Today I am pleased and excited to be a stop on a blog tour for debut PB Author Laurie Wallmark. She’ll be talking about her wonderful historical PB about the life of Ada Byron Lovelace, the first female computer programmer. The book has already earned critical acclaim and a starred review from Kirkus. If you’d like to be entered in a drawing for a free signed copy of the book, check out the end of this post.
First, give us some background on how you came to the field of writing for children.
Unlike many of my fellow children’s book authors, I didn’t grow up dreaming of being a writer. I wrote some protest poetry and songs as a child, but that was about it. I didn’t major in English or Creative Writing. Instead, my undergraduate degree is in Biochemistry and my masters is in Information Systems. I’ve always loved reading children’s books, though. One day, out of the blue, I thought of an idea for a middle grade novel. I wrote for about an hour every day and soon had produced the perfect manuscript, or so I thought. I was wrong. Many years and many manuscripts later, not to mention a great deal of time spent working on my writing craft, I finished Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine.
Your debut PB Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books 2015) is historical non fiction. How did you discover Ada and decide to write about her?
The question of how I discovered Ada is one I’m often asked. The answer? I have no idea. Ada is one of the many historical figures and their associated accomplishments I’ve learned about growing up. As a child, like Ada, I wanted to be a professional mathematician, so I read many math-related books and articles. I would guess I heard about her from one of them. Another possibility is from my mother, since she was a math teacher. Maybe she introduced me to Ada. No matter how Ada came to my attention, she was clearly a good subject for my first picture book biography. In a previous career I was a programmer, and I now teach computer science. Ada Byron Lovelace was the world’s first computer programmer. Without a doubt, I had to share her story.
What kind of research was involved in writing the book? What part of the research process did you enjoy?
I was fortunate in my research efforts become Ada lived at a time when people wrote letters. In doing my research, I relied heavily on a book (Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers) which contains a curated collection of letters to and from Ada throughout her lifetime. These letters provided great insight into Ada’s character and her relationship with others. I worry that future biographers will not have access to these treasure trove of primary research material, since fewer and fewer people write letters.
What was the most surprising thing you learned throughout the whole process of writing, editing, publication, etc.?
Although I knew that after a manuscript was acquired, you still have to do further revisions, I was surprised by the number of them. Each new version I created uncovered yet another area in the text that could be improved. My wonderful editor, Marissa Moss, was invaluable in leading me to find the true heart of Ada’s story. For the record, from when my agents first expressed interest in my story to when it was sent to the printer, I did about fifteen revisions. These were, of course, in addition to the multitude of revisions I had done throughout the years.
First up is celebrating the launch of the book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, on October 13, 2015—Ada Lovelace Day. (For those who don’t know, this is an annual celebration of women in technology.) Two months later, I graduate from Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. I will continue to write for children, both picture books and novels, fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry.
ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Creston Books, October 2015) is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.” [starred review]
Laurie Wallmark writes exclusively for children. She can’t imagine having to restrict herself to only one type of book, so she writes picture books, middle-grade novels, poetry, and nonfiction. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. When not writing or studying, Laurie teaches computer science at a local community college, both on campus and in prison. The picture book biography, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, October 2015), is Laurie’s first book.
Join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. The next stop on the tour is: November 6, 2015 – Guest Post (Five Favorite STEM Women in History)
http://www.viviankirkfield.com Picture Books Help Kids Soar (Vivian Kirkfield)
All stops are listed at: http://lauriewallmark.com/blogtour.php.
Now, to win a free signed copy of ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE, leave a comment below and your name will be entered in a drawing. Share this post on social media and you will get a second chance to win. You have until Monday, 11-2-2015 to enter. The lucky winner will be announced on this blog on Wednesday, 11-4-2015.