I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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Writing Non-Fiction: 5 reasons why author Connie Goldsmith is da bomb…literally.

November 17, 2014

Connie Goldsmith picMeet CONNIE GOLDSMITH:

  • AWARD WINNING AUTHOR of fourteen books (15th, 16th, and 17th in progress!)
  • former Assistant RA of SCBWI CA North/Central
  • Children’s Book reviewer –of over 700 books for regional parenting publications as well as the New York Journal of Books–

—> Anyone thinking of writing non-fiction for kids can learn a lot from this amazing author. (Pictured above, at the California Reading Association Professional Development Institute last month.)

Goldsmith’s books have been highly praised by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers Association, California Readers, the Children’s Book Committee (Bank Street College of Education), the Children’s Book Council, and the Society of School Librarians International.

She has written for numerous children’s magazines such as Cricket and Highlights, as well as for the SCBWI Bulletin, Children’s Writer, and Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market.

BOB_Cover-330Her most recent book, BOMBS OVER BIKINI: the World’s First Nuclear Disaster (Lerner), is the first nonfiction book written for young people about the US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, and a Junior Library Guild Selection for 2014; recommended by the National Science Teachers Association; rated as outstanding by the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California

—–>TEACHERS: BOMBS OVER BIKINI makes a perfect non-fiction pairing with Theodore Taylor’s YA novel, THE BOMB, about a boy who tries (and fails) to save Bikini. *** Check out the awesome BOMBS OVER BIKINI STUDY GUIDE pdf by Lerner here.

This book offers a riveting tale of the aftermath of U.S. nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. The tests themselves and the lives of the Marshall Islanders directly affected by the resulting radiation contamination are described in engrossing detail. Sidebars, quotes from primary sources, and period photographs supplement the informative and thought-provoking narrative.”  Horn Book review





1.  CONNIE GOLDSMITH finds inspiration everywhere:

Bravo explodes over Bikini in 1954.

Bravo explodes over Bikini in 1954.

Did you know: BOMBS OVER BIKINI was inspired by a Sacramento Bee article about a reunion of the actual Rongelap refugees who survived the toxic cloud of radiation over Rongelap Atoll and other nearby inhabited Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean?

Like all good non-fiction, it made me want to know more, so I asked Connie…

Q:  Were you able to interview any refugees in person?

Goldsmith: “It was a full year after I first read the Bee article in April, 2011 before I began working on the book. The reunion was long over and the attendees had scattered.”

“However, after the Sacramento Bee reviewed BOB, a retired sailor contacted me. He lived only 15 miles away, and he was a veteran of the nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll. He was there in 1946 for the second bomb. He is a fascinating man and at 84, still remembered that day very well. I enjoyed meeting with him and hearing about his experiences in person.” (Full interview on Lerner website here.).


2. CONNIE GOLDSMITH digs deep:

Sailors scrubbing radiation.

Sailors scrubbing radiation. BOMBS OVER BIKINI

Did you know: Within hours after a blast, Navy crews dressed in shorts and tennis shoes were sent in to swab the decks of vessels involved in the nuclear explosions? They ate and slept on board the contaminated target ships as well! Animals were enlisted as test subjects including goats and pigs.

Q. What is the biggest surprise you learned from writing BOMBS OVER BIKINI?

Goldsmith: “I knew little about the US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the fact that the US set off 67 nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1954. The radiation from those bombs amounted to 1.6 Hiroshima sized bombs every day for twelve years! While some survivors and historians believe there was a government conspiracy to test radiation on people, I believe the mistakes the US made were due to a combination of arrogance and ignorance. Little was known about the long-term effects of radiation at the time.”


3. CONNIE GOLDSMITH writes non-fiction that feeds our minds and touches our hearts.

“I began to feel a fine powder falling all over my body and into my eyes. The coconuts had changed color. By now all the trees were white, as well as my entire body. I didn’t believe this was dangerous. The powder fell all day and night over the entire atoll of Rongelap.” – – – – – John Anjain, Mayor of Rongelap Island, recalling the fallout from the Bravo explosion, 1954.

Q. How does your process of writing nonfiction differ from writing a novel?

Goldsmith: “While I have novels in progress, I’ve only been published in nonfiction. Certainly, there is far more research involved when writing nonfiction. The sources for quotes and facts requires careful documentation. And it’s a challenge to turn hard facts into a book that will capture the attention of young readers. That made the Horn Book’s recent review  (excerpt above) in which the reviewer called BOB ‘riveting’ and ‘engrossing’ all the more meaningful to me.”


4. CONNIE GOLDSMITH does not let obstacles or tough issues stop her:

Q. What was the most difficult chapter to write?
Goldsmith: “The last chapter was the most difficult to write because it is about the present, and relevant information was in flux, poorly documented, inconsistent, or inaccessible. It was tricky to discover how much money had been awarded to the Marshall Islands, when and by whom. It was discouraging to discover how little of it had actually reached the hands of the injured islanders and their families so many years later. And the government agency responsible for monitoring current radiation levels refused to give me any new information about when the contaminated islands could be resettled – if ever.”


5. CONNIE GOLDSMITH loves learning new things:

 Goldsmith: “To me, writing nonfiction is like being a perpetual grad student without the tuition and term papers. I enjoyed reading the many interviews about the people of the Marshall Islands, and interviewing experts about Bikini and Rongelap. I enjoyed meeting the WWII veteran (referenced above).

Click image to view trailer.

Click image to view trailer.

“And it was especially rewarding to meet the young student filmmakers at Curiosity Films who made my book trailer  as part of their class project.”

 Q. Which term might best describe your path as an author? 

The Lucky Dragon
Trapped in a bunker

Goldsmith: “Like a fission explosion releases a number of random nuclei as part of the chain reaction, my writing has split off in many directions and has taken me in directions and to places I’d never known before. There is no lucky dragon involved! It’s hard work.

Did you know: You can follow CONNIE GOLDSMITH on Twitter : @ConnieGoldsmith or Facebook? And find out more information about BOMBS OVER BIKINI (“BOB”) at bombsoverbikini.com , as well as recent BOB reviews on “A Book and a Hug” and “Non-Fiction Monday.

Happy Reading and Writing!


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