Lola Schaefer's LIFETIME - GIVEAWAY!

Lola Schaefer has published over 200 books for children, so you've probably read something she wrote already. Or maybe it will be her latest book: LIFETIME—a dazzling display of animal achievements over the course of a lifetime, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. I'm proud to call Lola a friend, and today I'm pleased to welcome her to my blog!

Q. Congratulations on yet another brilliant book, Lola! Once again you've managed to combine learning and entertainment into a lovely story about nature and its quirky numbers. For instance, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake will add 40 beads to its rattle in a lifetime. How did the idea for this book come to you?
A. Thank you for the kind words, E. I'm so glad that you are enjoying LIFETIME. I wish I could blush and say that this idea was all mine, but it wasn't. Actually, my editor at Chronicle Books came up with the initial concept. We emailed and spoke about the idea and what it might look like. Right from the beginning I was excited about the potential. But it's funny, even in my wildest dream I didn't imagine that the final book would be this layered and jam-packed with information.

Q. You must have done a ton of research to learn such things as the Swallowtail butterfly will visit 900 flowers, sipping nectar, in its lifetime. Tell us about your journey!
A. This kind of book reads easy and seamless. (At least, I hope it does!) The reader will never know all of the work that went into each sentence that appears on a spread, but I do! Like any book based on factual information, I needed to contact and speak with quite a few experts. However, LIFETIME was a most unusual journey, and at times resembled a giant puzzle. First, I needed agreement from my experts on the average lifespan of each of the animals in the wild (except for the alpaca). That alone proved to be difficult at times. Then came the job of locating animals with behaviors or features that could be drawn by the illustrator. Finally, I needed to find numbers that would range from 1-1,000 since that's the scope we hoped to show. Most numbers were either too low, or astronomically high. But perseverance won out - that and some fabulous experts who kept working with other professionals on their end to locate the needed facts.
      The Swallowtail information is new. My contact told me that just recently scientists were able to follow several Swallowtails during their 6-7 hours of feeding time each day and count the number of flowers visited. Amazing! I had hoped to learn that specific information, but thought it was a long shot. Again, so much depends on finding people in the various fields who gladly give their time to help create an interesting and accurate book for children.

Q. Some of the numbers were hard to believe. Who knew a female kangaroo will birth 50 joeys in her lifetime - that's a LOT! Did you believe it at first?
A. Oh, E, I always learn so much while writing nonfiction. I guess the number didn't amaze me as much as the fact that after reaching maturity and giving birth, it's fairly common for a female red kangaroo to have a joey in her pouch almost nonstop for many years. Typically, she has to push an older joey out when another baby is born. And quite often this kangaroo will have one baby in her pouch, but still be nursing an older joey. That's a lot of intense mothering. Nature provides an endless supply of surprising facts and patterns. I think that's why I enjoy writing nonfiction.

Q. I loved learning about the seahorse, especially. How wonderful that the male seahorse will carry and birth 1,000 babies in its lifetime! I'm surprised we don't see more of them when we visit the ocean. Have you ever seen a bunch of baby seahorses? (And do you wish humans were a bit more like seahorses?)
A. I haven't ever seen one seahorse, let alone a bunch, in the shallows. Believe me, I've looked. I know that they camouflage themselves really well, but as much time as my husband and I have spent snorkeling, I always thought I'd see a few. No such luck. As far as your second question . . . good parenting is always hard work. (And as far as numbers go . . . NO. I'm thrilled that humans are not anything like seahorses in that respect. Aren't you?)

Q. Teachers will love this book as they introduce calculating averages to their students. Do you have a teacher guide for them to accompany the book?
A. I haven't developed a teacher guide. I'd like to think that the book is self-explanatory. The backmatter does a bang-up job of extending the text by offering the reader more scientific information on each animal, providing a definition of the term "average", and posing a few math animal problems directly to the reader.
      However, you never know . . . a teacher guide might pop up on the scene at a later date.

Q. You are probably the most prolific writer I know. Do you have any advice on how to keep a (publishing) pace like yours going over a career?
A. Ha! I'm not sure it's very wise to offer other writers advice since we all have our own unique routines, schedules, and motivations. For me, it's all about discovery. I don't think I realized that when I first began this journey many years ago. I truly enjoy that stage of the process when I realize or "find" the true fictional story, or the core of what I want to say in a nonfiction piece. I typically work on 3-4 different writing projects at one time until one pushes forward and screams for attention. Then I hunker down with just that one script for a few months and become quite obsessive.
      However I do think that audience is a strong motivator to write more and write better. It's my great privilege to work with hundreds of children each year, sometimes in classrooms while visiting schools, other times during writing camps, and occasionally in private workshops. Speaking with kids and learning what they appreciate most about my work and the work of other children's authors, motivates me to keep busy on the next manuscripts.

Q. Any events you'd like my readers to know about?
A. This fall I'm working in a few Georgia schools, as well as out of state. I'm not scheduled for any major booksignings or conferences. I'm pretty excited to meet new audiences, talk writer to writer with students, and spend long days drafting and revising here at home.

Q. Congratulations again and thanks for visiting!
A. Thank you, E, for welcoming me and LIFETIME to your blog.
      How many readers will you reach in one lifetime. More than I can count!

Once again, Chronicle is offering a free copy of LIFETIME to one of my lucky commenters! (Must live in the continental US to win.) The drawing will be held next Thursday (and announced again in my "Coloring Page Tuesday" newsletter, so enter now!
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