Author Interview with Erin Teagan!
I'm so excited!!! I feel so cool right now you guys, honestly. I actually got to interview Erin Teagan, the Author of the Luciana books for American Girl. Do you know how hard it is to be cool when you're sending questions to people of this magnitude of awesome? "Oh, here are some questions for you, I do this all the time..." *hyperventilates* *dies*
Erin is basically everything I ever wanted to be: smart, goal-oriented, hard-working, accomplished, and writes 2,000 words before the sun comes up each morning. (No joke!!) But she's also down-to-earth, humble, and super funny. What I wouldn't give to spend the day with her, drinking coffee and asking a million more questions!
Let's here from Erin!
Tell us about yourself; what made you interested in writing children's books?
Growing up, I was the oldest of four kids and when the house was quiet and my siblings were in bed, I would often write stories for them, especially my youngest sister. I continued to write stories for kids, even after my littlest sister went to college, and everyone else was grown up. When I went into science, I wrote before I went to work and during my lunch breaks, hoping that one day I might write for children full-time. It took me almost ten years, but the work finally paid off when I sold my first manuscript, The Friendship Experiment, which came out in 2016.
What was it like writing for American Girl? How did you go about the research for your stories?
Working for American Girl was a dream. The amount of work American Girl puts into their products to empower young girls is inspiring. The writing schedule was challenging but I had the support of two editors to help me navigate through the drafts. The research involved in writing the Luciana stories was my favorite part of the entire process. I tagged along on a few of American Girl’s trips to Space Camp and I was able to experience the camp firsthand. I took a turn on the multi-axis trainer, dived to the bottom of their underwater astronaut trainer, and even ate the food in the camp’s crew galley. My experience at Space Camp played a big part in the books. When I was home, writing at my own desk, I had an entire advisory board of NASA and space experts, including an astronaut, and a Chilean cultural expert, to answer my questions and provide feedback on my manuscript. Writing for American Girl was really an amazing experience.
Were you interested in science as a child, and do you see any of Luciana in yourself?
I wish I had more of Luciana in myself as a kid, but I didn’t become interested in science until I was in high school, when I met a scientist in real life. She worked in a genetics lab at the University of Pennsylvania and I had the opportunity to shadow her at work for the day. It was an eye opening experience and it was the first time I realized that there was room in the field of science for a creative person like me. When I wrote Luciana’s story, I wanted to make sure that readers could see there are many sides of science, and that the field of science really needs people with different strengths and interests and backgrounds to be successful.
What is your favorite part of Luciana's story?
It’s so hard to pick one favorite part! I love her friendship with Raelyn from home and I love her relationship with baby Isadora. But, probably my favorite parts of the Luciana plot are the flops and failures. In science, there are always surprises and set backs, but eventually, by working through all of the challenges you end up with a stronger conclusion and often an open window to explore more. I hope readers will discover along with Luciana that failure is a necessary part of progress.
What advice would you give to parents and caregivers who want to support their child who is interested in STEM, like Luciana?
If I had a child like Luciana, I would try my best to keep up with her! With an increased emphasis on STEM in schools and after school clubs and camps, it seems like now more than ever, a kid interested in STEM has many options to pursue their interests. I’d support her the best way I could, whether that meant extra trips to the library to read about topics of interest, researching scholarship opportunities so she could participate in more costly programs, seeking out mentors, or just giving her the freedom to explore and learn herself.
What about kids who don't think they are the "science type"? How would you encourage them to explore STEM?
I was the ‘non-science’ type of kid growing up, the kid that wasn’t naturally talented in math, the kid who would rather read a book inside than explore the bugs in the backyard. What I realized as I grew up though, was that science is so much more. I wished I had known that on the most basic level, a scientist is someone who uses the scientific method, a person who asks questions and makes predictions, and tries to figure out the solution. Thinking of science in such simple terms helped me make a connection with STEM as a teenager.
As a parent, I’ve found the best way to support my own kids’ interest in STEM is to think of them as individuals and appeal to their interests. My daughter was obsessed with sharks for a bit. She checked books out of the library, tracked them on an app, asked a lot of questions, watched documentaries. Whether she knew it or not, she was thinking like a scientist, and I did everything I could to encourage that interest. Exposing kids to the many facets of science, listening to them talk about something they learned or discovered, encouraging them to ask questions and explore, are all ways that can help inspire a kid in STEM.
Thank you so much for sharing an insight into your life and your writing process, Erin! You are the best!!
You can purchase the Luciana books here! I highly recommend these books for you and your girls to read. Paige and I loved reading Luciana's story together! Great job, Erin!!
Love you all!