Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 4, 2008

The Cambridge Science Festival

I learned a few things about katydids, sloths, and many more animals, extinct and not, and met some wonderful writers and illustrators at the Cambridge Science Festival. Leslie Bulion had us clap and count, giving an overview of rhyme and rhythm, and showed how she turned the drama and violence of some insects’ lives into poetry. John Himmelman contrasted his quiet life at the illustration board with stories of stalking through swamps, avoiding snakes, alligators, and state troopers, for perfect views of rare and tiny creatures. Melissa Stewart told about hiking through the woods, getting caught in the rain, and looking up to see a squirrel with its tail curled above its head. Here was the start for her latest book, When Rain Falls.

Carol Stoltz from Porter Square Books kindly oversaw book sales. Melissa, John, Susan, Lita and I went to that bustling bookstore later in the afternoon to speak on our lives as writers.

Here we are:

Loree Griffin Burns, Leslie Bulion, Susan Goodman, Erica Zappy, me, Melissa Stewart, and John Himmelman. (Lita Judge was out of the room.)

Loree and Erica:

Me talking about Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon:

A highlight was hearing Loree Griffin Burns discuss how her four page proposal for Tracking Trash transformed into a 64 page book after three years of close work with her editor. While all of us care about scientific methods, the mystery and surprises we find when writing was a theme throughout the day. Tracking Trash is part of Houghton Mifflin’s Scientists in the Field series, which features scientists who break the stereotype of a pale man wearing a white coat with pockets stuffed with test tubes, shuffling around a lab. So at the beginning of her talk, Loree asked the audience, “When you think of scientists, where do you think of them working?”

Below is a picture of the little girl who shot up her hand, then shouted, “M.I.T.!”
We were reminded we were in Cambridge.

I gave her the butterfly sticker she’s displaying, (“What’s your favorite color?” “All of them!”) Her brother is proudly clutching the manuscripts he brought along, which Loree’s editor, Erica Zappy, graciously looked over, appearing highly enthusiastic, though I don’t think a deal was struck.



  1. If you aren’t careful & keep making this look so fun, you’ll get me wanting to write MORE science. 🙂
    I love Erica Zappy. If I’d had the courage to bring my manuscripts along at that young man’s age, I would have wanted to meet someone just like her. What a wonderful person.

  2. Jeannine,
    It was so nice to meet you in person on Saturday! I wish I could have stayed to hear you and the other presenters speak … I feel as if I missed a real treat. Here’s to finding ourselves on the stage together again one day soon.

  3. What a great event. How exciting to see so many women talking about science.
    And on another important note–I love your scarf.

  4. It’s so wonderful to work in a field in which you can follow your curiosity. And thanks for your sweet note on your blog. I may have to drive all the way north at some point, as, sadly, I’ve never been north of L.A. It would be a thrill to have lunch with you!

  5. Thanks, Loree! It was wonderful to meet you, too.

  6. Thanks, Linda! It was an inspiring day, and the scarf is the perk of having a nineteen year old daughter who lets me borrow now and then (not to mention sometimes offers crits).

  7. I’m coming over on Wednesday – any chance of seeing you..Ellen…the girls?

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