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Mary Morton Cowan, Children's Author

 

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How long does it take you to write a book?
Each of my books took more than two years to write, counting the research time. Then it took another two years to get them published.
What about magazine articles?
They take about a month or two.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere! Almost everything I learn I want to share with young people. Things I wanted to know when I was a kid. When I travel anywhere, you know what I need with me? My camera, binoculars, maps, and books – books about wildflowers, birds, trees, and more. I am always discovering something new and interesting!

The ideas for my three books stemmed from family connections. The spark for Timberrr… started with stories my dad told about our family's logging operation. The connection to Captain Mac and Ice Country is more roundabout. Our family’s sled factory made special dog sledges for Arctic explorer, Donald MacMillan.  That led to my interest in his expeditions.

How many magazine articles have you written?
I have sold more than 70 articles, stories, and activities, and I have written some that have not sold. You can find my work in AppleSeeds, Calliope, Cobblestone, Faces, Highlights for Children, and a few other magazines. Several have been reprinted in textbooks, some are used for school testing programs, and a few are online.
Have you sold any pictures?
Yes. Mostly nature photos. Five of my magazine articles have one or more of my photos included with them, I took a few of the photographs in Timberrr…, and some in Captain Mac.
 When did you start writing?
The day I got my first pair of glasses, in first grade. I was so excited to be able to see details, that I started writing out letters as fast as I could – drawing them actually, I suppose.

When did I start really writing? I wrote a few poems when I was 7 or 8. I remember writing term papers by fourth grade. Unlike most of my classmates, I had fun looking up stuff in big books at the library, sorting material, and writing term papers. When given a choice, I chose nature topics – I remember one about a Baltimore Oriole, another about moose in Maine.

My first child was in college before I started writing for children!

What do you enjoy most about writing?
That's hard to say. Research is fascinating for me. Plus, I enjoy playing with words. I like fine-tuning my work, sort of molding it until it sounds smooth when I read it aloud. Magazine articles have to be short, so it is hard to fit in all the material! But I like that challenge. Another favorite part of being a writer is visiting schools, when I can share what I have written with young people, or help you learn to love writing too. And, of course, I love using my computer!
What do you like least?
The fact that no one has figured out how to fit more than 24 hours in a day! Recordkeeping and marketing seem to take too much time. And sometimes, believe it or not, the challenge I like of fine-tuning my writing can be the very thing that frustrates me the most! Can you guess why? Because when I research (which I love to do!), I learn so many interesting facts that I can't fit them all into my finished work. And, of course, sometimes I hate my computer!
What are you writing now?
That's a secret.  I will tell you I'm writing several things at once. And I’m having fun!
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