Today I’m talking with Megan Clendenan, and Kim Woolcock, Inked Voices members and co-authors of the nonfiction middle grade book Design Like Nature – Biomimicry for a Healthy Planet, released by Orca Book Publishers on March 16th.
Megan is a freelance communications writer and Kim is a former botanist who has worked as a freelance science editor for ten years. Megan and Kim developed the idea, and then Megan pitched it to Orca for their Orca Footprint Series– books that teach kids about environmental concepts and action in an accessible way. Happily, Orca said yes. We are super excited for their debut and can’t wait to share some information about their writing process and the road to publication.
First, when and how did you meet?
Kim: We met in an online writing class about freelancing for magazines. Megan was doing a piece about long-distance travel in vans. We had both done trips with our husbands, and she wanted to interview me. We really clicked and thought we might start trading pieces back and forth. That was back in 2011.
Where did the book idea come from, and what made you decide to collaborate?
Megan: I wrote a fiction book (Offbeat) for a local (Canadian) publisher and really wanted to get into non-fiction, and I knew Kim might also be interested. I really wanted to write a book about a positive way people are reducing their ecological footprint. I approached Kim about collaborating since she is a science whiz with a lot of knowledge. I thought it would be a really fun way of collaborating because I come from a social sciences and environmental planning background while Kim is a scientist (botanist). After a lot of brainstorming, biomimicry was something Kim was familiar with, and it went along with the kind of topic I wanted to write about, but never would have been able to do on my own.
Biomimicry – what does that mean, and how do you get middle-grade kids to relate?
Kim: Biomimicry is design inspired by nature, for example buildings cooled by the breeze based on termite mounds, or super-sticky tape that lets a person climb glass, based on gecko feet. We used examples of materials kids may find in their own house. It’s all about accessible ways to understand environmental issues, including water, shelter, and transportation.
Megan: We tried to make the book as relatable as possible by featuring kids who have done some pretty neat things like creating roofing tiles for people who live in the desert.
What was it like working together?
Kim: Megan and I have been trading writing back and forth for ages. We know and respect each other’s opinions and work ethics. We had regular Google chats and usually met for two hours every couple of weeks, and then we would come back and talk about our research and what we had written. My best piece of collaboration advice is to work with someone you know you work with really well. I found it helpful to have someone with a broad social science background to put information into context. We balanced each other out with our backgrounds.
Megan: It was definitely a collaboration. We both came up with ideas and worked on Google Docs, passing the work back and forth. We looked back at why and how humans design the materials we design and how it compares to how nature designs materials. Both of our skillsets came in handy – bringing in social science, science, environmental, and history.
How long did it take to write the book?
Kim: We signed the contract in January 2019 and had nine months to write the first draft, followed by another nine months until the final draft.
Any favorite parts about the writing process?
Kim: We had to source the photos ourselves, which at first I wasn’t sure about. But I’m lucky to have a friend who works in photo permissions and is an Inked Voices member. I took her out for a glass of wine, and she gave me a primer on how to do things. Thank you, Mary Rose!
Kim is also working on another nonfiction book with Flying Eye Books, due out in 2022. Megan is working on a middle grade nonfiction book forthcoming March 2022 from Orca Books. You can find Megan at www.meganclendenan.com and Kim at www.kimwoolcock.com. Check out the book at IndieBound, Bookshop, Indigo (Canadian) or on Amazon.
About the Author
Bridgette Springer is a freelance digital content writer who has written for a variety of industries, including banking, engineering, healthcare, manufacturing, life science, technology, and telecommunications. One of her favorite projects is writing advertorials for magazines such as Forbes, Fortune, and Entrepreneur magazines. She gets to interview clients and showcase their stories on a national platform. Bridgette has also published more than two dozen articles in Parenting New Hampshire magazine and regional newspapers. A middle grade storyteller, Bridgette is a member of Inked Voices and SCBWI. She has her B.A. in communication, and graduated from the Institute for Children’s literature.