Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
I’m so excited to connect with you today because this book is all about connection as you’ll find out very soon when we get the chance to chat with Kate Allen Fox about her debut picture book PANDO, A LIVING WONDER OF TREES, illustrated by Turine Tran.
Kaitlyn: Hi, Kate, thank you so much for joining us!
Kate: Hi Kaitlyn! Thank you so much for having me here.
Kaitlyn: It’s so great to have you, and thank you, too, for sharing this incredible story with the world. Can you share what inspired it and a bit about its journey into the world?
Kate: I’m a huge nature lover and am often inspired while hiking. I went on a morning hike with my two young sons, and as I was driving home, something in the recesses of my brain remembered that they were trees connected by their roots to form one huge organism. When I got home, I started researching Pando, a grove of over 47,000 Aspen trees that are all one being, and became absolutely fascinated.
I originally planned to write the book as informational fiction, but the drafts just weren’t working. Eventually, with the help of my critique partners and the 12×12 writing forum, I took the leap to write it as nonfiction. I reached out to an expert on Pando, and he immediately said he would be interviewed and help me fact-check. So many people helped guide this book into the world.
Kaitlyn: That’s so wonderful, taking something you’ve wondered about and working with a team to make it happen–that’s one of the best things about this industry. Can you share why you think stories like these are so important for our little ones to read about?
Kate: I love books that inspire wonder and awe about the natural world. This planet is a mind-blowingly interesting and beautiful place. Whenever I research a nonfiction picture book, I am gobsmacked at how wondrous nature is. If I can capture that feeling for kids, I hope it can inspire them to ask their own questions about the world and maybe help protect it one day.
Kaitlyn: What a beautiful aspiration, and I do believe you’ve achieved it here with your beautiful, lyrical writing style. Can you share a bit about how you chose this style for this book and how you were able to accomplish this poignant style so successfully?
Kate: I’ve always loved poetry. Some of my earliest memories are of my dad reading me his favorite poems. Writing with lyricism felt natural for a book about wonder and awe. And while I discovered that style through writing this book, it has become a trademark of all my manuscripts since.
Kaitlyn: That’s amazing, and I love that your dad had such a big influence on your writing and I’m so glad to hear this is your writing style now because it’s wonderful! Your first line talks about a humming highway. Can you share a bit about how this became your opening line?
Kate: That opening line came as one of my later revisions. My earlier openings focused on the size of Pando, but they didn’t have tension. As I revised, I thought of highlighting the highway near the forest to foreshadow the tension between nature and development. I came up with “Near a highway, a forest stands firm.”
It had tension, but it didn’t sound quite right to my ear. I wanted an adjective before “highway.” A word to describe its sound. But what? I couldn’t find the right word.
So, I turned to the internet! In the private Facebook group of the 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, I asked for suggestions to describe the sound of a highway. Someone suggested “humming,” which I loved the alliteration of.
Kaitlyn: Yes! Love that progression, and again, great job showing how instinct and teamwork can do wonders. Can you share who your editor is for this book, and why it was so wonderful to work with this editor?
Kate: I was honored and delighted to work with Michelle Bisson and Krissy Mohn at Capstone. They both really understood the vision of the book, what it was about, and had great ideas for how to construct the book. I felt so valued and included at every stage of the process.
Kaitlyn: 😍 the absolute best! Can you share who your agent is and why you enjoy working with this agent?
Kate: Mary Cummings represented this book on a single book contract (rather than signing me for the totality of my work). I am so thrilled that she saw potential in it and shared it with Capstone. She also was instrumental in getting it ready for submission (we went through a lot of revisions before signing).
I’m now represented by Leslie Zampetti at Dunham Literary. Leslie has great taste and a keen editorial eye. She is also incredibly kind, communicative, and supportive and always helps me create the best manuscript possible. I could not have a better advocate in my corner.
Kaitlyn: Yes, for those of you who don’t know, Mary is a wonderful book-by-book agent, and Leslie is one of the most generous agents I’ve ever met. So glad you have such amazing people in your corner, too, Kate. Another wonderful person in your corner is the Illustrator for Pando, Turine Tran, who did such an amazing job bringing your words to life with art. Can you share a bit about how Turine was presented with this project and your relationship for this book?
