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Maybe you’ve come across SETH FISHMAN’s award-winning book A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars. Or, perhaps you attended his Keynote Presentation at SCBWI LA’s 2018 Writers Day event. His books are rocking the nonfiction picture book world

CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: Welcome to Kite Tales! It’s great to see a local writer doing so well. Let’s talk a bit about nonfiction picture books. In your latest book, Power Up: Your Incredible, Spectacular, Supercharged Body, you shift the focus from the amazing universe around us to the fascinating world inside our bodies. Power Up has an engaging story line and is loaded with cool facts. Do you have any advice for aspiring children’s nonfiction picture book writers?

SETH FISHMAN: First of all, thanks so much for taking the time. It’s always a pleasure to connect with SCBWI as both a member and a literary agent in this space. Advice is tricky, as there are rules and rules are made to be broken, but I’d certainly recommend reading all the award-winning books of any given year to get a feel for what those writers are accomplishing in their books.

I’d also recommend writing out dummies of your picture books and reading them aloud to see how they flow and move.

Nonfiction-wise, I’d recommend getting at least three fact-checkers before submission; I’ve had to have that and STILL missed a point or two.

Ultimately, it’s about passion and translating that passion through a medium of 500 words. A challenge that I think is fun and worth playing around with, but in the nonfiction space, where you’re glued to “truths,” it takes some careful futzing to make a narrative work with facts. I love it.

CVZ: What’s expected of today’s children’s nonfiction picture book authors?

SF: Research is tricky nowadays. Most of the up-to-date information IS online (at library or at home) but you need those backed up with citations.

School visits, though, are the best. Schools love nonfiction because you can meld right into whatever lesson plan they are working on. It’s great fun doing so—I’ve even just reached out to schools; once one librarian likes you, it helps because she/he might have a network to grow from.

Promotion is a whole other thing; remember, picture books have low discoverability (i.e., they are hard to find—in bookstores they have THIN SPINES), so you’ll have to play the long game and in my mind that means school visits.

CVZ: Thank you for these helpful tips!

Seth Fishman can hold his breath for 163 seconds and likes to blink about 15,000 times a day. He has also written two books for teenagers and has four more picture books coming out soon. Power Up: Your Incredible, Spectacular, Supercharged Body was released March 19. 2019. Fishman lives with his family in Los Angeles, California, and works at The Gernert Company, a literary agency based in New York City. www.sethasfishman.com Twitter, Facebook

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Images courtesy of Seth Fishman.

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