Author Linda Skeers drops by to chat about her new book, DINOSAUR LADY + a giveaway!

Today I’m excited to chat with my good friend Linda Skeers about her new book, DINOSAUR LADY, the Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist (Sourcebooks, illus by Marta Alvarez Miguens). Linda and I have been writing friends since…well, as she put it when she signed my copy: “since dinosaurs roamed the Earth!” Truth. (She and I also co-host the Whispering Woods Picture Book Writing Workshops.)

What I love about this book: Linda took two of Mary Anning’s traits—determination and curiosity—and showed those on every page. That made me FEEL something for Mary. I was inspired by her dauntless, lifelong dino-hunting (at a time before the word “dinosaur” even existed) and outraged on her behalf at the way she was continually DISMISSED by male scientists of the time, especially since her “guesses” proved to be correct again and again.

Plus, there’s dino poop. I mean, c’mon.

JE: So, Linda, what made you want to write about Mary Anning?

LS: I’d written about Mary Anning in my book WOMEN WHO DARED – 52 Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels, and when my editor asked if I’d write a PB for younger readers about her, I jumped at the chance! Mary is absolutely incredible and I love sharing her story.

Pardon my thumb! 🙂

JE: I can see why! She’s amazing. Was the research process fairly straightforward, or was it necessary to constantly sift facts from folklore?

LS: Most of the research was fairly straightforward – I focused on her discoveries and what they meant to scientists and historians. One fact that kept popping up was that the woman holding her when she was 15 months old was struck by lightning and killed. Mary obviously survived but many sources claimed that this incident gave her special powers to help her find fossils. That’s a fun bit of folklore but credit goes to her incredible curiosity, endless days searching the cliffs and keen observation skills.

JE: This text showcases both your mastery of vivid language AND your kid-friendly, upbeat voice that always sounds uniquely You. I know that doesn’t happen overnight. Tell readers about your revision process.

LS: Oh, there was a LOT of revising! The first draft was waaaay too long and meandered all over the place! I wanted a throughline that wove through the text. And if one was good, how about four or five? It was a hot mess. And my editor wanted me to keep the word count to about 750 words. I chose Mary’s two personality traits that stood out for me – her fearlessness and her insatiable curiosity and never-ending quest for knowledge. Then I looked for incidents in her life that portrayed those traits. I moved a lot of information to the back matter and Author’s Note to try and keep the main text fast-paced and focused on her accomplishments.

JE: This answer made me laugh, because your recent suggestions on one of my rambling nf texts sound eerily similar! Let’s talk illustrations, because WOW. You must have been floored by Marta Alvarez Miguens’s irresistible art! Did the two of you have any contact during the process? 

LS: I loved the first pencil sketches and was awestruck when I saw the final beautiful artwork! Marta lives in Spain and we didn’t have any contact. When I turned in the Back Matter and Timeline, my editor assured me that Marta would “make it look nice.” And she sure did!

JE: That’s for sure. You’ve authored picture books and nonfiction for older readers (most recently, the wildly popular WOMEN WHO DARED). So now that you’ve published your first nonfiction picture book, are more ideas percolating—-or are there others already in the works? 

LS: I’m hooked on nonfiction – especially since I discovered it can be just as fun (and funny!) as fiction! I have a few manuscripts “out there” and I’m working on a few more. I love researching and digging deep to find the perfect little fascinating fact that I believe kids will be excited about. Not saying I’m leaving fiction behind but right now there are so many amazing subjects I want to learn – and write about – that I’m sticking with nonfiction for now.

JE: Anybody who knows you won’t be surprised that your texts include humor! Fingers crossed for those “out there” manuscripts and whatever else you have in the works, Linda.
(Nonfiction writers, if you’re looking for mentor texts, put this one in your to-be-studied pile!)

Linda is giving away an autographed copy of DINOSAUR LADY to one lucky commenter. Residents of the continental U.S. only, please. Good luck!

Learn more about Linda Skeers on her website, here.

136 Comments:

  1. Beautiful book! Thank you for the sights! We will look for it at the library! 🦖🦕💕

  2. Love, love, love the blog. I’m always looking for new books for the Grandkids and books to donate. Both grandsons (Ethan and Quincy) love dinosaurs. The oldest granson, Ethan, is going into 2nd grade. Looks like an age appropriate book. This one goes on the must have list.

  3. Already ordered 2 copies. Hope to get them signed by the Author

  4. Congrats, Linda. You make non-fiction look so easy, as well as interesting!

    • Mary,

      It’s hard work making it look easy but Mary Anning is such an interesting person that I loved researching her!

  5. I must (!) have a copy of this book!!

  6. Linda, this book looks amazing! Congratulations! I love Marta’s illustrations, too! Might there be a WW NF Picture Book Workshop in the future??? 🙂

  7. Congratulations, Linda. What a beautiful book. Looking forward to reading about Mary. These little nuggets make non-fiction so interesting.

