Christine Layton is a children's author living in Colorado Springs. Christine has written eleven informational books including Light Speaks, Beyond the Solar System, and Developing Self-Awareness. She loves train rides, mountain hikes, and night-time walks. Christine also loves to get kids excited about reading and writing. Visit Christine's website to learn more about her and her work.
1. How did you begin your journey as an author?
I've been writing stories since I was in the first grade. Fortunately, my mom kept a folder of those early attempts. I look at them often as an adult. They remind me that writing is something I love to do, even if every word is spelled wrong, even if the plot makes no sense, even if the story is wild and weird. About ten years ago I joined a writing organization (SCBWI) to focus on the art of excellent children's writing. It's been a total joy to learn!
2. How do you know your idea will make a good book?
I've been writing nonfiction and informational books recently, so I look for topics that line up with what kids are learning in school. Once I have a topic that's appropriate for my target age reader, I try to approach that topic from a fresh perspective. I look at the teaching materials available, and I try to think of a fresh hook that might help disengaged kids connect with the topic in a different way. If I can do that, I'll have a book that teachers, parents, and librarians will appreciate.
3. When do you write? How often do you write? Where do you write?
I'm a full-time teacher, so I write on the weekends and some mornings on the sofa with a lot of coffee. I used to worry about my sporadic approach. I worried that I wasn't writing consistently and that my day job was so consuming I would never make any real progress in writing. But even full-time artists can have long stretches where they don't create anything. I find that comforting!
4. Where did you get the idea for Light Speaks? What was your inspiration?
Light Speaks grew from one of the Next Generation Science Standards. The standard asks students to "use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance." This got me thinking about all of the technologies humans use to communicate with lights and that insects can also communicate with light. This led to the hook that without words, without sounds, light speaks.
5. How was the editorial process? Did you do any revisions? Did you have a lot of collaboration with the illustrator?
At first, the manuscript was filled with lots of examples of lights, like lighthouses, fireflies, and lanterns. The editor came back with a suggestion to go further abroad into interstellar lights and the information scientists have learned from light traveling in space. That was a challenge! The illustrator, Luciana Navarro Powell, did an amazing job of showing the experiences kids have with lights, then expanding out to space, and then zooming back in to the kids. The Butterfly Nebula in the book is gorgeous and also accurate to photos from NASA.
6. Who should read this book?
Light Speaks is a great book to bridge poetry and science. The text and illustrations can help kids make personal connections to science topics. That's the first step to every student seeing themselves in STEM. Younger readers aged 6-7 will connect with the glowing illustrations. Older readers age 8-10 will get more ideas from the book's nonfiction backmatter that explains the science behind the pictures and text.