René Bartos: I am so excited to be able to chat with author Doe Boyle today! Welcome to Writers’ Rumpus, Doe! Can you tell me a little about what inspired you to write for children and your journey into the kidlit world?
Doe Boyle: So happy to be here, René! My writing was definitely inspired in childhood by the joy of reading–and the joy of exploring the world, often on my own. I was lucky, from my earliest days as a reader, to have a welcoming public library where I could fill my arms with a tower of books weekly and pore through them for stories and information. I maintain that habit today, with exuberance, and I still like to wander in the world, as I did as a child. As I read and as I walk, I collect information and aspire to retell what I have learned, just as I imagine all my favorite authors do.
RB: Your latest book, Hear the Wind Blow, illustrated by Emily Paik and published by Albert Whitman & Company in 2021, is a timely topic for spring. Could you share what sparked your idea for this book?
DB: Hear the Wind Blow was inspired by my love of the sounds of something invisible–air on the move! I’ve always been attracted to sounds in the natural world–waves, waterfalls, birdsong, wind. One summer afternoon, on a porch perched above a beloved pond in Maine, I settled under quilts to collect those sounds–the whistling, the rustling, the shifting of currents–and I realized that most of the sounds of this invisible weather phenomenon were made by its effect on visible objects: the trees, the hanging chimes, the surface of the pond moving against rocks. Then, as I thumbed through a field guide about the atmosphere, I discovered that sailors all over the world had, for a couple of centuries, depended on a visible signs system that paired the effect of wind on physical objects with a scale of wind velocity. This chart, called the Beaufort Wind Force Scale, has long been an essential maritime tool, and it seemed like a terrific topic for an informational STEAM-centered picture book.
RB: The illustrations are the perfect complement to your lyrical writing. Did you have a chance to work with the illustrator in the making of the book?
DB: Thanks! I’m tremendously grateful to Emily Paik for her cheerful and thoughtful approach to the text and for her creation of its unnamed characters. She captured the swiftly shifting elements of a rising and falling storm with science-based realism and with emotional resonance. I’m also grateful to the art director, Rick DeMonico, and the book designer, Aphelandra (Messer), whose collaboration ensured an accurate, accessible, and pretty product. As the project developed, I was invited to comment both on the sketches and on the nearly-finished images, which I so appreciated. In that process, I could also see the notes from the editor, art director, and designer, so I was aware of their good care as well.
RB: I understand that the Chicago Public Library recently named Hear the Wind Blow a “Best of the Best” in the category of informational books for young readers. CONGRATS! How was that recognition important to you? And do you have any advice about writing informational fiction and developing its backmatter in kid-friendly ways?
DB: I was so pleased by this news because it confirmed that I’d reached an essential goal! When I set out to write this book’s main poetic text, I was trying to capture sound and motion and the sensations of experiencing the wind. And when I discovered the Beaufort Scale, I realized how useful it is for empowering children and others to know when to head for shelter when storms arise. So I aimed to combine the two elements in a single volume. In an era of climate change and unusual weather disruptions, I thought it was just the right time for a lyrical and factual exploration of air in motion. Now, in my work as a teaching artist, I use Hear the Wind Blow to meet both the objectives of the science curriculum and the objectives of the language curriculum. I hope other teachers and parents use it that way, too!
RB: Could you share with us a little about your writing process?
DB: Well, I write every day, and I always begin by reading. I’m a deep diver when it comes to research, which I call immersion. I collect copious materials, I read deeply, I take a ton of notes, I make word lists, and I create sample sentences in wee notebooks. Then I begin to write in earnest, with great concentration on fact and sound. My mission is always to enchant my readers–to engage their attention to the wonders of the world and lead them outside–and onward to their own immersions.
RB: Do you have any helpful writing tips or good writing habits to share with us?
DB: I practice patience and persistence every day–and I always approach a new project with joy and a sense of discovery. I firmly believe in writing the books I’ve been imagining for a long time. My fine companion and fellow author Leslie Connor would describe this practice as writing the book “you cannot ignore.” I call them legacy projects–something I’m leaving behind for others to show them what I cherished.
RB: Do you have any advice for others new to the kidlit writing business?
DB: Well, this is what I tell my students: Read everything that you can get fingers on–and walk in the world with your eyes and heart wide open. Ask questions and write the answers.
RB: Great advice! Could you share with us how you find support in writing? Do you have a community of writers or critique groups who help to inspire your work?
DB: I’m always emboldened by the books I read, and I’m buoyed by a wide community of writers in Connecticut and beyond. And, every single day, I am kept courageous by seven astonishing writing women who have been with me–reading, writing, listening, and offering wisdom–for thirty years.
RB: Do you have any other children’s books in the works? We would love to see more!
DB: In September 2022, Albert Whitman & Company will publish Water, another book in the Imagine This! series, which launched in 2020 with the publication of my science poetry books Heartbeat and Blink!, and Aimée Bissonette’s lovely prose science books, Dragonfly and The Tinaja Tonight. After that, there’s something moon-y and a budding novel in which wind and trains are main characters.
RB: Thank you so much, Doe! We look forward to enjoying more of your work in the future.
As a child, Doe Boyle satisfied her curiosity for the natural world by exploring the woods, shore, and fields–and poring over books. Nowadays, she writes her own science and nature books, including, most recently, Heartbeat and Blink!, science poetry books in Albert Whitman’s Imagine This! series, launched in 2020. Hear the Wind Blow (2021) is her stormy exploration of the visible and audible signs of the wind. Never far from the sounds of music, poetry, and the sea, she works in a wee room in an ancient house at the side of an ancient road within view of the waves that helped her write Water, due out in September 2022.