Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Interview with children's author Ruth Musgrave

 (copyright National Geographic Used with permission)

Today, I'm talking with children's author Ruth Musgrave, who recently released her National Geographic kids book.

1) Tell me a little about your book and give a short synopsis.
National Geographic Kids Everything Sharks is a fun, in-depth look at sharks for 10-14 year olds (or anyone interested in sharks). Besides page after page of gorgeous photographs, the text provides a real look at how amazingly cool sharks are, introduces information often overlooked in other shark books, and shows sharks as they really are: cool, misunderstood, ocean animals that get a bad rap! And that bad rap is leading to their extinction.

2) What gave you the idea for this particular book?
It’s part of a series. I was asked to write the book.

3) Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I write full-time, am the director of WhaleTimes a nonprofit marine science organization, and a stay-at-home mom…no wonder that by 8 p.m. I’m out of steam!  However, all three are the best, most rewarding jobs in the world, so I can’t complain.

4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
My writing career sort of snuck up on me. I had to write and create things for a job I had, but never considered myself a writer. Because it was a completely different path than I had ever thought about, once I realized I liked writing it took a while to figure out how to make it a career.

5) What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
For National Geographic Kids Everything Sharks, I hope readers discover a love, fascination, and empathy for sharks that leads them to want to protect them. One way is by participating in Fintastic Friday: Giving Sharks a Voice. It’s an annual celebration for kids that was created because of what I discovered writing the book. As I researched ways kids could help save the plummeting shark populations I found out there was nothing they could do. I felt helpless not being able to offer them something tangible to do—and knew they’d feel helpless, too. I talked to the WhaleTimes Board of Directors and we all agreed we should – and could do something. Just as the ‘save the whales’ mantra in the 1960-70s lead to protective measures for whales, we hope Fintastic Friday saves the sharks!

6) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
I’m sure it’s the same for all writers, but once you finish one project you’re all stoked and confident. At that moment, it almost seems as if it was easy getting to the end product. But, the moment you start the next project it’s back to square one and the uphill writing challenge starts again. That’s what makes writing both the frustrating and exciting. 

7) What draws you to non-fiction writing?
I love animals and find science fascinating. It is a fun challenge to take something technical or high level and make it easy to understand and interesting for kids. 

8) What kind of research did you do for this type of book?
Since I’ve been teaching and writing about sharks for a long time I had a bit of a head start, but I still spent weeks and weeks reading and reviewing all kinds of scientific journals and books. I also corresponded with various experts to be sure my interpretation of information was accurate.

9) What about your book makes it special?
National Geographic always produces stunningly beautiful books and magazines. The collection of photographs in National Geographic Kids Everything Sharks is the most extraordinary I’ve ever seen. There are photos of sharks most people have never seen or even heard about. The layout of the book is equally appealing and inviting. And, the book is filled with information and topics most books for kids (or adults) never discuss, yet it’s the kind of stuff that makes sharks even more amazing. For example, most people will be surprised to learn that many sharks are bioluminescent – they glow-in-the-dark!

10) Do you have an agent and do you feel an agent is necessary for non-fiction?
No. For what I do, an agent would not be helpful at this time.

11) Any tips for new writers hoping to write non-fiction?
Writing nonfiction is no easier than writing fiction. Misinformed or misguided writers and editors like to say that it is, but it’s not. Good writing is good writing and it takes skill, practice, and hard work. If you want to write fiction, then write fiction. You will not become a better fiction writer by creating poorly written nonfiction – I say poorly written because if your heart isn’t in it, it cannot be your best work.



  1. Interesting interview. The National Geographic book looks/sounds awesome!

  2. Susanne, thanks for stopping by. Anything associated with National Geographic is a good read in my book. I'm planning on getting a copy for my grandchildren.