In a December post I reviewed a nonfiction book that extended the picture book format by compiling multiple biographic profiles (and supplemental content), all related to a single theme. In it, Vivian Kirkfield turned a spotlight on nine lesser-known inventors and innovators in transportation. Her superbly researched and written text was enhanced by full color illustrations to extend understanding. If you missed it, check out the post HERE.
Today, I'm excited and honored to share the COVER REVEAL for an upcoming nonfiction book that adopts this approach and runs with it.
MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing is written by Rochelle Melander and illustrated by Melina Ontiveros.
DRUM ROLL, PLEASE... TA-DA!
|Beaming Books. July, 2021|
I've been anxiously awaiting this book, since I first heard about it. The author is someone I deeply admire. I've known her as an award-winning blogger who offers writing and life coaching services, whose books have helped me build my own writing skill and craft. She lifts others up at every opportunity. That's why it is a particular honor for me to be the first to introduce the cover of her latest book here, and to interview her about this project.
SB: Welcome, Rochelle, and thank you for allowing me to participate in this early and exciting news about your upcoming book. You’ve published eleven books for adults. Can you tell us about the shift to writing for children?
RM: Most people don’t know that I’ve been writing for children for a long time, publishing articles in Highlights and other places. Because of my work as a professional coach, I’ve mostly written books for adults, including Write-a-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) (Writer’s Digest Books). But through it all, I’ve been writing for kids. I have stacks of novels and picture books hiding in my closet and on my hard drive.
SB: So how did Mightier than the Sword come about?
RM: When my son started kindergarten, I began volunteering at my children’s schools and taught writing for them a few times a year. I loved it. I took the National Writing Project’s Summer Institute to learn more about how to teach children. In 2005, I founded Dream Keepers Writing Workshop, a program to bring creative writing to children in the schools and libraries. I regularly brought in the work of authors and musicians to inspire us to write. One week we read, “Howl” by Nikki Giovanni and then listened to Nina Simone’s “Young, Gifted, and Black.” They created poems in response to the work. The rhythm of those early meetings inspired the format of the book—a story about a writer and their work coupled with writing exercises.
SB: Does that mean this book has been in the works since 2005?
RM: Yes and no. In my 2009 proposal for Write-A-Thon, I included a version of this book in my “follow-up” books section. Later, I played around with writing a picture book version of these stories. Then, in 2018, I took Middle Grade Mastery with the Children’s Book Academy. For one of the exercises, we wrote a book pitch that agents would look at. I wrote one for Mightier, and an agent requested it. There was only one catch: I hadn’t written the proposal yet.
So, I cranked out a proposal in a month. The agent ultimately passed on the project—but gave me helpful feedback. I revised the proposal and submitted it to several agents. I got a R&R * from an agent I liked, so I rewrote the proposal again. Finally, in the fall of 2019, I participated in PitMad*, and three editors favored the pitch. I eventually sold the book to Beaming Books—and here we are.
***Note: "R&R" is a wonderful thing to receive, in the writers' world of submissions and countless rejections. It means the editor or agent likes the work enough to send some notes and invite you to revise and resubmit to be considered
***Note: "R&R" is a wonderful thing to receive, in the writers' world of submissions and countless rejections. It means the editor or agent likes the work enough to send some notes and invite you to revise and resubmit to be consideredagain. There is no promise attached, but it is very encouraging!
***Note: PitMad is one of several Twitter events throughout the year in which authors and illustrators post their pitches for current work, while agents and editors monitor the tagged Tweets, looking for ideas that feel like a good match to their current needs. To have THREE favored responses is unusually successful!
SB: I'm so pleased that you shared the details of this book's journey, and of your persistence. With the release only a few months away, what can you tell us about Mightier Than the Sword?
RM: The book tells the inspiring stories of people throughout history who have used writing to change their lives and communities. Each chapter also features interactive writing exercises so that children can use writing to change their own neighborhoods, schools, and communities. The book features people who wrote in many different disciplines, including medicine, astronomy, biology, and sports.
|Interior: MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD. Beaming Books, 2021|
SB: Were there research discoveries that particularly surprised you?
RM: One of my favorite chapters tells the story of Anne Frank, who kept a journal while in hiding from the Nazi’s. What kids may not know is that while she was in hiding, she was revising her diary in hopes of publishing it after the war. At one of the concentration camps she was taken to, she shared her plan with a friend. (When I read that, the story just gave me chills. Anne remained so hopeful even then.)
SB: Anne Frank's story always gives me chills. Many young people know about her diary and may have read the book, but there are so many other details that bring her to life. She and her sister Margot died in the concentration camp of Typhus, not the gas chambers, only weeks before the camp was
SB: Anne Frank's story always gives me chills. Many young people know about her diary and may have read the book, but there are so many other details that bring her to life. She and her sister Margot died in the concentration camp of Typhus, not the gas chambers, only weeks before the camp wasliberated. It's wonderful that her diary was later found and published, and that you are bringing her life to the page with the intention to inspire other young writers.
|Interior: MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD. Beaming Books, 2021|
SB: What are your hopes for the book?
RM: I hope stories like Anne Frank’s will inspire children to write. I’m hoping it will reach kids who love to write and need to be reminded that their voice matters. I also hope it reaches reluctant writers, like many of the children I work with through Dream Keepers. Some love science more than stories. Others feel more confident drawing pictures than scribbling words. But once they learned that there were many kinds of stories to tell and many ways to tell a story, they were hooked. This book is for kids like them, too. Children may not realize it, but their letters, poems, and graphic stories can make a big difference in their community and the world.
SB: Thank you, Rochelle, for your commitment to this project, for believing in and inspiring young writers, and for sharing your good news with us. I particularly appreciate the depth of research that is your foundation for the range and reach of individuals you included, across time, geography, circumstances, gender, and fame (or lack of it). Every reader will be able to find connections among the many examples your include. I look forward to writing a full review when it is available. Blog readers, if this sounds as appealing to you as it does to me, it is available for preorder from Amazon, HERE. You might also support your local independent bookseller by asking them to pre-order for you.
Rochelle Melander is a teaching artist, professional certified coach, and the author of eleven books for adults including Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity.
Rochelle is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop that teaches young people how they can change their lives and communities through writing. Rochelle believes that you can find the answer to your questions and the questions that deserve answers in a book or at the tip of your pen. She writes books, blog posts, journal entries, shopping lists and the occasional poem and owns enough books to start her own library. Even so, she reached the library’s lending limit many times while writing Mightier than The Sword.
She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband, children, and two goofy rescue dogs. Rochelle blogs at writenowcoach.com.
Mightier Than the Sword:
Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing
ISBN-10 : 1506466400
ISBN-13 : 978-1506466408
Rochelle and I will both be
Rochelle and I will both bevisiting classrooms today, virtually, to celebrate WORLD READ ALOUD DAY. I feel the same about this event as I do about THEME MONTHS- important literary activities. topics, and collections should be shared ALL YEAR LONG. That includes reading aloud from multiple sources and genre, EVERY DAY, including nonfiction. The short chapters in Rochelle's book are ideal for use during writing sessions. If you missed out on connecting your kiddos with an author/reader today, click on the WRAD link to find suggestions and resources for use all year around.