Kate: The first time Krissy shared Turine’s art, I was absolutely blown away. The way Turine uses light and color captures that feeling of wonder that is so central to the book. Turine and I never communicated directly. And while I was offered the opportunity to give input on the illustrations, her work was so breathtaking that I had almost nothing to add. I saw my role as ensuring scientific accuracy in the images, but again, Turine had already done a wonderful job.
Kaitlyn: That’s so amazing, and I agree, I just adore when artists can play so successfully with light to bring so much feeling (it’s why I just HAD to represent Maryam Khalifah), and it’s so wonderful to hear that you got input but didn’t really need to give it. Readers, I hope these posts continue to show you how the separate aspect of author and illustrator really works out so well. Can you share some advice you like to give to aspiring authors?
Kate: Keep experimenting with genres, styles, and formats until you find a voice and style that feels authentic to you. I thought I would write novels and prose, but once I discovered lyrical nonfiction, I knew that this was the voice I had been searching for. Be open to change and discovery.
Kaitlyn: I totally agree! I’ve done some very similar searching, and please know readers, once you think you’ve found your style, you may find another style, too, and that’s all awesome, like Kate said, keep experimenting! Can you share how you and your team work on marketing your book?
Kate: I have a great publicist at Capstone. She has shared marketing materials and put me up for opportunities to share the book in various venues. She has also put up with all my newbie questions for months. Thanks, Jennifer!
Kaitlyn: Haha, Jennifer sounds awesome! Now, can you please share with us what’s next for you or what you’re working on now?
Kate: Leslie and I have lots of projects in various stages of development, mostly focused on lyrical nonfiction related to science and nature. While I can’t share specific details, we have one project that I would love to gush about, but alas. Publishing.
I am also experimenting with writing a novel-in-verse, which has been such an energizing challenge. I definitely recommend stepping out your genre every now and then to recapture that feeling of creative possibility.
Kaitlyn: Ohhhh, I can’t wait to hear about the story that’s under wraps and yay for novels in verse, they’re so beautiful–and based on this text, I think you’ve definitely got the chops for it! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, historical figure, or mathematician would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?
Kate: There are so many! As far as kidlit creators, I’d love to pick Candice Fleming’s brain for awhile. Her work is so awe-inspiring and prolific. I’d love to live inside her brain for a day.
Kaitlyn: Aww love that! And Candice would be such a cool person to hang out with. If it happens, please invite me. Thank you so much for sharing and for joining us today, Kate!
Book info and links
Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees by Kate Allen Fox and illustrated by Turine Tran will be published by Capstone Editions on August 15th. You can preorder your copy today from anywhere books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Leopard Print Books, who is hosting my virtual launch party. You can learn more about the launch event here.
Author Bio and links
Kate Allen Fox is a children’s author from Southern California. After a career as a public health professional, she combined her passions for research and writing and began writing picture books about science and nature. Her debut picture book, Pando, A Living Wonder of Trees, will be published by Capstone in 2021. Her writing has appeared in several publications, including The New York Times. You can learn more about her katefoxwrites.com. She is on Twitter and Instagram as @kateallenfox.
Written with beautiful, lyrical and underscored by luscious art, PANDO will help remind us all how connected we are and will hopefully inspire everyone who reads it to take care of our world. With wonderful and interesting facts dispersed throughout, this is a great addition to every library from public to school to home.
Do you want to win a copy a manuscript and query critique? The winner gets both from Kate Allen Fox!
You can enter in the follow ways (each earns you another entry into the random drawing)
- Comment on this post
- Share in the comments below that you added PANDO, A LIVING WONDER OF TREES to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of PANDO, A LIVING WONDER OF TREES
- Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for PANDO, A LIVING WONDER OF TREES at your library
- Quote retweet or retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tag three friends.
Thank you all for supporting such amazing creators, and make sure to check back soon because we’re having another Team Sanchez cover reveal very, very soon!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez