Friday, December 2, 2016

A Visit with Tracy Maurer, Author of 100+ Books and Still Going Strong

I first met Tracy Maurer twelve years ago when she came to the Twin Ports to donate her book about snocross to the Superior Public Library. It was the first of several picture books on various action themes designed to attract boys to books, I suspect. Muscle Cars, Monster Trucks, Limousines, Lowriders and Desert Racers were all products of this series. For me, I had enjoyed getting the opportunity to verify facts, and in some cases provide a few photos. The first of these was titled Snocross, and it became a media event that included an AMSOIL snocross racer, the author and the local press.

We stayed in touch in part because I have a lot of respect for writers who are actually writing and not just jawboning. Tracy has a great spirit and I suspect her editors enjoy working with her because she's committed to meeting deadlines, works hard, is conscientious about quality, and is a great PR weapon. By this I mean, she genuinely enjoys going into the schools to share her passions with young people. It's real, not artifice.

After you finish reading the interview, check out some of the books she's written. You might find some Christmas gift ideas for sons or daughters, nieces and nephews. Her two latest books won't be out till spring, but don't let that stop you from checking out her other titles.

EN: Is this really your 100th book? What are you doing to celebrate this occasion?

Tracy Nelson Maurer: My writing projects include many books for the education market. Those publishers tend to release several nonfiction books at a time in a series, which is why I have more than 100 titles to my credit. For example, I recently published three books on maps for the education market, including Using Road Maps and GPS, Using Economic and Resource Maps, and Using Topographic Maps. For the retail market, I’m looking forward to several book-launch events for John Deere, That’s Who! (Henry Holt, March 2017) and Noah Webster’s Fighting Words (Millbrook, April 2017).

EN: It's really fun how you have Noah Webster injecting himself into the story, making comments and such. Where did the idea for this kind of treatment come from?

TNM: At the New York Public Library’s Rare Book and Manuscripts Division, I found a small, yellowed newspaper clipping of an article written by Noah’s granddaughter. She claimed that he would often go back and edit his work with a red pencil, even 50 years after it was published. He just couldn’t help himself. That was more than a tidbit! It launched the idea of Noah editing my manuscript, which turned into a major revision and, eventually, made it a better book.

EN: Has book production become easier over time? When did you feel like you were getting into your stride?

TNM: I’d love to tell you it’s a breeze now. It’s not. Every book presents its own challenges and rewards.

EN: Are all of your books for young people or have you done any writing of adult non-fiction?

TNM: Young readers are tough critics with bouncy attention spans and boundless curiosity. They’re great! And frightening! To help me do my best work for them, I earned a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in St. Paul. Studying with award-winning authors on the faculty there gave me insights and skills that I apply to all of my writing now, including books, websites, and marketing work. Along the way, I’ve written three nonfiction books for adults that were essentially community marketing tools and I’ve edited several other publications for adults, too. But, kids? They’re where my heart is.

EN: It's amazing how many stories there are to tell. So many interesting people in the world both now and in the past. How did John Deere, That's Who! come about?

TNM: Isn’t it great to learn about the incredible things people have accomplished? Fun facts seem to trigger book ideas for me. A while ago, I co-authored a book about John Deere tractors with Rod Beemer, a tractor expert. That’s when I learned that John Deere did not invent the tractor (he died 30 years or so before the first “traction machine”). However, he did invent a better plow, and that changed America forever—definitely a story worth telling.

EN: Of all your books, which have been your favorites?

TNM: Come on! That’s like asking which of your children is your favorite! Honestly, my favorite book is the next one I’m working on…whatever it is…. because I’m happiest when I’m writing.

EN: When Noah Webster comes out, where will people be able to find it?

TNM: Watch for Noah Webster’s Fighting Words and John Deere, That’s Who! at your local independent bookseller or online retailer.

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You can follow stay in tune to Tracy Maurer's career by bookmarking her website, or signing up for her newsletter there on her home page.

FAQs: When Tracy Maurer goes into schools to talk about her books and their various themes, she routinely leaves time for a Q&A at the end. Here's a page full of other typical questions she is asked, and her answers. Just in case you, too, had an inquiring mind that wanted to know.

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Meantime, life goes on all around you. Make a difference. 

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