by Christine Liu-Perkins
Are you finding it hard to get back into writing like I am? After the holidays, traveling, a mild case of Covid-19, and several rejections, my writing brain is unfocused and under-motivated. How to get recharged? Here's some things I'm doing that might help you, too.
The Case for STEM: New Study Shows Reading and Math Skills are More Intertwined Than We Ever Imagined
By Wendy Hinote Lanier
In general, writers are readers. Most of us have libraries of books in our favorite genres. And because we are children’s writers, a good portion of our personal libraries are probably children’s books. We’ve supported reading programs and cheerfully declared “Readers are leaders!” for decades. And as it turns out, we were more right than we knew!
A new study (2021) conducted at the University of Buffalo has made some surprising discoveries about how the cooperative areas of the brain responsible for reading skill are also at work during unrelated activities. These unrelated activities include math. Who knew?
In previous studies, Christopher McNorgan (PhD and assistant professor of psychology at UB) had successfully identified a biomarker for ADHD. In 2021 he took on a new study to explore the possibility of identifying children with dyslexia based on how the brain is wired for reading. As with the previous study, he used a novel deep learning approach through neuroimaging and computational modeling.
After the first set of data McNorgan had identified dyslexia in 14 good readers and 14 poor readers with 94% accuracy. But to determine if his findings could be generalized, he chose a math study which included a mental multiplication task to measure the functional connectivity from the second set of data. Functional connectivity is a description of how the brain is virtually wired from moment to moment. It changes depending on the task at hand.
McNorgan was shocked to discover that, even though his test subjects were involved in different tasks (language and math), the connectivity fingerprint was the same! And he was able to identify dyslexia with 94% accuracy whether testing reading or math.
“These results show that the way our brain is wired for reading is actually influencing how the brain functions for math,” says McNorgan. “That says your reading skill is going to affect how you tackle problems in other domains and helps us better understand children with difficulties in both reading and math.”
What this tells us is the development of early math and reading skills are intertwined. If the same pathways of the brain are being used, it stands to reason we can improve both by using opportunities to teach math and reading together. Engaging in “math talk,” telling stories, and reading books with math (and other STEM concepts) are great ways to promote the development of math and reading skills.
For the last couple of years, we’ve seen a greater emphasis on STEM books. As nonfiction writers we already knew they were important for kids. Now we have some hard scientific evidence that integrating STEM topics in our work has an even greater impact than we first imagined. That means the work we do can help kids be successful at reading and math and possibly other areas, too. Isn’t that the best?
For me personally, this comes as great news since my newest picture book is a math-based tale about number doubles and days of the week. Too Many Pigs in the Pool (Sleeping Bear Press, April 2022) is informational fiction, but I’m loving the idea that although reading and math are very different tasks, they use the same functional networks in the brain. Score!! I think we nonfiction writers suspected this all along. Now we have proof!
McNorgan, Chris. "The Connectivity Fingerprints of Highly-Skilled and Disordered Reading Persist Across Cognitive Domains." Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience 15 (2021). doi:10.3389/fncom.2021.590093.
 University at Buffalo. "Read to Succeed -- in Math; Study Shows How Reading Skill Shapes More Than Just Reading." ScienceDaily. Last modified March 11, 2021. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210311142044.htm.
 Harris, Barbara, and Dana Peterson. Developing Math Skills in Early Childhood. Mathematica-MPR.com, 2017. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED587415.pdf.
By Pat Miller
There it is! A fresh year—2022. Did you resolve to put more attention into your writing? Help is on its way when you join February’s NF Fest 2022.
This is the third year that NF Fest will inspire, educate, and support you. For 28 days, a writer or illustrator will post. You will get up close to Melissa Stewart’s revision journey for a recent book. Teresa Robeson and Kirsten Larson will talk to you about writing graphic nonfiction. Anita Sanchez will help you know when it’s time to quit on a project, and Sarah Albee will help you find a focus in the midst of your reams of research. Look for posts from Beth Anderson, Duncan Tonatiuh, Paula Yoo, Doreen Rappaport, and many more.
