THE SEA KNOWS (Coauthoring a PB)

Today I have the pleasure of showcasing a lovely, new pb THE SEA KNOWS (Simon and Schuster) by Alice B. McGinty and Alan Havis, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis.

As you can tell from the colorful cover, this is a glorious, gorgeous book from start to finish. It’s seemingly simple, yet insightfully clever text gives the book a fresh, yet timeless feel.

The first page is perfect with its sparse, inviting words —

“We are young. The sea is old.

The sea has secrets to unfold.

The sea knows.”

An interesting aspect of this book is that it has two authors. So of course, I wanted the inside scoop on how that came about. Fortunately, coauthors Alice McGinty and Alan Havis stopped by to answer a few questions and tell us all about the project.

1. Alice, you’ve written dozens of wonderful picture books. How did it happen that you collaborated with Alan on THE SEA KNOWS?

Answer: The Sea Knows is a love story in many ways. Alan and I have been sweethearts for about four years now. He’s a truly creative person who considers himself a wordsmith, and he’d always told me that he’d love for us to find a story together. When we took a trip to Jamaica, a place he loves, he said he hoped to show me a side of Jamaica I hadn’t seen before and perhaps find that story we’d hoped for. 

Well, we had a lovely trip, full of adventures – but no story, and our time there was almost over. We found ourselves walking along the beach looking out at the bright blue waves, just enjoying the ocean. Both of us share a love for nature, and especially oceans (and great lakes). 

“There’s so much out there, under the sea, that we don’t know,” I said. 

Alan paused for a minute and then said, “Ah, but the sea knows.”

I knew right away that this was our story. “The Sea Knows!” I said with a grin. It was a great concept, kid friendly, and conveyed that sense of wonder with nature that we both felt so deeply. 

“That’s it!” I told Alan. “But what exactly DOES the sea know?” 

“Well,” he said, after looking out at the sea for a moment, “the sea knows blue…” 

From there we were off, generating idea after idea, from simple to complex – huge, small, short, tall, storm, wind, power, and more – and together we wrote THE SEA KNOWS. 

2. Did you encounter any fun or challenging surprises while creating THE SEA KNOWS?

Answer: I’ll be honest and say that at first, although Alan and I were working together on generating the ideas, in the back of my mind I felt that stubborn, independent writer in me thinking, “But I’m the author so I’m the one who has to do the writing.” Then something happened which changed everything. 

We’d returned home from Jamaica, me to Illinois and Alan to Michigan, and were continuing to work on THE SEA KNOWS, tossing ideas back and forth. I was trying to write the first verse, bringing in the secrets and mysteries of the sea and setting the tone for the book. It was important, and I knew what I wanted to say but I just couldn’t figure out how to say it. 

I’d been wrestling with it for a few days when I told Alan as we talked on the phone. After telling him what I was trying to convey, he paused for a moment to ponder. Then he spouted out these words: “We are young. The sea is old. The sea has secrets to unfold.” 

That’s when my mind exploded. It was perfect! And in that moment, I knew that we really could be co-authors in every sense of the word. 

3. What was the creative process like for both of you working on the text together?

Answer: After the discovery that we could truly co-author a book together, we bounced ideas back and forth, each of us writing different verses, then sharing them with each other. Sometimes I’d edit Alan’s verses (often!). Sometimes he’d edit mine (often too!). Sometimes we’d use my version, sometimes his, and often a combination of both. 

It was exhilarating – and also scary – letting someone into my creative space so closely. My creative mind is where I go to escape from people. It’s my safe zone. Was letting someone else into that place a good idea, I wondered?

There were times when we disagreed – when I preferred something written my way and he preferred it written his way. But we put our egos aside and worked it out. I’m glad I took the risk and let Alan in. It was a beautiful process bringing our creative minds together to write THE SEA KNOWS.  

4. What do you hope children gain from this lovely picture book?

Answer: We both hope that children fall in love with the sea and feel the same sense of wonder and awe that we feel. While the book is nonfiction and gives lots of information about the sea, we worked hard to make sure that our sense of awe and poetry was strongly palpable in the book. We want children to feel an emotional connection with the sea along with an intellectual connection. We hope we’ve achieved that. 

Alan and I used part of the advance money from the book to become certified as SCUBA divers, something we’d always wanted to do. It was a terrifying but amazing, diving deep into the ocean. Here are a few pictures taken near Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands.  


With our dive master on the boat! She kept us both alive!

Read more on Alice and Alan’s blog: http://www.newsfromthehappyside.com/happiness-is-facing-fears/

Here’s a video of Alice and Alan reading THE SEA KNOWS, a terrific educator’s guide with activities and discussion points, and a video for educators: http://www.newsfromthehappyside.com/happiness-is/

Visit Alan and Alice at http://www.NewsFromTheHappyside.com/ and sign up for their bi-monthly News [Letter] From the Happy Side, for a shot of happiness in your inbox. 

IG @NewsFromHappySide

Alice’s website: www.AliceBMcGinty.com

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at: www.suzanneslade.com

16 Comments:

  1. What a gorgeous book! Congratulations, Alice and Alan. I hope there are many more collaborations in your future!!

  2. Avatar
    Angie Quantrell

    Lovely! I can’t wait to read this one! Congratulations!

  3. Avatar
    Debra Kempf Shumaker

    Wow, sounds like such a lovely book. I can’t wait to read it! And congrats on the collaboration. I’m not sure I would work well with someone. 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Carole Calladine

    I’m in the process of collaborating on a book. Very encouraging piece on the richness of collaboration. Congrats on a beautiful book.

  5. Congratulations Alice and Alan. It’s interesting to hear the genesis of your collaboration. It’s a love story!!

  6. I can’t wait to read it! What a beautiful book, congratulations!!

  7. Great story behind this story. I bet kids everywhere will love this.

  8. What an amazing story and story-behind-the-story! Thank you for sharing this incredible book. I can’t wait to see it. Wishing you both the best and many more collaborations.

  9. My copy of this book just arrived TODAY! Congratulations, Alice and Alan, on such a lovely book.

  10. I received my two copies of this book last week and wow. Wonderful! Congrats to Alice and Alan.

  11. What a beautiful and inspiring collaboration. I can’t wait to check it out!

  12. Avatar
    Janet Frenck Sheets

    This looks like a beautiful book. Thanks for sharing the story behind its creation.

  13. What a beautiful love story!!! Congratulations!!!

  14. Congratulations on your collaboration, Alan and Alice. You had me hooked with “the sea has secrets to unfold.” Who doesn’t like a shared secret.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *