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Debut Author Interview: Elaine Kachala and Superpower? The Wearable-Tech Revolution Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Elaine Kachala here to share about her MG nonfiction Superpower? The Wearable-Tech Revolution. It sounded fascinating to me after I read the first sentence of the blurb.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Imagine being able to run without getting tired. Or travel to the moon to observe Earth for science class. The technologies that could make these things possible are mixing into our lives faster than we realize. The stakes are high. In Superpowers: The Wearable-Tech Revolution, young readers will discover how technological innovation can help people survive and thrive, but the book also asks readers to question whether it should. What if super strength results in endless work? What if hackers can read our thoughts? Meet the inventors, designers, engineers, scientists and young people navigating the next tech frontier.

 Hi Elaine! Thanks so much for joining us.

 1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I work as a health policy researcher, writer, and advisor for government and health agencies. Together with journalists and editorial teams, we'd talk about "our reports having legs" so they'd inspire people to make improvements in the healthcare system. Early on, we discovered the power of stories to explain complicated topics to governments and the public instead of just laying out the facts. It is satisfying and exciting to research a new topic, distill the information, and then write about it in a way that compels people to want to take action.

I'd never considered writing for kids, but I was looking for a creative outlet about six years ago. I love picture books; they're brilliant pieces of art. Why not write a picture book? I revealed this goal to my family, and they bought me Anne Whitford Paul's, A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication for Christmas. Many courses, conferences, and manuscript drafts later, I was at a workshop when I found myself discussing STEM/STEAM topics for middle readers. I'd started down the road of writing picture books, then, in one conversation, everything changed!

We talked about the impact of technology on people and the world and what would be the hook for this age group. I'm intrigued by STEM/STEAM topics because I have two daughters who work in these fields, and I'm always trying to understand their work. In my job at the time, I was learning about incredible technologies underway to improve people's lives, especially those with disabilities. But I didn't want to write a book merely about technology; I was curious about the implications of technology. Suddenly, many threads came together, and this book was born!

2. That’s great your family bought you a book that inspired you. Where did you get the idea for Superpower? The Wearable-Tech Revolution?

My earliest drafts were about many different technologies. The style was descriptive, and there was too much information; I had to sharpen the focus and needed a narrative arc. I reflected on what I saw in healthcare and dug deeper into the research. I read books like Klaus Schwab's The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age by Microsoft's Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne. I was learning about the importance of the responsible design of technology and what that meant. I researched the children's market. While there were many brilliant STEM/STEAM books and books that explained technological advancements and their impacts on society, I didn't find any current books that combined these themes.

After more research, the topic of wearable technology cast a spell on me. Why was I suddenly so invested? I realized two things: That deep down, this multifaceted topic has to do with health, well-being, and equity—issues that are important to me and are at the core of my professional work. Beyond the blow-your-socks-off cool factor, our society faces many challenges with wearables as these incredibly sophisticated devices go mainstream. Writing a book that explores how wearables are changing our lives and that delves into the pros and cons of technology is the book I wanted to write. I wasn't seeing these issues reflected in books for young readers, yet kids have a significant role in helping steer the world toward a better future. Also, when I interviewed youth for the book, I was seriously impressed by their thoughts, insights, and passion for creating technology for a better world; I had to write a book that included their ideas and opinions.

Your Writing Process

 3. Tell us about the research process that you used in writing this book. What advice do you have for other writers about researching for a nonfiction book?

·   I delved into the literature, focusing on primary sources (e.g., books, scholarly journals, government documents), then reputable websites (e.g., professional associations), and magazines (e.g., WIRED, Harvard Business Review). I also watched video presentations (e.g., TEDx) and listened to podcasts by experts (often, they produced YouTube videos or did TEDx presentations or podcast interviews). All of this research helped me understand news issues, learn about the technologies, and identify experts to interview. I found podcasts, presentations, websites, and magazines especially helpful for clarifying information with highly technical topics.

·   Read MG books of the same genre not only to learn about the market and what topics were covered and where there were gaps but to see how authors that I admired presented the information.

·   I delved deeper into the research and ensured I had a clear structure for the book and a better sense of what I knew and needed to know.

·   After I had a clearer sense of the outstanding questions, I finalized my list of experts and did more research on them and their work, and prepared questions. Always do your due diligence before reaching out; experts have limited time.

·   I conducted interviews. A couple were by Zoom; others were via email; in all cases, I sent my questions in advance. (It was during covid; I couldn't visit people). I was specific about why I wanted to talk to them in my outreach email.

4. It sounds like your research was extensive. How did what you learned when doing your research affect your narrative?

The research directly shaped the narrative. I was learning how wearable technology changed how we live, learn, work and play. As I continued researching and reflecting on this point, it hit me that wearables weren't just changing how we live but were changing and augmenting us as human beings, and developments were happening fast. Experts were speaking out about this and the pros and cons of technology; they were asking whether innovation can go too far and questioning the "move fast and break things" mindset that was common in the tech industry. While the benefits of wearables were huge, in many ways, this technology was crossing into some crazy ethical territory, and there were risks and challenges. The questions that struck me most were: how do we innovate and design technology responsibly? How do we reap the benefits but still protect against the harms? The book's structure followed my learning process and the information I found.

5. What tools did you use to stay organized?

For reference management, Zotero saved me! Initially, I'd tried Scrivener, but it could have been more user-friendly. I found it too time-consuming to learn when I was learning so many other things. When I learned of Zotero, I tried it and found it easier to understand; Zotero helped me with reference management, which was huge. Otherwise, I worked in WORD and EXCEL and had many folders.

6. What was a challenge you faced in writing this book? How did you overcome it?

Since Superpower? was my first book, the entire project was a sharp learning curve. My top challenges were managing version control, keeping references organized, controlling word count, and ensuring accuracy.

As the drafts evolved, I found it hard to keep track of older ideas; I'm still trying to figure out how to have the best version control system. But for reference management, Zotero saved me! I learned about this software for managing bibliographic data from a presenter at an SCBWI conference, and I'm ever grateful.

The last chapter is called How Do We Design Responsible Technology? SET UP! RISE UP! TEAM UP! Initially, each was a separate chapter, and the overall word count was too high. My editor asked if I'd consider condensing them into one chapter. I had a moment, but then I said, no problem! She was right. Condensing, SET UP! RISE UP! TEAM UP! into one chapter helped me restructure the material, present ideas more clearly and concisely, and reduce the word count. When I read it now, nothing important is missing! Always listen to the editor!

Finally, I did an insane amount of research on this topic; I had over 500 references, including expert interviews. I was meticulous about ensuring accuracy. I'm so grateful to the experts who reviewed the manuscript. They'd made some recommendations, but overall, I'd been accurate, so my research paid off! Getting expert eyes on the manuscript is essential.

Your Road to Publication

7. What was your road to publication like?

Thrilling! Nerve-racking! Fun! It was filled with lots of emotions and challenges. It was also a heartwarming experience. For example, becoming part of a community of children's writers was amazing. I can't believe everyone has been friendly, supportive, and welcoming.

Working with Orca Book Publishers has been an incredible experience. They are a fantastic publisher. All aspects, from editorial support to illustration and book design and promotion, have been incredible. It was truly a collaborative experience. They're so professional and friendly, and supportive, and communication was easy and timely. I couldn't have asked for a better first-time experience. I hope I can work with Orca again.

8. That’s great that your publisher was so good to work with. What is something that surprised you in the process of getting a book contract or working with your editor? Why?

Since this was my first book, I was curious to know what it would be like to work with an editor. What surprised me most was that she gently presented revision ideas but didn't change anything independently. I really appreciated that. Of course, I took all of her suggestions!


9. You live in Toronto. How are you planning to market your book in the United States?

A few ways:

1.   Orca Book Publishers markets their books in Canada, the USA, and Internationally. Orca staff also attend conferences such as the American Library Assoc, pitch festivals, and sends direct newsletters to teachers, librarians, and schools.

2.   From a warehouse near Bellingham, Washington, Orca distributes its own titles and those of other Canadian publishers throughout the United States (to schools, libraries, boards, wholesalers (e.g., in US Follet, Baker & Taylor; Amazon).

3.   Orca connects directly with clients to pitch books.

4.   Sometimes clients put out calls for specific books, and Orca responds to the call.

5.   I had a Discussion & Activity Guide developed for educators. It was created by a US STEM educational consultant and is aligned to Common Core & National Generation Science Standards Grades 4-7.

6.   I am doing interviews with contacts in the American literary community, such as yourself, ReadingWithYourKids, and others.

7.   I'm also reaching out to contacts that I have in the US.

If you have other ideas, I'd love to hear them!

10. One idea would be to have a blogger who schedules blog tours schedule one for you to reach new audiences. What advice do you have to other debut authors getting ready for the release of their book?

Be prepared for the considerable time commitment that goes along with marketing and promotion, so start early and make a plan! I was new to the publishing industry and had no M&P experience. So about ten months in advance, I started researching and attending workshops. You'll be better prepared to work with your publisher, you won't miss opportunities, and you'll be able to plan and budget because if you do it right, there will be costs; it is an investment.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Elaine. You can find Elaine at:

Website: https://www.elainekachala.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elainekachala

Twitter: https://twitter.com/elainekachala

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elainekachala/

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/elainekachala/

YouTube Book Trailer https://youtu.be/hvbNOG7V48Y

Giveaway Details

Elaine’s publisher is generously offering a hardback of Superpower? The Wearable-Tech Revolution for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by November 19. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter or Elaine on her social media sites, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S and Canada.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.    

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Tuesday, November 8 I’m participating in the Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop

Monday, November 14 I have an agent spotlight interview with Adria Goetz and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, November 16 I’m participating in the In All Things Give Thanks Giveaway Hop

Monday, November 23 I have a guest post by author Jessica Vitalis and a giveaway of her MG fantasy The Rabbit’s Gift

Tuesday, December 6 I’m participating in the Winter Is Coming Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, December 7 I have a guest post by debut author Deeba Zargarpur and a giveaway of her YA contemporary House of Yesterday and my IWSG post

Monday, December 12 I have an agent spotlight interview with Kelly Dyksterhouse and a query critique giveaway

Friday, December 16 I’m participating in the Dashing December Giveaway Hop

Monday, December 19 I have an agent spotlight interview with Savannah Brooks and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you tomorrow!




Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like Elaine really put the time and research into every single step of both her book and the publishing process. Congratulations to her!

Valinora Troy said...

Super impressed by Elaine's research, and sounds like this really paid off. I'm not eligible for the giveaway, but it sounds a very interesting book, not only in terms of the technological advances but also in terms of ethics, which sometimes gets overlooked in the buzz of new gadgets. Thanks for sharing!

Greg Pattridge said...

A fascinating trip down the road to publication. Technology is coming at us so fast that books like this gives us a chance to reflect on the good and not so good. Thanks for taking the time Elaine to put all this info into what sounds like a worthwhile read. Also, Happy MMGM!

Patricia T. said...

What a fascinating dive into the responsible use of technology. I loved the interview and was impressed with how much research was involved -- and how complicated it can be to organize it. There are going to be a lot of very happy tweens/teens that are going to love what you've done because of their high-tech mindset. It's good that you show both sides to them and encourage responsibility. Thanks for sharing!

Danielle H. said...

I'm very interested in reading more STEM books like this one for my own mentor text as well as for the curious person I am. I shared on tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook and follow Natalie on Twitter. I can't wait to read this incredible book.

Liz A. said...

What a great idea for a book. And a picture book. I hadn't considered using story to explain STEM ideas. Something to ponder.

Carol Baldwin said...

Great interview. Elliott is reviewing SUPERPOWER? on my blog next week and I had some of these questions about how Elaine came to write it. No need to enter my name. Thanks for more information!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

This book sounds amazing! Very intriguing.

I'd never want anyone to read my thoughts. They be amazed at the number of f-bombs dropped in a day.

Christina Shawn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christina Shawn said...

Wow! What a cool topic and a cool way to help kids be part of the conversations that impact the future. Can't wait to read it with my kids!

Rachel said...

I'm really looking forward to reading this - what an interesting book idea!

Rosi said...

Great interview. It sure does take a lot of hard work to get a book out there, as her story confirms. I will pass on the giveaway. I'm buried in books. Thanks for the post.

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Tonja Drecker said...

Sounds like there's lots to learn and think about in this one. Enjoyed the interview.