And it is all free! But it’s also a challenge!
The challenge of NF Fest is to read at least 20 of the posts and complete 20 of the suggested activities. You will pledge that you’ve done so at the beginning of March.
Prizes will be awarded in a random drawing of those completing the challenge. You are encouraged to comment on the posts, but it isn’t necessary.
No registration is necessary. Simply show up to nffest.com on February 1 to get started. Read the posts and complete at least 20 of the activities suggested in the posts. You will have a record page to keep track. At the end, on the honor system, you’ll be asked to comment if you have met the challenge.
Stick with NF Fest and you will surely find yourself back on track with your nonfiction writing. For more companionship and advice, all posts from NF Fest 2020 and NF Fest 2021 are archived below in the sidebar to help while you wait.
We even have a badge to show your commitment to all your friends on social media!
By Stephanie Bearce
It's a bright shiny new year. Time to make writing goals, start new projects, and research new markets. One writing opportunity that I'm going to try this year is the magazine and ezine market.
Not every topic is destined to be a book. Some are too narrow or specific for the book market, but they may make a great article for a magazine. Sometimes when I am researching for a book, I find interesting side stories that get left on the cutting room floor. These are stories that I may turn into magazine or ezine articles.
If you are interested in expanding into magazine, or ezines, take a look at the list I have compiled. Some of the magazines have specific topics and deadlines for queries. For example, Cobblestone magazine is looking for queries about frontier stories and the deadline is February 15. Faces magazine is requesting stories about Sweden and queries are due by March 21.
Happy 2022! May you have a year of publishing success.
Print and Ezine Publishers
Balloons Lit Journal (reopening for submissions 02/22) https://www.balloons-lit-journal.com/submission.html
Bedtime Story - https://www.the-office.com/bedtime-story/publish.htm
Brilliant Star -https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/uploads/about/FAQs/Submission_Guidelines_2018_ajr.pdf
Brio - https://media.focusonthefamily.com/brio/pdf/brio-writers-guidelines-2019.pdf
Cast of Wonders - https://www.castofwonders.org/submissions/
Caterpillar - https://www.thecaterpillarmagazine.com/a1-page.asp?ID=4150&page=5
Click - https://cricketmedia.com/click-submission-guidelines
Clubhouse - https://www.focusonthefamily.com/clubhouse-magazine/about/submission-guidelines/
Cobblestone - https://cricketmedia.com/cobblestone-submission-guidelines
Cricket - https://cricketmedia.com/cricket-submission-guidelines/
Enchanted Conversation - https://www.fairytalemagazine.com/p/submissions.html#.X45Bs-17mdR
Faces - https://cricketmedia.com/faces-submission-guidelines/
Fun for Kidz - https://funforkidz.com/pages/submission-guidelines
Guide - https://guidemagazine.org/writersguidelines
Hunger Mountain - https://hungermtn.org/general-guidlines/
Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty - https://uskidsmags.com/writers-guidelines/
Ladybug - https://cricketmedia.com/ladybug-submission-guidelines/
Muse - https://cricketmedia.com/muse-submission-guidelines/
Spacesports and Spidersilk - https://www.hiraethsffh.com/spaceports-spidersilk
Smarty Pants - https://smartypantsmagazineforkids.com/submission-guidelines/
Spider - https://cricketmedia.com/spider-submission-guidelines/
Storytime - https://www.storytimemagazine.com/submission-guidelines-for-writers/
St. Mary’s Messenger - https://stmarysmessenger.com/submission-guidelines/
Young Explorers Adventure Guide - https://dreamingrobotpress.com/young-explorers-adventure-guide-submissions/
Youth Imagination - https://youthimagination.org/index.php/yi-submissions
Zizzle Lit - https://zizzlelit.com/submit/
We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
Disclaimer: The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas . The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.