Author Spotlight: Joyce Sidman
This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend the Association of Writers & Writer’s Programs 2015 Conference where I was able to hear many different writers speak about their work. One of the writers I was most excited to see was a long-time favorite of mine: Joyce Sidman.
I saw her speak in a panel focused on writing nonfiction for children. In the session, several writers shared their work and a librarian shared some examples of particularly excellent nonfiction for kids. Sidman was the only poet on the panel, but her process wasn’t so different from those who wrote more traditional nonfiction books. “Accuracy is paramount,” she said as she talked about the research that she does for each of her books. As you may know, many of her books include poetry and prose on the same spread, and she shared that sometimes the short prose paragraph is harder to write than the poem! It isn’t easy to present complex information in a way that young readers will understand and find interesting.
Sidman also shared that for her work as a poet the sensory details are very important too. She spends a lot of time outside observing nature. For her most recent book Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold she showed pictures that she took while walking her dog on those severely cold days in a recent Minnesota winter. She would look for the little things—the sights, sounds, and scents of the season that she could turn into a poem. It was a fascinating look into her process from the book’s beginning spark with the question of what animals do when it gets so cold to the writing and revisions of the poems and the prose sections of the book.
Teachers have found many of Sidman’s books to be useful in the classroom. In the presentation, she shared a couple of examples from elementary and middle schools where students wrote poems about nature and combined facts and art in their projects in the same way that Sidman does in her books. You can find classroom guides for many of her books on her web site.
Sidman advised the writers in the audience to find their people and find their medium. She found her people in the children’s book world and poetry has always been her preferred medium. If I may speak for the children’s book world, we are glad to have her.
Joyce Sidman’s ecosystem books:
Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow. Illustrated by Beth Krommes. 2006. 9780618563135. Gr. 2-5
Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. Illustrated by Rick Allen. 2010. 9780547152288. Gr. 1-4
Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems. Illustrated by Beckie Prange. 2005. 9780618135479. Gr. 2-5
Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold. Illustrated by Rick Allen. 2014. 9780547906508. Gr. K-4