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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

40 Gallons of Sap to Make 1 Gallon of Syrup -- Research to Book

It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. That's a lot of sap! It's not too different from creating a nonfiction book. It takes gallons of research to make one small book.

When I recently went to nErDcampNNE I brought one of my book boxes. Every book I create with Houghton Mifflin has its own box. Some boxes are bigger than others. They get filled with ticket stubs, receipts, articles, books, drafts, photo release forms, and all sorts of stuff that pertain to the writing of the book. They do NOT include all of the articles I have read online or in libraries, or the piles of books that I am not able to keep, including rare editions and such. It also does not include the hundreds of photos I take and download to my computer. 

It does take many "gallons" of research for each book. Every nonfiction writer will tell you the same thing. But we enjoy it! It's a treasure hunt -- an extreme sport  -- a time to EXPLORE! 

There are so many ways that teachers can spur on this exciting phase of writing with students. Loree Griffen Burns, Melissa Stewart, and I discussed having students interview each other, parents, teachers, and community members. Teaching students interview etiquette and how to write questions and ask follow-up questions is part of the learning process. 

Thinking of the research phase more like a quest than finding three sources for a project is the goal. Making discoveries and letting those discoveries lead to more questions and on to more discoveries is the joy we nonfiction authors feel every day. 

And then after all that research we have to distill it down  - just like boiling down the sap  - to find the  jewels we want to include in shaping the book we write. 

Ask any nonfiction author about their research and you will be in for a treat! 

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