Sue Heavenrich writes about science and environmental issues and is passionate about insects. She has followed ants in the Arizona desert, tagged bumblebees in the Rocky Mountains, and tallied insects on Cocos Island, Costa Rica. When not writing, she collects data for researchers as a citizen scientist. Heavenrich lives in Upstate New York with her family and an organic garden full of edible weeds and bugs.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George inspired me to learn more about edible plants. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson inspired me to study science.
What’s your favorite line from a book?
“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”—Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?
Only three? I love so many. But from childhood, I remember loving a fairy tale book by Tasha Tudor. My kids and I devoured the works of Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen, and J. K. Rowling. I have a long list of nonfiction writers I admire too.
Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
I don’t think it was a conscious decision—mostly an extension of what I do. As a biologist, I wrote papers about the insects I studied. Over time I started writing for magazines and then became a reporter for local papers, and started writing about science for children’s magazines. I can’t think of a time when I didn’t have a pencil in my hand. Even hiking the Appalachian Trail, I would take a break to sketch flowers and write about the journey.
Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
Don’t wait until you “have time” to write or paint or draw—just do it. The best thing about writing in spiral notebooks is that you can cross things out, start again on a new page, and when you reach the end—go get another notebook and keep on writing.