Lois Lowry At Iowa City Public Library

Lois Lowry Signing a Book for Dori Hillestad Butler

Author Lois Lowry Signs a Book for Author Dori Hillestad Butler

Iowa children’s authors helped pack the audience for Lois Lowry’s visit last night to the Iowa City Public Library. For a standing-room-only crowd that included many young readers, Lowry read from and discussed the inspiration for her new book, Son, the fourth in her popular and award-winning Giver Quartet.

Iowa Authors Wendy Henrichs, Jan Blazanin,  Linda Egenes

Iowa Authors Wendy Henrichs, Jan Blazanin, Linda Egenes

Writers from Iowa City, Coralville, Fairfield, and Des Moines exchanged news while Lowry signed books. Saturday morning at the Coralville Public Library, Des Moines author Jan Blazanin taught a workshop on plotting techniques. Wendy Henrichs, Network Chair for Iowa’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, organized this event. Fairfield author Linda Egenes was one of the many Iowa authors who attended Lowry’s reading and Blazanin’s workshop.

Linda Egenes: Writing Nonfiction Books

Linda Egenes

Linda Egenes

My friend Linda Egenes authored Visits with the Amish: Impressions of the Plain Life and co-authored four other nonfiction books. Her most recent release, coauthored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D., is Super Healthy Kids. Linda holds an M. A. in Professional Writing and has written over 400 articles for publications such as AAA Living, LA Yoga, and Family Fun. Linda occasionally teaches writing workshops and recently shared tips with me on how to write a nonfiction book. Here’s my summation of Linda’s advice:

1. Clear whatever you can from your schedule so you can focus on researching and writing the book.

2. Develop a general working knowledge of your topic. Decide on an angle pretty early on.

3. Develop a schedule and a timeline and stick to it.  Set reasonable goals.

4. Do research on an as-needed basis

5. Regarding recorded interviews, ask yourself, “What really struck me?” Then write from memory as much as possible. Afterwards go back to the recording for quotes and facts. “I start putting together the article [or chapter] from the things that grab me, that spark me,” Linda said.

6. Make a contacts list of everyone you interview. Note when the interview occurred and what you discussed. Later, you may need to contact your interviewees for permissions or follow-up questions. Consider creating a separate address book on your computer for each book you write.

7. To organize the book, brainstorm, using whatever technique works for you, such as clustering or mapping ideas. Formulate a working outline. “In a nonfiction book, you definintely have to have a roadmap,” Linda explained. “Things change as you go, but have as much of an outline as you can.” Think of it as a table of contents, she suggested. List subcategories. Some people use sticky notes on wall charts while outlining.

8. When you start writing, take Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird approach to heart. “You cannot write the whole book while you’re thinking about the whole book,” Linda stressed. “Once  you start, you cannot continue to think about the whole book every moment. You have to shut that off, and you have to think of one chapter. Treat that as if it’s an article. Forget that you’re writing a book. Trick your mind. Think, ‘All I’m doing is writing this article. I’m going to grab all my resources. I’m going to put everything I have into writing this article,'” Linda said.

9. Write the first draft quickly. “You don’t have to start with chapter one. Start with the easiest chapter,” Linda suggested. She sometimes prints chapters and puts them in a tabbed looseleaf notebook.

10. “To do a big project, to overcome all the doubts and the fears, which you will have, you have to plow through it and make it happen,” Linda emphasized. Starting first thing in the morning helps with this process.

Linda recommended two books, How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats by Dian Dincin Buchman and Seli Groves.

Thanks, Linda, for all the good advice!