Writer to Writer with Meeg Pincus
By Nancy Churnin
Today we welcome author Meeg Pincus to our blog.
Meeg- could you tell us about your work?
Thank you so much for having me on Nonfiction Ninjas—I love your group’s blog! Here’s my formal bio:
Meeg Pincus writes nonfiction picture books about “solutionaries” who help people, animals, and the planet—including Winged Wonders (Golden Kite & Eureka! Nonfiction Honors), Miep and the Most Famous Diary (Kirkus & SLJ starred reviews), Cougar Crossing (an NSTA Best STEM Book), Ocean Soup (Eureka! Nonfiction Honor), plus forthcoming Make Way for Animals!, So Much More to Helen!, and Door by Door. Meeg is a long-time nonfiction writer/editor (from newspapers to books), educator (from school classrooms to online workshops), and diverse books advocate (see her website’s “Solutionary Stories Central”). She lives with her family in Southern California and online at www.MeegPincus.com.
As for my mission, I discovered the concept of “solutionaries” when I was working in the field of humane education (teaching about how to solve systemic problems of people, animals & the planet). I’ve carried the concept into my work as a nonfiction children’s book author, as I think it’s key to a compassionate, healthy, sustainable future. So, my mission is to share diverse stories that inspire kids to become solutionaries for people, animals, and the planet (and to love books & reading in the process!).
Meeg’s new books are Make Way for Animals!: A World of Wildlife Crossings, illustrated by Bao Luu, published by Millbrook Press/Lerner Books, about wildlife crossings around the globe, slated for an April 5th release and So Much More to Helen!: The Passions and Pursuits of Helen Keller, illustrated by Caroline Bonne-Müller, published by Sleeping Bear Press, about the many sides of Helen Keller, slated for an April 15th release.
And just to let us all get to know Meeg better, here’s some additional information about her:
Something fun to know about me is that I love performing arts and grew up singing, dancing, and acting (though I’m also an introvert, go figure!). I worked as a character at Disneyland as a teenager (yes, it’s hot in there!) and I still sing, with a nine-woman acoustic group I’ve been with for almost a decade. In fact, I actually love to think about writing picture books as creating little pieces of theatre (and I’m currently crafting a new workshop to explain how)!
Social media/website links if you have them or any other website where you want to send people to find out more about you and your books.
I can be found online at www.MeegPincus.com, where I have an email newsletter signup and try to offer lots of resources on my books, other great books, and nonfiction writing.
What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?
I love this question and, in fact, one of the workshops I teach is called “Risky Nonfiction” because I think we must take calculated risks and think outside the box to sell our nonfiction stories in today’s crowded market. I’ve tried to take different kinds of risks with my various books, from style to setting to topics to structure.
With Ocean Soup, I risked using a rhyming poetry style for a serious topic. With Miep and the Most Famous Diary, I risked setting a picture book during the Holocaust (and worked very hard to make it age-appropriate—this is the “calculated” part!). With So Much More to Helen! and Winged Wonders, I risked tackling topics that may be seen as “overdone” but tried to present fresh takes on them. And with Cougar Crossing, I risked an unconventional dual structure (using the real scientists I interviewed as sidebar commentators).
As you can see, none of these risks are outlandish, but each is a way of bringing something fresh, innovative, or even a tiny bit daring to the table, which hopefully helps these stories stand out for kids (and editors!).
Where do you go to get constructive criticism of your work?
Another great question, and a topic I love to talk about with writers. First, I’ll say that I turn to my handful of trusted critique partners when I need feedback on a manuscript. It’s not a critique group, just individual writers I’ve met, mostly through nonfiction workshops I took early on, with whom I’ve mutually agreed to call on each other for feedback when needed. For me right now (as a homeschooling, working mom), I prefer this to a regularly-meeting critique group. I also turn to my agent, and I sometimes take advantage of editor feedback opportunities at professional conferences when I’d like a neutral/tough eye on something.
Second on this topic, I love to share with fellow writers some advice I heard and scribbled down at a live talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert several years back. She said she has learned to only listen to feedback from people for whom she can answer “yes” to these questions:
1) Do I trust your taste and judgment?
2) Do you have my best interest at heart?
3) Can you deliver it kindly and constructively?
4) Is there time to fix it?
This wisdom just resonated with me so strongly and I’ve followed it since I heard Liz say it. I hope it helps someone reading this, as it has helped me!
Whose books or writing do you admire?
Focusing on my genre of children’s nonfiction picture books, I admire so many! Especially ones that have a lyrical, poetic voice that really paints an emotional picture, and ones with a fresh, creative approach to a topic.
I love everything by Carole Boston Weatherford, Margarita Engle, and Nancy Churnin (a Nonfiction Ninja!). Favorite books by others that spring to mind include Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome (illustrated by James Ransome), Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (illustrated by Michaela Goade), The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander (illustrated by Kadir Nelson), The Cat Man of Aleppo by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basa (illustrated by Yuko Shimizu), Stonewall by Rob Sanders (illustrated by Jamey Cristoph), and Giant Squid by Candace Fleming (illustrated by Eric Rohmann).
I’m excited to have recently curated many of my favorite “solutionary stories” (nonfiction picture books) into a shop on Bookshop.org—organized by topics—through my website and here directly: https://bookshop.org/shop/solutionarystories. It’s been a wonderful new way to share many books I love with others—and have them at my own disposal when I’m seeking inspiration, mentor texts, or examples for teaching. I’ll keep adding to my lists, too—hopefully with more books by folks in this wonderful Nonfiction Ninjas community!
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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.