Thank you Kathleen Krull for stopping by today and sharing with readers about your fantastic new series, WOMEN WHO BROKE THE RULES (WWBtR). I have read the first four and love them. To find out more about the individual books, check out the Bloomsbury Publisher's page .
You have written a variety of biographies, mostly picture book format but the Giants of Science Series is a longer length. How did the idea for the Women Who Broke the Rules series come about and also the choice for the style and format?
The idea for WWBtR came from brainstorming with Emily Easton, my then-editor at Walker Books, my then-publisher. (It’s now under the helm of Sarah Shumway at Bloomsbury. - From Alyson: Hi Sarah!!!!) We saw a need for 1)more books that shed light on the history of women in our country, and 2)more chapter book biographies for a 2nd-3rd grade level, in the vein of the mighty Jean Fritz, using wit and telling details to illuminate lives. So we came up with the idea for this series-- which the publisher let me call KICKASS WOMEN for a while, until we got serious and compromised on WOMEN WHO BROKE THE RULES.
I noticed that 4 of the WWBtR books came out June 9 and understand that more are coming out later. How many total books will be in the series and how did you pick which women to focus on?
The next two books are on Coretta Scott King and Mary Todd Lincoln, coming in December. And HERE is a cover reveal of Edwin Fotheringham’s delightful rendition of Mary. Brainy, highly educated, and ambitious--in her day she simply had no career path open to her. She settled for getting her husband into office and becoming one of our most fascinating First Ladies, breaking rules along the way.
The plan is to decide in August whether to do more, and this depends on how you, dear readers, respond to the series. I’d love to do lots more--and welcome suggestions. We chose women with name recognition, rebels who represent historical importance, diversity, kid-appeal, the sheer bravery of breaking out of confining rules and making significant accomplishments. The possibilities here are endless.
Writing biographies must be tricky - what information do you keep and what do you leave out - do you have a format that you like to follow or does it vary depending on the project?
Yes, tricky is a good word for it. There is no format--I just try to be the “anti-encyclopedia.” I present carefully curated (the most interesting) information in ways as different from an encyclopedia as I can. I try to use my own voice, adding questions (but not exclamations--I hate them), humor and irony if possible, the five senses, and colorful words to break up the monotony of chronological facts.
With this project, I focussed on rules of society that these women broke, which proved invaluable in guiding my research. (Plus it was cool.) So, in a way--especially if we get to do lots more books--this will be a history of women in America.
Research is fascinating and always reminds me of getting lost down a "rabbit hole". Do you have any research routines when writing? How do you determine when you have enough?
One could get lost down the rabbit hole--perfect metaphor--but if one is writing professionally or to a deadline, one must get a grip. I take notes on my research, casting a net as wide as I can, turning especially to the most scholarly books. Eventually my research takes on a form that I like, or certain patterns emerge, or it starts repeating itself and I realize I may have enough. Research is addicting, like solving puzzles as a detective, but I have to put out tentacles to stop from falling down the hole...or leave a trail of crumbs so I can get back safe and sound… not sure what the follow-up metaphor is. A lot of things are going on in the brain at the same time.
Any research tips or techniques that you can share with teachers that they may be able to use with their students as part of a writing activity?
My biggest tip about research is to rely on books, not the Internet. A librarian is your best friend. Next, you don’t want to use all your research. You collect a mountain of it, but you use only the tiptop of the mountain-- what’s most fascinating, what’s new, what supports points you’re trying to make. You’re making a series of endless choices. As my grandson likes to quote his teachers: “Use your time wisely.”
As for technique, an overall suggestion is that revision is your other best friend. I have to revise my writing many, many times--at least 15 or 20-- before it comes out the way you see it in the book. So I tell students they should be able to manage two or three revisions to make their work better.
Lots more to say here. So this is the best book for teaching students the principles of NF writing, chockfull of activities: TEACHING NONFICTION WRITING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE by Laura Robb (Scholastic, 2004). This is a kind of writing students will find useful all their lives.
If you could invite all of the women from the WWBtR series to lunch, what would a conversation between all those women be like?
