Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
Today I’m extra, super excited because our guest shows the line between math and writing is less defined than you think. Dawn Young–engineer turned children’s author–is here to talk about her most recent book that blends math and magic to create chaos: Counting Elephants!
Kaitlyn: Hi, Dawn, thank you so much for joining us today!
Dawn: Hi Kaitlyn. I’m so happy to be here. I love the name of your blog. Math is Everywhere is so true!
Kaitlyn: Thank you so much! Okay let’s dive in. As another STEM-loving writer, what’s your take on how math and writing are similar?
Dawn: I think math and writing are very similar, but I find that most people don’t see it that way and usually prefer one over the other. I, however, love both.
Math is integral to music, and like music, writing requires rhythm and effective use of sound.
Pythagoras, probably best known for his Pythagorean formula, found music to be mathematical.
“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” — Pythagoras
I haven’t (and never will) analyze music or sound to the degree he did, but I do see rhythm as mathematical, with its beats and patterns. I see rhyme, in particular, as mathematical with its stress patterns and metrical feet. When I began writing, I was strictly a rhymer. Maybe it was the engineer in me that liked the structure, but I truly believe that starting out as a rhymer helped me develop an ear for rhythm and sound.
Also, in the stories we write, we attempt to resolve our main character’s issue. Some attempts work and some don’t. Math is like that. We have a problem and attempt to use formulas, identities, constants, graphs, etc., to solve the problem. Some work and some don’t, and we need to find the best solution given the situation. So, to me, both math and writing are about finding a satisfying solution to a problem.
Kaitlyn: YES! I’ve always thought the problem-solving in math and writing are very similar, as well as the creativity used to solve them, but the rhythm piece–I write in rhyme, how did I forget that?! Thank you, Dawn, wonderful insight! Now to your book, how did you get your inspiration for your newest book that just came out on March 3rd, Counting Elephants?
Dawn: As an engineer I look for ways to incorporate STEM into my writing, and my love of math inspired Counting Elephants. In 2013, while participating in PiBoIdMo (now STORYSTORM), I jotted down an idea for a battle book involving math, called Addition versus Subtraction. But it wasn’t until years later that the story finally came to me. While thinking about ways to convey the essence of addition and subtraction, I imagined an addition character, counting items, while a subtraction character made them disappear. Of course, having things disappear led me to magic and, Voilà, that’s when the magician became the nemesis to my counter. The elephants were in my head begging to be counted. I wanted chaos and miscommunication and most of all, tons of fun!
Kaitlyn: That sounds like an amazing journey for this story. One of my favorite lines in th silly character banter is “Math is magical,” can you give us an example (from the book or just in general) about when you think math is magical?
Dawn: To me, math is always magical. Every time I use a Pythagorean identity to simplify a trigonometric expression, I know math is magical! Other examples are the unit circle, the Polyhedral Formula, pi, e, i and of course Euler’s Identity:
and many more ways because there are infinite examples.
And check this out: 111,111,111 × 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321
Kaitlyn: So amazing! Speaking of amazing, how does it feel to have your second book out for children to enjoy?
Dawn: Surreal. The feeling is just as amazing as it was with the first book. Like every manuscript I work on, Counting Elephants has been such a big part of my life for so long that to finally see it in print is truly a dream come true!
Kaitlyn: Congratulations, Dawn. Can you share with us your journey to publication?
Dawn: My road to publication was long, full of twists and turns, and at times disheartening, but ultimately, rewarding because I met and became friends with so many wonderful and talented writers, learned a lot along the way and ended up right where I’d always hoped to be. I started writing in 2007, but at the time my kids were small and they kept me very busy, so early on I was more of a part-time writer. Around 2010, I got really serious about writing and began attending conferences and writing retreats, taking classes, joining critique groups and writing ALL the time. Finally, in 2018, after years of rejection, revision, and reflection, I sold my first picture book, Counting Elephants to Running Press Kids, Hachette Book Group, which released March 3rd 2020 and shortly after sold The Night Baafore Christmas to WorthyKids, Hachette Book Group, which released Oct 2019. And I am happy so say that The Night Baafore Easter, WorthyKids, Hachette Book Group, is scheduled to be released Jan 2021.
Kaitlyn: Super congratulations! I’m excited to check out your next book! Do you have any advice about writing and the journey to publication to share with our readers?
Dawn: Buckle up and expect a fairly long and, at times, rough but rewarding road trip. My journey to publication required more patience and persistence than I ever thought I had.
Read, write, revise and don’t rush…writing well takes time. Welcome feedback – don’t resist it.
Prepare yourself for rejection because hearing “no” is inevitable. The rejections I received were actually a blessing. As much as I dreaded them and resented them, they made me work harder, thinker deeper and get more ingenious. I learned to accept them and later appreciate them.
Celebrate the positive things. The personal notes, the helpful critiques, and moments of inspiration.
Stay an active member of the kidlit community. The support and encouragement are incredible. No one knows a writer’s life like a writer does.
Join a critique group and/or have critique partners. I find that I make a great deal of progress with my manuscripts when I not only consider the feedback I get, but also the feedback I give. A critique you’re doing for someone can act as a mirror, enabling you to reflect on your own writing as well.
Kaitlyn: Thank you for sharing such wonderful advice. Finally, if you could spend one day with your favorite author, would you rather go fly a kite or sit talking by a cozy fire?
Dawn: I’d rather sit and talk and, more importantly, listen. That would be amazing!
Kaitlyn: That does sound amazing, count me in! Thank so much again for joining us today on the Math is Everywhere blog and reminding us how math is magical!
Dawn: Thank you for this opportunity. I want kids to learn to love math and know that math is magical, making doors open and opportunities appear!
Kaitlyn: It was my pleasure and I just love that quote “I want kids to…know that math is magical, making door open and opportunities appear!” Please stop by anytime to talk math and writing!
Dawn has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and an MBA. For years, Dawn worked as an engineer and then as a manager at a large aerospace company, until her creative side called her to pursue her dream of writing children’s books. After reading and writing hundreds of corporate documents, none of which were titled The Little Engineer Who Could or Don’t Let the Pigeon Fly the Airbus, Dawn is thrilled to now be reading and writing picture books instead. Dawn lives in sunny Arizona with her husband, three children and golden retriever.
Book info about Counting Elephants
Math + Magic = chaos in this zany book about counting elephants before they disappear!
Our poor counter just wants to count her ten elephants but – POOF! – her magician friend is making it impossible. Ten, nine, eight… each time we get back to counting, one of the elephants has been changed into something unexpected. Puppies, frogs, peanut butter and jelly, and, of course, a rabbit in a hat appear and disappear in this funny, fast-paced story.
Dawn has generously offered to send to giveaway a copy of Counting Elephants (US domestic shipping only)
How to get in on the Giveaway:
- Comment on this blog post
- Retweet the tweet about this post
- Order one or more of Dawn’s book or do a library purchase request for any of her books that they don’t currently have and share in the comments.
Thank you all for joining us today to talk math and writing!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez
If you haven’t checked out the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest coming up, we’ve got some AMAZING prizes that will connect winners with wonderful published authors, author-illustrators, agents, and editors, so hop to it! Check out all the info here.