We’re joining the #BookBirthday blog train here to celebrate the recent release of Heather Kinser’s NATURE IS A SCULPTOR (Millbrook/Lerner).
“Combining stunning stock photographs with rhythmic, poetic lines, Kinser has created a work that will have readers and listeners eager to travel to national parks and protected areas around the world . . .
An impressive STEM read-aloud.”
As Heather answered our questions, I couldn’t help but compare the evolution and reshaping of the amazing rock formations in her book, to the fascinating journey her manuscript went through!
But don’t take my word for it…
Q 1. Welcome to the blog, Heather. Are you a hiker? Backpacker? Environmentalist? (We see IN A CAVE /Gnome Road Publishing will be released October 3, 2023!)
HK: None of the above. I’m a suburban mom who is not particularly well traveled or adventurous. But I do admire geologic formations and want to see them preserved and protected. That said, I have managed to see my fair share of fabulous rocks.
I love the rocky shorelines of Pacific Grove and Pescadero, in California. And I tend to gravitate toward rocky places when I’m on vacation. Years ago, I visited Sedona, Arizona, and was impressed by their iconic “red rocks.” I’ve marveled at Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, glimpsed the Grand Tetons, and chased down the “dragon’s teeth” in Maui.
Last spring, I wrangled my way into my husband’s business trip to Colorado Springs, so I could visit Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds. I just have a thing for rocks and rocky landscapes. I find them inspiring, and that inspiration spurs me to write!
Starting out and Staying in
the #Kidlit Race:
Q 2. I love that you’ve participated in Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm, Vivian Kirkfield’s “50 Precious Words”, the Madness! Poetry Tournament & other contests, in addition to submitting poems to magazines like Cricket. How did these experiences help you move forward in the early stages of your kidlit journey?
HK: Writing contests and challenges are fun and motivating for me. I’ve participated in StoryStorm every year, for many years. It’s a valuable practice—learning to generate ideas on a daily basis, and save them for future use.
A short piece I wrote for the first ever 50 Precious Words contest eventually grew into my first published book, Small Matters. I adore Susanna Leonard Hill’s holiday contests. Halloweensie and Valentiny are particular favorites, and I’ve placed in the top 10 a few times. I like how the rules and restrictions of these short-form contests force me to create something unique, within a framework.
HK: The weird thing is that I’m not a competitive person in any way, shape, or form…except when it comes to writing contests. In particular, Madness Poetry lights my competitive fire. There’s a certain obsessive nature that comes to the surface when you’re writing rhyming poetry under pressure. I feel really driven when I’m in that competition—like an elite athlete. (I guess that’s why they call us “authletes.”) I never get that feeling anywhere else—and I love it!
There’s no doubt that writing contests and challenges have helped me build up my writing muscles and maintain the stamina to stay in this race. I’ve had to write many manuscripts over many years in order to get to the point of being published. It’s a marathon, for sure.
Q 3. What surprises did your editor, Carol Hinz, and the photographic choices bring to this project?
HK: My acquiring editor, Carol, made sure I wove plenty of details about weathering and erosion into the manuscript, which was originally written as a simple ode to rock formations.
HK: The surprise is that if you submit a nonfiction piece to Carol Hinz and she really likes what you’ve done, but doesn’t think the work has quite enough educational content yet, she will offer you a chance to revise and resubmit. These are generous offers that motivate writers and inspire “can-do” confidence. My R&R lit a fire under me, sent me deep into research mode, and ultimately made my book so much better for students and teachers.
HK: With regard to photographic choices, seeing the first glimpse of this book as it was transformed into a photo-illustrated title was a giddy thrill. The photo-acquisitions and design teams at Lerner (Millbrook’s parent company) are full of surprises! They gave me everything I’d hoped for and more, and I’m also in love with the book’s font and layout.
When I submitted the original manuscript for Nature Is a Sculptor, I provided sample photos that were just placeholders to aid in visualization. Once the manuscript was acquired, the editorial team ran with it. I especially love the photo of “the wave” at Vermillion Cliffs, and the playful curve of the words over that image.
My editors also let me weigh in with an opinion on the book’s cover. In one option, I loved the fun swish of the font and the way the letters seemed to peek out from behind the stone—and that was the cover they ultimately chose. Kudos to Team Lerner!
Q 4. What’s next for you?
HK: I have another new book on the way. Interestingly, it’s also on a geology-related topic! In a Cave releases October 3, from Gnome Road Publishing. This informational fiction picture book is a rhyming journey through a cave system with two kids and their guide.
Kids are sure to love the rhyme, the story, and the adventure! And they can learn more about caves and cave terminology in the back matter. My words are paired with wonderful illustrations from Bonnie Kelso, who is a keen observer of cave formations and depicted them with accuracy and charm. One particularly clever page spread comes to mind, where Bonnie swirled the text to mimic the shapes of the limestone formations.
HK: Additionally, I’m newly represented by Sarah Stephens of Red Fox Literary. I sold my first three books without an agent, and I’m proud of that. But, whew! I couldn’t be more pleased and relieved to finally have a professional representative in my corner. Sarah and I have high hopes of creating more beautiful books together in the future.
Heather is a GreenPB23 #kidlit author.
To learn more about Heather Kinser and her books:
Check out her web site heatherkinser.com
and Instagram: hethfeth
Coming in October:
The #Book Birthday celebration of Kinser’s next book,
Gnome Road Publishing, releasing October 3, 2023