Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Featured Sweetheart--Pamela S. Turner

Our newest Sweetheart had a library card as soon as she could write her own name! What's not for a librarian to love about that? Pamela lives in California but spends a lot of her time traveling around the world researching the fabulous science books she writes. She is also an animal lover, evident in the many animal topics she explores. When asked whether she is a "sweetheart" or a "scoundrel" Pamela indicated that she is by nature a scoundrel who likes to "stir the pot" but her family voted her to be a sweetheart. Readers, you decide! --Jeanette Larson

TS&S: Have you always wanted to be a writer? Have you had other jobs?

PST: When I was a little girl and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I always said I wanted to write children's books and draw the pictures. As I grew older I became more interested in medicine and international development. I have a Master's in Public Health and worked in Micronesia, Haiti, and the Philippines as well as in the U.S.

TS&S: To what do you attribute your passion for wildlife?

PST: I have always been fascinated by animals. My first memory is being in a playpen and trying to pull the family puppy through the bars by its ears. (I think my mother wisely intervened.) Most children are born with a fascination for animals, and I guess I never grew out of it.

TS&S: I love the story of Hachiko. Do you share your life with a dog? What other animals are in your extended family?

PST: We have two dogs: Tux is a poodle / terrier mix and Manchee (pictured right "reading" HACHIKO) is a yellow Labrador puppy named after the dog character in THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO. Our other Lab, Genki, died two summers ago. It broke my heart. I also have a White's tree frog named Dumpy F. Lumpy which my kids think is the stupidest pet ever. It is true she does nothing but poop and eat crickets.

TS&S: How closely do you work with the photographers on your books? Do you get much say in selecting the photographs?

PST: I worked very closely with photographers and, with their help, choose the photos that appear in my books. Assembling a photo-illustrated book is like being the director of a documentary. It's about the visuals as much as the writing.

TS&S: What is the most interesting or exciting thing you have learned while writing your books?

PST: That there are endless ways of telling a story, and endless stories out there to tell. This is a job that will never be boring.

TS&S: What tips to you have for aspiring science writers?

PST: #1: Don't worry too much about "writing what you know": write what you WANT to know. Related to that is #2: Don't become a science writer unless you love research, and are thrilled at the idea of the background work needed to understand a topic well enough to write about it. #3: Learn about photography and design. They are essential aspects of children's science writing.

Pamela S. Turner is presenting with Leslie Bulion and Jeanette Larson on the "Naturally Cool" panel at the Texas Library Association Conference on Thursday, April 14 at 8:30 a.m. She will be signing after the program from 11:00 a.m. - noon at the Houghton Miffling booth (#2024). Learn more about Pamela S. Turner and her work at her website,


  1. What an amazing interview! Thank you, Pamela and Jeanette!

  2. I love this: Don't worry too much about "writing what you know": write what you WANT to know. Perfect non fiction twist on that age old adage.

  3. I love that too, Lindsey! Thanks for commenting!