I never tire of hearing stories of book creators’ road to publication. Amy O’Quinn has a great one to tell about her experience, one which began by asking a simple question of an editor. What I especially loved about what she’s shared with us today is that the same engine of curiosity about a particular topic pulled her to dig deeper into the editorial needs of a particular press. I can’t remember which of my friends connected Amy and me but I’m so grateful it happened because I know you will really learn from reading how she came to write Marie Curie for Kids: Her Life and Scientific Discoveries, with 21 Activities and Experiments (Chicago Review Press).
People always ask how I ended up writing a biography about Marie Curie, and you might say I took a ‘reverse’ approach to book publication. First, some background. My degree is in Middle School Education with an emphasis in the areas of Social Studies and Science from the University of Georgia. (Go Dawgs!) But at the beginning of my collegiate journey, I planned to get my degree in physical therapy, so I do have a background in the hard sciences. Therefore, it’s not a stretch that I’d be interested in recounting the life of one of the most accomplished women scientists in history.
But that’s not how it went down at all.
I began writing for educational, regional, inspirational, and children’s magazines in 1993. But as a busy pastor’s wife and former classroom teacher-turned-homeschool mom of six, I only dreamed of writing a book—someday. I wrote around the fringes of family life (and during naptime), and that was my normal for a long time.
Because we took a Charlotte Mason literary approach to education in our home, my children consumed a steady fare of amazing ‘living’ books, both fiction and non-fiction. We used some of the ‘For Kids’ series books published by Chicago Review Press, and I loved the format of a comprehensive biography plus 21 activities or experiments. I knew these were the kind of books *I* would enjoy researching and writing. Ideas began swirling in my head for possible topics and pitches.
In the summer of 2014, I emailed one of the CRP editors just to ask if they already had a book underway for a certain historical figure I had in mind and if it was someone she thought might fit into the ‘For Kids’ series. This wasn’t really a query, but more of a curious question. She immediately emailed back with a friendly response stating that my ‘person’ really wouldn’t work as a ‘For Kids’ book but asked if I had any other ideas. We exchanged a few emails, but then…
I turned the tables and innocently asked the million-dollar question.
Obviously, I’m exaggerating about the million-dollar part, but my question DID pay off.
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
The editor said they wanted to include more women scientists, inventors, and mathematicians in the series—and Marie Curie specifically. I thought long and hard about the chemistry and physics aspects of the project. Then I gave myself a ‘you can do this’ pep talk and got busy preparing a proposal. It was accepted, and Marie Curie for Kids: Her Life and Scientific Discoveries, with 21 Activities and Experiments (Chicago Review Press) came out in the fall of 2016 to great reviews. It was even voted an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 in 2017 by the National Science Teachers Association and Children’s Book Council.
(An aside here. Marie Curie’s professional career was amazing, but her life story reads like a novel. Her ultimate triumph over prejudices, hardships, tragedies, and heartaches is inspiring, and I learned so much during my research and writing.)
By the way, my next book, Nikola Tesla for Kids, is set to come out next year. And it began with that same question.
“So, what are you looking for?”
Amy M. O’Quinn is the author of Marie Curie for Kids: Her Life and Scientific Discoveries, with 21 Activities and Experiments (Chicago Review Press, 2016). Her second book, Nikola Tesla for Kids: His Life, Ideas, and Inventions, with 21 Activities will be released in early 2019. Amy and her husband Chad live on the family farm in rural south Georgia, and they have six children, ages 27 (identical twins) down to 12. The four oldest O’Quinn kids are now grown up or in college, so the nest is much emptier these days. You can find Amy on her website and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.