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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

WIK interview with Heather Montgomery

Guest Blog with Author Heather Montgomery
It is my honor to host Heather Montgomery, author and environmental educator. Heather writes about science and nature for kids. Book and article topics range from snakes to soil. Her publishers include Capstone Press, Highlights for Children, Picture Window Books, Science World and Crabtree Press. Heather's passion for subjects like mummies, mysteries and snail poop bring her presentations to life. Heather was granted the Roosevelt-Ashe Award for Outstanding Educator in Conservation. Selected from educators across the south, the award honors conservation heroes for their contributions to protect wild places and wild things.

Heather Montgomery

Heather Montgomery is a member of the impressive faculty for the 2013 Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK) conference, taking place October 12 in Birmingham, AL. WIK is a great place to get inspired, get tips on your craft, and learn about the business of children’s publishing. It’s also an opportunity to meet editors, agents, and an incredibly supportive network of working writers and artists. This annual conference is hosted by the Southern Breeze region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). To find out more or to register, visit
Hope to see your there!

Q. Heather, please tell me more about what you'll be teaching at the WIK conference (Writing and Illustrating for Kids).
A. The title of the session is "Get Real! Research Tips and Tricks for Fiction and Nonfiction.” Many people think that research is only for nonfiction, but seasoned writers know that there is all kinds of research to be done - and that research is what can bring your story to life - and get it sold! I LOVE research; in fact, I love it so much that I have to set a deadline to stop research so that I will actually write the book!  The session will cover topic such as: Don't do boring,  finding the "big idea" of your story, stages of research, market research, content research, finding leads, noticing vivid details, organizing the research material, getting the interview, developing setting, and hands-on research. I'll be using a PPT presentation that I will make available to attendees after the session. Although it will mostly be presentation style, there will be time for questions and we will all practice a really cool research technique called sound mapping.   And, you know me, there will be all kinds of random nature trivia and weird animal facts thrown in Happy
This session will be appropriate for writers and illustrators in all genres.

 Q.  Can you share your personal experiences with SCBWI, and why you find SCBWI valuable? 
A. SCBWI is THE reason I have 10 books published!  Let me list a few of the influences:

  • the very first SCBWI conference I attended I was accepted with warm smiles, so I came back Happy
  • the Southern Breeze contest that encouraged my fledgling manuscript years ago
  • the editor whom I met at an Southern Breeze conference who later emailed me and said "send me something" and it turned into a 75,000 print run
  • the friends I have made who have sustained me through the slumps
  • the critique group (formed from those who  met at an SCBWI event) I am a part of that keeps me going month to month
  • the agent I met at an SCBWI social who recommended me to another agent who just happened to be looking for someone who did bug books
  • the editor at an SCBWI conference who made a suggestion during a formal critique that helped my manuscript hit Common Core spot on - it will be my next published book!
  • the list could go on... 

Q. As an author one of the question I get asked most often is what inspires me, and where do the ideas for my stories come from. So, Heather what inspires you?
A. Me? I am a nature nut and I just can't help sharing that with everyone. I am a teacher at heart and I got into writing for kids so that I can teach more kids about the fantastic, fabulous, and fascinating outdoors! Mostly I just am so curious about things in nature that I can't help asking questions, which leads me to research, which leads me to cool discoveries, which leads me to want to share them with someone. 
Bugs are my passion, but just about anything outdoors that is weird, wacky or surprising will peak my interest. I am not very interested in telling kids about things they already know. I don't want to write about things other people have already written about. I want to give kids new things to think about, the best new ideas/discoveries/happenings, the most intriguing parallels between animals and humans, the things that make you go "Hunhhhh?" 
I love getting kids to think—really think—about things that we take for granted like rocks and aluminum cans and that tree in their backyard. I like helping them connect to a creature they never thought about before, or were scared of. I love hooking them with some crazy fact that leads to a bigger understanding that gives them a greater respect for this planet we share.

Q. What advice would you give to writers?
A. I am the Assistant Regional Advisor for Southern Breeze SCBWI and I attribute a lot of  my success to the things I learned as a volunteer. I think one of the things I've learned in my writing journey is that is really all about passion. When in doubt, work on the project you are passionate about. Go with your gut instinct. Your passion will sustain you through the tough times and make it will bubble up in your writing or illustrating in ways you won't even suspect, but others will see it shine!

Heather, thank you for this fascinating interview. We look forward to seeing you at the WIK conference in October.

You can meet Heather and other members of the conference faculty by following the WIK blog tour:
Aug. 28 Author Matt de la Peña at Stephanie Moody’s
             Editor Lou Anders at F.T. Bradley’s
YA Sleuth
Aug. 29 Author Doraine Bennett at Jodi Wheeler-Toppen’s
Once Upon a Science Book
             Author Robyn Hood Black at
Donny Seagraves’ blog
Aug. 30 MFA program director Amanda Cockrell at
Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
           Illustrator Prescott Hill at Gregory Christie’s
Aug. 31 Author Heather Montgomery at Claire Datnow’s
Media Mint Publishing blog
              Editor Michelle Poploff at Laura Golden’s
Just Write
Sept. 3  Author Nancy Raines Day at
Laurel Snyder’s blog
 Author Jennifer Echols at Paula Puckett’s
Random Thoughts from the Creative Path
Sept. 4 Editor Dianne Hamilton at Ramey Channell’s
The Painted Possum
             Author Janice Hardy at Tracey M. Cox’s
A Writer’s Blog
Sept. 5  Author / illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy at Stephanie Moody’s
               Agent Sally Apokedak at Cheryl Sloan Wray’s
Writing with Cheryl
Sept. 6
Agent Jennifer Rofe at Cathy Hall’s blog
Author / illustrator Chris Rumble at
Cyrus Webb Presents
Comments are most welcome. Send your comments to me, Claire Datnow, at: I’ll post them on my Blog at

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