Linda Zajac is an award-winning science writer. She crafts stories about cutting-edge science, technology, and biotechnology and how they’re used to save wildlife, protect the environment, and advance medicine. She’s a Tassy Walden Finalist and a recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
I would have to say the books in the Three Investigators series. I read every one I could get my hands on. At home, my favorite books were my grandfather’s encyclopedias. I’d look up one thing and inevitably spend hours flipping the pages finding interesting topics to read about.
What’s your favorite line from a book?
“John Laroche is a tall guy, skinny as a stick, pale-eyed, slouch-shouldered, and sharply handsome, in spite of the fact that he is missing all his front teeth. He has the posture of al dente spaghetti and the nervous intensity of someone who plays a lot of video games.”—The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?
This is a really tough question. There are so many talented authors and illustrators it’s like picking fine chocolates. Steve Jenkins is a master at cut-paper illustrations. J. K. Rowling is incredibly creative. Jason Chin has unusual approaches to some of his books, like Gravity and Grand Canyon. Russian-born Gennady Spirin does gorgeous illustrations. Loree Griffin Burn’s books tackle important topics. Also, Nicola Davies and Dianna Aston write lovely books. There are so many other great authors and illustrators that I could ramble on, but I’ve already exceeded my limit.
Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
When my kids were younger, I read them a ton of books. I’d go to the library and take out as many as I could carry. It looked easy to write them (laughs).
Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
On your writing journey, pack a lot of perseverance. You’ll need it to weather the rejections that are common in this competitive field. When you brainstorm ideas, set the timer for about 10 minutes. Your best ideas are often the ones you think up last. Read widely to get an idea of what’s being published. Never stop learning. Take advantage of classes, workshops, conferences, and webinars to learn as much as you can about writing. I’m still learning. Stories are richer when you write from experience because you bring in your senses. If you’ve never been to a place you’re writing about, find a video on the subject. Listen and note the sounds and sights. To get a fresh view of your work, put it in a drawer for a month or two. When you take it out, you’ll see it with fresh eyes and you might discover ways to make it better. Like most things, it takes time and practice to be a good writer. Good luck!