Mining for Heart: “Why?” by Kristen Foote

I’m thrilled to host one of my critique partners as her first two picture books hit the market. WooHoo, Kristen! Thanks for sharing your process in getting to the heart of a story.

AND… We’re celebrating with a giveaway! Leave a comment below for a chance to receive your very own copy of How to Survive as a Shark. 

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Thanks for having me on your blog, Beth! Writing with heart can take on many different forms.  In a fictional story, heart can be created and woven into the main character’s words, actions, and emotions.

Non-fiction, however, comes with different issues. For me, heart in non-fiction comes down to WHY. Why would a child want to read my story. Why would they care to learn from it, and hopefully return to it?  This is tricky, because I always want the WHY to be more than just learning information.

Straight text-books are meant for straight learning.  But there are so many children out there who find “straight” learning difficult. I have one living in my house! So, I guess getting to the heart of a non-fiction topic is finding a way to relay your subject matter in such an entertaining way that the little readers are excited by it (and therefore become excited to learn from it). Creative non-fiction is a perfect outlet for this!
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In my HOW TO SURVIVE series, my path for entertaining the reader is first in setting. I started the series written in a “Survival Guide” format.  I thought it was lots of fun, but during editing it became clear that it would not appeal to the younger K-3 audience I was trying to reach.  My publisher suggested changing the setting to a school. So, in each story, I created a teacher character who would be giving lessons containing the information I wanted to teach, to student characters throughout. In my firefly book, these students are larvae.  In my shark book, the students are great white shark pups! Of course, all kids in school can relate to what that’s like, so it was a perfect way to draw in younger readers!  That connection hopefully creates the excitement from kids I was hoping for.
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The second way I tried to get to the heart of my creative non-fiction was by using humor. At least with my own kids, make them laugh and they are paying attention.  Make a joke with a fact in it? Even better! The trick is to make the humor simple enough for a little kid to understand. Which isn’t all that hard to do (who doesn’t love a good “bum” joke?).

So, by setting the story somewhere in which a child could envision themselves, and adding some funny bits along with the factual information I wanted to teach, I have hopefully hooked my audience and have created a reason for them to come back to the story over and over (and more importantly, learn a thing or two along the way)!
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You can visit Kristen’s website HERE.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below to be eligible for the giveaway! Deadline Sept. 14. Winner will be posted Sept. 15.


29 thoughts on “Mining for Heart: “Why?” by Kristen Foote

  1. Your approach looks like a brilliant way to draw in a reluctant reader of nonfiction. My oldest is one, and he always caves when humor is involved. 🙂 Can’t wait to read these!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such appeal, Kristen! I think I’m pretty knowledgeable about sharks and fireflies–but your books make me want to read them–even as an adult. I might have missed something! Adding heart to informational books is a real challenge–one you met handily.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a fellow children’s nonfiction writer, I appreciated your comment on putting “heart” into nonfiction writing. I’m always on a slippery slope with creative nonfiction to to add information to add to “readability” of book, but that I can’t back up. TX for your ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

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