Just about the coolest thing I can think of--in the realm of imagination where all are still alive. Do you know the art piece by Judy Chicago called “The Dinner Party?” Your question reminds me of this piece, a legendary gathering of women across all time and space. I’d be happy to be a bug on the wall, listening as Dolley keeps the momentum going amongst these women with strong opinions, strong backbones, and secrets to share. The only thing is I’d change it to dinner so we could serve wine (or more of it than we’d have at lunch).
Any new projects that you are working on that you can share with us?
Besides starting on more WOMEN WHO BROKE THE RULES (hint, hint), I’ve recently been updating and revising. A revised Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight (Simon & Schuster) is coming this August, and an updated A Kids’ Guide to America’s Bill of Rights (HarperCollins) is coming in September. Many more projects in early stages, including one...I...can’t...wait...to...talk...about....
Any fun stories that you would like to share from your time working on this series?
For reasons I’ve blotted from memory, this series was on a crash schedule. I guess this isn’t that funny, but I rarely left the house during the process, seeing only two friends (two of the dedicatees). Not seeking pity--I love what I do--it’s just a weird way to live.
What is your favorite letter or question that you have received from a child about your books?
Once a man named Paul used our Beatle book (The Beatles Were Fab) to propose to his girlfriend -- he had us write “Will you marry me?” on the page focusing on Paul McC.
But from a child--this melts my heart: “Hello! I just wanted to say thank you for writing such amazing children’s books. One of my fondest memories was heading to the library in the fifth grade and checking out every single book of yours. Learning about history through your point of view was inspiring. I am now a senior in high school and will treasure all of these stories….I believe you are an extraordinary woman and have instilled a love for reading within me.”
Thanks so much, Kid Lit Frenzy and its readers.
A QUIZ THAT BREAKS THE RULES
By Kathleen Krull
Match the quote with the woman who said it.
1. If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.
2. Ha ha ha - I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.
3. The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.
4. Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.
5. Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.
6. I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail my ship.
7. I have always found it difficult to make my wife do what she does not want to.
8. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
9. Never limit yourself because of others' limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.
10. You can’t tell me what to do.
11. Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.
12. Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression.
13. I believe in me more than anything in this world.
14. I always wondered why somebody doesn't do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.
15. The most dangerous phrase in the language is, "We've always done it this way."
16. Pretending to be a princess is fun, but it is definitely not a career.
17. I have met brave women who are exploring the outer edge of possibility, with no history to guide them and a courage to make themselves vulnerable that I find moving beyond the words to express it.
18. I am not afraid of anything.
19. You are unique, and if that is not fulfilled, then something has been lost.
20. I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life -- and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.
21. Because we are denied knowledge of our history, we are deprived of standing upon each other's shoulders and building upon each other's hard earned accomplishments.
22. You get an education and try to be somebody. Then you won't have to be kicked around by anybody, and you won’t have to depend on anyone for your livelihood, not even a man.
23. I do make some people uncomfortable, which I’m well aware of, but that’s just part of coming to grips with what I believe is still one of the most important pieces of unfinished business in human history — empowering women to be able to stand up for themselves.
24. Don’t bother with Bartletts, as their quotes about women are largely negative!
A. Gloria Steinem
B. Amelia Earhart
C. Mae Jemison, astronaut
D. Katharine Hepburn
E. Maya Angelou
F. Lily Tomlin
G. Sonia Sotomayor
H. Roseanne Barr
I. Wilma Rudolph
J. Mary Lincoln’s husband
K. Louisa May Alcott
L. Janis Joplin, singer
M. Coretta Scott King’s mom
N. Oprah Winfrey
O. Martha Graham
P. Hillary Clinton
Q. Judy Chicago, artist
R. Eleanor Roosevelt
S. Dolley Madison
T. Margaret Sanger
U. Grace Hopper, computer pioneer
V. Georgia O’Keefe
W. Judy Blume
X. Kathleen Krull
ANSWERS: Check back on Thursday for the answers.
About the author:
Kathleen Krull's 60+ books have garnered starred reviews and awards. The Children's Book Guild of Washington, DC, honored her with its Nonfiction Award for her body of work that “has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children." She lives in San Diego with her husband and sometime writing partner, Paul Brewer, and can be visited at www.kathleenkrull.com and friended at facebook.
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