Cynthia Pratt Nicolson - Author
Cynthia Pratt Nicolson is a teacher and an award-winning children's author who has written several non-fiction books, including The Stars and The Planets. She lives on Bowen Island, British Columbia.
Winnipeg, Manitoba --- on an August day when it reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit --- no wonder I can't stand the heat!
Where do you live now?
On beautiful Bowen Island, off the west coast of British Columbia (about 3000 people live here and many commute into Vancouver). From our living room we see mountains, ocean and the city of Vancouver.
When did you start writing?
I always liked writing as a child, but really got started with an article about slugs for magazine in 1980 (when I was at home with my first baby).
What is your favorite book?
My favorite book is The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne. (I have a tattered copy that is the only surviving volume of the complete set given to me when I was a baby.) When I was at McGill, my friends and I used to read Pooh aloud and assign names from the story to people around campus --- Eeyore, Piglet, etc. Milne's sense of humor is wonderful.
What is your favorite food?
What was your training or schooling?
After high school in Winnipeg, I went to McGill University for two years where I studied history and political science. Then, after working and traveling for a couple of years, I got my teacher's certificate at the University of Manitoba. Still later, I went to the University of Winnipeg to earn my Bachelor of Science degree. I recently gained my Master of Education degree in math education at the University of British Columbia and am currently teaching in the Faculty of Education at UBC.
How did you get involved with children's books?
One of my early role models was my grandfather, who was a teacher and school principal and who also did a lot of writing for local publications and the Department of Education. (There's a school named after him in Russell, Manitoba.) Also, I enjoyed being with children. So the link between working with children and writing books for them seemed natural.
I wrote many articles for magazine, where I connected with Val Wyatt, an editor for Kids Can Press, who suggested that I should write a book for Kids Can Press.
Do you have any tips for young creators?
Write about things you find exciting. Be ready to work at learning your craft --- I'm still learning! Read, read, read.
What is the thing you like the most about creating kids' books?
I really enjoy learning new things about the natural world and writing kids' science books gives me a chance to do that. When I studied science at university I realized that I could never be someone who sticks with one research topic for years and years. I'm much happier learning about something, finding ways to share my interest with children and then moving on to a new topic.
Where do you work?
I work in the small office that my husband built for me last summer on the back of our house. My office windows look out into our backyard where black-tailed deer wander through nearly every day. In the summer, I sometimes take my work out onto our deck where, on clear days, we have a view of Mount Baker in Washington. While writing about volcanoes, I've often stared at Mount Baker and wondered what would happen if it erupted, like its “sister,” Mt. St. Helens.
How do you research or create your stories?
I do research by going to the library, searching the Internet and talking to scientists.
Where do you get your ideas?
The things I've worked on recently have been suggestions from Kids Can Press. I've got other ideas that aren't yet published --- they come from reading, thinking, listening to the news and talking with people.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
At one time, I wanted to be a cowgirl. Later, I thought being a teacher, librarian or writer would be fine.
What is the weirdest or most interesting job you've ever had?
One summer I worked as a tour guide at Old St. Andrew's Church in Selkirk, Manitoba. I had to take people on tours of the historic cemetery and tell them about the pioneers who were buried there. One time, I was earnestly giving my usual spiel over the mossy gravestone of Mary Collins, school teacher, mother of thirteen, pillar of the community, when one of my audience said, “Excuse me, but I think you must be talking about a different Mary Collins. This one died when she was three.”