    • Linda,

      My favorite part of nonfiction is when I stumble onto a weird or fascinating fact… that makes it so much fun!

  8. Wow, this book looks amazing! It will fit right into our home library as it combines to of our favorite subjects, biographies of awesome women and dinosaurs! Hope I can win a signed copy for my twins!

  9. Congratulations, Linda! Mary Anning’s story is a fascinating one. Your focus on her curiosity and determination hits the mark!

    • Patti,

      Thanks! There’s so many things I loved about her but those two traits just amazed me. She even taught herself to read French so she could read scientific textbooks. Who does that?!

  10. This would be an awesomebook for my grandkids

  11. Thank you, Jill for a wonderful interview. What a fascinating subject, Linda. It made me recall all the days I spent hunting fossils in Colorado with my father when I was a girl.So cool to read these stories of people of the past.

    • Sheryl,

      I loved collecting rocks and shells as a kid but never found a dinosaur fossil… but that didn’t damper my love of exploring! I’m excited to share her story since she didn’t get the attention she deserved during her lifetime.

  12. Congratulations, Linda! This book sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read it!

  13. Congratulations, Linda! Fascinating book. I’ve always loved Mary’s story.

  14. This looks great, LInda! I was looking at the same subject a couple years ago and set it aside while…and you were on it! Can’t wait to read it! wonderful interview, Jill!

    • Beth,

      The more books about her, the better! Telling women’s stories that have been semi-lost by history is probably my favorite thing to do!

  15. I love the cover! Thank you for talking about your revision process. You took “lots and lots of notes” like Mary, but found a way to focus on two of her traits. The page spreads you shared are beautiful and show her insatiable curiosity in the words and art.

    • Revising was a painful process because I find everything about her fascinating! I am absolutely in love with Marta’s artwork!

  16. Yay! I’m looking forward to a book that makes dinosaurs cool for girls!

  17. Linda, you have such a knack for writing fun and factual NF! Can’t wait to read Dinosaur Lady!

  18. This looks wonderful, Linda! Was the title planned to pair with Jess Keating’s SHARK LADY? What a fascinating duo!

  19. Been a fan of Mary Anning since reading Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures. How wonderful that young readers will learn about her and her role in dino discoveries while they are still children!

  20. For years I’ve read Stone Girl, Bone Girl to my second graders. Each year kids are blown away to learn about Mary Anning. I am so excited to share your amazing book with kids, Linda. Marta’s illustrations are so captivating too!

    • Thanks, Lisa! Mary did such amazing things while she was still a young girl — I find that fascinating!

  21. What a fascinating topic for a picture book biography This book looks lovely in regards to both text and illustration.

  22. This book looks phenomenal! I’m amazed at how you distilled all of your research about Mary into this beautiful, concise drop! I’m so excited for this book!

  23. Waaay too long. Four or five throughlines. Sounds like you are describing my writing!

    Instructive to hear how you focused on two of her personality traits and moved a lot of stuff to the back matter. It looks lovely. Congratulations!

    • Katherine,

      I wanted to put Every. Single. Detail. I learned about her in — but was supposed to stay around 750 words, NOT 75 volumes!

  24. Congrats on your new book, Linda! It’s always fun learning about someone else’s process. I loved “Women Who Dared” (which I won in another contest). Hoping I’ll get lucky again! Either way, I plan to read this book and study it as a mentor text.

  25. This book looks amazing and would be a perfect mentor text for something I am working on right now! Thank you for sharing your writing and editing story.

  26. Avatar
    Debra Kempf Shumaker

    Congrats! I can’t wait to read this book! I love NF, too! 🙂

  27. Congratulations!!! I’ve always loved Mary’s story so looking forward to reading your book, Linda. I’m impressed you got it under 800 words 🙂 Thanks for a lovely interview, Jill.

    • Vijaya,

      Thanks! I still can’t believe I got it under either. Thankfully I have 4 pages of Back Matter!

  28. Wow, this looks so fun and interesting. I can’t wait to read this—and see the illustrations, which look so appealing. Thank you both for the interview. Getting a nonfiction bio under 800 words and making it so engaging is a huge achievement. Congrats, Linda!

  29. This book looks beautiful and so interesting! Congratulations! I can’t wait to read it.

  30. Fabulous interview! I’m really looking forward to reading this PB.

  31. Avatar
    Pamela Harrison

    Congratulations, Linda! I have always been fascinated with fossils and created activities on the subject when I taught. I wish I’d had this book to share with my students. I can’t wait to read it!

  32. Avatar
    Sheryl L Forsman

    I love the work. It always surprises my students the most when they read about how a dedicated, talented and hard working woman can do such amazing things but then still not be allowed to share their work or get credit (ex. attend or teach university classes). I love how writers are finally giving them the credit due and sharing it with our youngest learners.

