of books that publishers are already publishing. For instance, Sleeping Bear Press has a line of alphabet books on different cultures. So I pitched an idea to them for an alphabet book on African American history. They offered me a contract and I wrote D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet.
Libraries Unlimited has a series of books for teachers with readers theatre plays about American history. So I pitched an idea to them for a book of readers theatre plays on African American history. They offered me a contract, and my husband, a fourth grade teacher, and I wrote Readers Theatre for African American History.
Chicago Review Press has a series called “For Kids.” In this series I saw how they are publishing books on America’s Founders such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. So I pitched an idea to them for a book in this series about African American Founders. They offered me a contract, and I wrote America’s Black Founders.
Simply fitting into an existing series helps me focus on the content that will be in a certain book. To expand on one particular incident, I visit local universities and search through their collections of African American history to learn all about the event or individual. So in essence, I’m taking university level information and presenting it, some of it for the very first time, to the world of children.
DMc: Please share with us your current work-in-progress.
NS: Right now I have four book projects that I’m working on. Each one is under agreement with a separate publisher. My current deadline that I’m working on every day is for the second book in my series for children’s writers and will be released in late summer, 2010: Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books.
I’m also working on the second book in a middle grade series of historical fiction. The title of the series is the Black Patriots in the American Revolution. The first book in the series, A Dangerous Search: From Lexington to Bunker Hill, will be released this spring, 2010. I’ve already seen the artwork and the proof of the book, so I’m eager for it to come out! The second book, the one I’m currently writing, takes place at Valley Forge and revolves around the many African American troops who spent the harsh winter there, helping to protect the countryside around Philadelphia from marauding British Troops who had settled inside the city to wait out the winter.
DMc: Please share with us your differences in writing fiction and non-fiction.
NS: The facts stay the same in both types of writing, so the research is very intense for both. For my children’s nonfiction, I try to borrow fiction techniques to make the text come alive and the result is what is known as creative nonfiction. In other words, at times I try to incorporate dialogue and create realistic scenes within my nonfiction books, but I have to be very careful to stay true to the facts and not invent something of my own.
In my middle grade series of historical fiction, the Black Patriots in the American Revolution, the world is the same as the world of nonfiction. However, I invent an entire cast of imaginary characters to exist within this world. I work hard to make sure these characters fit into their world and often base their lives on actual people I’ve read about who also lived there. For instance, in the book I’m currently writing in this series about Valley Forge, I discovered that many women and children stayed at Valley Forge to cook for the troops and do the laundry. Even Martha Washington spent the winter there with the President! So I created a girl who has run away to escape being a slave, but breaks her leg and is forced to hide at Valley Forge while it heals, and accept the help of one of the women working for the troops. In my story, this girl interacts with some of the actual Black Patriots who spent the winter there, and that is how my readers come to know who these Black Patriots really were.
Interested in learning more about Nancy, visit her at:
Where you will also find a complete virtual book tour schedule.
Nancy, thank you for visiting today. It has been an honor to host you.