ES: Welcome to The Corner, Laura! You just published an article about Thanksgiving....perfect timing for our interview! Any fascinating tidbits you'd like to share with our readers today?
LZ: Thank you for inviting me, Eugenia! We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving. It happened in 1621 when Pilgrims and Native Americans came together and shared a meal at the Plymouth colony. Or did it? Virginia, Texas, Maine, and Florida all claim to have had Thanksgiving celebrations before this time.
So, what do you need to qualify as the “first” Thanksgiving? To me, the basics are an event focused on giving thanks and a meal shared with a local Native American tribe. Both of these occurred in St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, more than 50 years before English settlers set foot in Plymouth. Of course, the meal was likely different than the ones we have today. Historians believe that the Spanish settlers and their Timucua guests likely had hard sea biscuits and “cocido,” a stew made of garbanzo beans, salted pork, and garlic.
ES: Who woulda thunk it?! Plymouth, make way for a palm tree and sunshine Thanksgiving! I’m not so sure about that hard sea biscuit part, though…hehe.
So you’ve obviously had numerous articles published – congratulations! Any advice for other authors on how to break into the mag industry?
LZ: My best advice is to read the magazines you want to submit to. They all have different styles. Reading them is the best way to get a feel for the kind of stories they publish.
For nonfiction articles dig deep; don’t just stick to information that can easily be found online. Before I wrote the Thanksgiving article, I read 16th century accounts written by the settlers as well as articles by historians who studied this period. For other articles, I have interviewed scientists about their work on different topics like manatee hair - which is totally amazing, by the way!
But above all else, make it fun. Get children excited about your topic so they want to learn more. Write what you love and your excitement will shine through.
ES: Great advice, and I love the last tip. As a teacher, I only have three rules for class, and the third one is to have fun while learning!
A question now to help our librarians - or parents - out there. Given your work as a professor, do you have any favorite picture books to recommend for those looking to help children deal with very difficult life experiences?
LZ: Absolutely! There are many good books that tackle difficult issues for children. Some of my favorites are:
SHYNESS: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton
WORRY: Is A Worry Worrying You by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, illustrated by Marie Le Tourneau
BULLYING for young children: One by Kathryn Otoshi
DEATH of a parent: Scar by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Olivier Tallec
WAR, as in a parent going to war: The Year of the Jungle by Susan Collins, illustrated by James Proimos.
ES: That’s a wonderful list. Certainly the issue of having parents at war is a very timely one for so many Americans right now, unfortunately.
Any plans to utilize your extensive experience in psychology for your writing?
LZ: My upcoming article in Odyssey magazine is on brain plasticity in development, which is a topic I cover in many of my classes. It has been a lot of fun adapting the material for a tween/teen audience.
At some point, I also hope to pull some picture book ideas from the research I have done with preschoolers over the years. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet, but with PiBoIdMo underway (the picture book writing challenge for authors), it’s the perfect time to start thinking about it!
ES: Thank you for a lovely interview, Laura, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!
To learn more about Laura go to laurakzimmermann.com. You can also find her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Linkedin.