  33. Congratulations Linda – looking forward to reading this!

  34. I love Mary Anning and her story. I always read Stone Girl Bone Girl to my students. I’m excited to read your new book about Mary.

  35. Avatar
    Judith Wright Aplin

    My granddaughter and I first learned of Mary Anning in an Ivy and Bean book. She is a fascinating person! We would love to read the picture book to learn more and “see” her discoveries.

  36. Congrats, Linda–your new book sounds intriguing (that lightening fact plus dino poop) and the artwork is glorious! I’m a fan of WOMEN WHO DARED…maybe your editor will ask for you to profile another woman in a pb?

  37. Linda, this book is incredible–the voice, the illustrations–just captivating! Congrats!

  38. Congratulations Linda and Marta! This book looks amazing. Definitely, I want this one.

  39. Amazing story and gorgeous illustrations!

  40. Linda,
    This sounds like a wonderful book! I enjoyed learning about your research and your revision process. My students will love your book! Congratulations!

  41. This sounds really interesting, and the cover is especially gorgeous!

  42. Avatar
    Karen Henry Clark

    I love all the attention important women are receiving in non-fiction picture books. Thank you for helping us get to a day when the accomplishments of women are accepted and heralded, not brushed aside in history.

  43. Writing great non fiction for young readers is a true art. Congrats! The book looks beautiful!

  44. I love reading books about inspirational women with my student. This sounds like a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing.

  45. I finished a PB text about Mary Anning myself this year. During a comp title search, Amazon suggested your book to me. I’d love to win a signed copy! The illustrations are excellent and your text reads so beautifully. My kids will have to get used to hearing a LOT of different versions of Mary!

  46. Avatar
    Carmela Simmons

    Thanks for sharing an inspirational scientist with our young readers! We need new scientists in the world.

    • I love the fact that more stories about women are being told — they shouldn’t be a footnote in the history books.

  47. Love the unique details uncovered in your research. Thanks for writing this story.

  48. OMG (as my local 9year old says!) I love this book already….love the subject, the fun, the illustrations, the author-yes the author. Thanks for the interview and for giving us a peek inside. Just enough to tickle my curiosity to read the whole book. If I don’t win it, well, I’m going to buy it!

  49. One can never have too many dinosaur books. This one looks like a lot of fun.

  50. Avatar
    Jodie Chapdelaine

    Girls love dinosaurs 🦕 🦖 too. Thank you so much for creating this book for girls.

  51. This looks fantastic! I know my dino-loving students would be very into this book!

  52. Linda, I’m so excited for you! I can’t wait to read Dinosaur Lady. Best wishes with all of your other manuscripts out for submission. Keep writing!

  53. Such a perfect book…a great story with wonderful illustrations. Congratulations, Linda!

  54. I love your tight writing and great illustrations. Kids will love this book!

  55. Gotta love a story that combines dinosaur and a courageous, trailblazing woman!

  56. Loving your compilation and great to see how this book grew out of that!

  57. I love this angle. Thanks for sharing and congratulations!

  58. Nice job, Linda! Congratulations! I’m inspired to try nonfiction pbs now.

  59. Avatar
    Michele Helsel

    Yeah, Linda! I’m so happy for you! The book looks fantastic. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  60. Avatar
    Danielle Hammelef

    I have to read this amazing book! Congratulations!

  61. Avatar
    Judy Abelove Shemtob

    Love the way you’ve taken you research and created an inspiring story for kids about a paleontologist. No doubt that kids will want to be Mary Anning and follow in her footsteps because of you. Your language is strong, kid friendly, and accessible, Good use of humor! The pictures are incredible! Wonderful interview! Can’t wait to read the entire book.

  62. Love the way you’ve taken you research and created an inspiring story for kids about a paleontologist. No doubt that kids will want to be Mary Anning and follow in her footsteps because of you. Your language is strong, kid friendly, and accessible, Good use of humor! The pictures are incredible! Wonderful interview! Can’t wait to read the entire book.

  63. Wow how wonderful

  64. This looks like so much fun. I love your sense of humor and am glad you included it in this book. It’s on hold at my library. Learning patience while I wait.

  65. ” . . . little-known women in history — their stories must be told!”
    Amen to that!! I look forward to this and more of your work, Linda.

  66. I love Mary Anning’s story! I’m recommending Dinosaur Lady to my two local libraries.

  67. Linda, I love the snippets you provided here and the one on Amazon. I can’t wait to get thie book. It is amazing and as Jill said laced with humor. Congrats!

  68. I’m looking forward to seeing this book in person. It looks wonderful. Congratulations again, Linda! Like the dinosaurs, I think this book will definitely endure and will inspire kids with Mary Anning’s story through your text and the gorge illustrations. Thanks for sharing your experience with narrowing things down to two key personality traits.

  69. Avatar
    Meredith Fraser

    Sounds like a wonderful book! Can’t wait to read it. My family loves dinosaurs.

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