Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer


Notes | Fall Research Workshop held by Austin SCBWI

Posted by Rebecca G. Aguilar, M.Ed. on September 15, 2014

Hummingbirds: By Jeanette Larson; Illustrated By Adrienne Yorinks

Hummingbirds: Fact or Fiction
By Jeanette Larson; Illustrated By Adrienne Yorinks
ISBN-13: 9781580893329
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
Publication date: 2/2/2011
Pages: 64

Kvelling about the fantastic fall workshop held last weekend by the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators—Research for Fiction, Nonfiction and Historical Fiction Writers.

Carolyn Yoder, senior editor at Calkins Creek Books and senior editor of history and world cultures at Highlights, kicked off an amazing lineup of speakers, including Greg Leitich Smith (Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo, IntoPrint Publishing), Cynthia Levinson (We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March, Peachtree Publishers) and Jeanette Larson (Hummingbirds: Fact and Folklore, Charlesbridge Publishing).

Saturday's rain failed to take the charge out of the sessions where Yoder, Leitich Smith, Levinson and Larson generously shared their wisdom about the research process, current projects and the critical link between bibliography and story.

Yoder began by talking about how nonfiction was once the realm of education. The author’s research wasn’t evident and back matter—glossary, bibliography, index, timelines or author notes—was all but absent.

Then Jean Fritz and Milton Meltzer set a different tone for research-driven books of biography and history for children. A renaissance of nonfiction arrived in the late-1980s and the intensive and extensive research that goes into a story became key.

Publishers began to utilize photographs, illustrations and maps, while interviews and field research became a significant part of the nonfiction author’s work. “Books became colorful, well-designed and controversial,” noted Yoder.

Levinson spoke about questions and how to obtain more than just the facts by being candid, persistent and “a little impertinent” when interviewing subjects. She also emphasized the importance of confirming facts, quotes and attributions and keeping organized.

Leitich Smith showed workshop attendees how research can improve a fiction book’s setting, plot and characterization, while surprising writers with inspiration.

Larson, who is also a librarian, shared tips on using a virtual library card and accessing academic library resources, materials and staff expertise with TexShare.

Writers were given opportunities to network, receive manuscript critiques and purchase items from the booksellers at The Book Spot. The Austin chapter’s fall workshop on research was a highly worthwhile investment in time that prompted me to become an SCBWI member!

Please visit the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators at

Category: Research

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