Leslie Barnard Booth writes lyrical picture books about science and nature. Her nonfiction picture book debut, A Stone Is a Story (illus. Marc Martin), releases with Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry Books on October 3rd. Her next book, One Day This Tree Will Fall (illus. Stephanie Fizer Coleman) releases in March 2024, to be followed by I Am We (illus. Alexandra Finkeldey) in fall 2025. Leslie lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit Leslie's website to learn more about her and her work.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to write for young readers?
I've always loved picture books, but writing them seemed like an impossible dream. For a long time I focused on writing for adults and teens. Then, when my children were young, I became interested in picture books again. As a parent, I read many picture books aloud every day. Often I read the same book five or more times in a given day! I was completely immersed! This experience reignited my interest in picture books.
2. What are your daily or weekly habits and practices?
When I can, I like to write for 3 hours at a time, 5 days a week. Often, this isn't possible. But even if I can get one 3-hour session in, I can make a lot of progress. I get a little frustrated by shorter chunks of time. I like to really be able to sink in and relax into a playful, creative mental space.
3. When you begin writing a book, do you always know where the story is going?
I don't! And I love that about writing. I think my favorite moments are when I'm working on a project and an unexpected idea bubbles up. Sometimes my own imagination surprises me. It takes me places I didn't expect to go. When this happens—when I'm surprised and engaged—I know readers will be too.
4. Where did you get the idea for A Stone is a Story? What was your inspiration?
One evening at dinner my daughter asked: "Where do rocks come from?" This question is so great because it seems simple, but it's not. It led to a long discussion around the dinner table, and lots of research afterward. I was so fascinated and moved by what I learned that I was inspired to write A Stone Is a Story.
5. As a nonfiction author, how do you divide your time between research and writing?
I constantly toggle back and forth between writing and research. When I get an idea, I often dive into research right away. Then, as I write, I may stumble upon something I don't fully understand, so I'll pause and do more research. I reach out to experts toward the end of the process, when I've narrowed down my questions to only those I can't answer myself.
6. Who should read this book?
A Stone Is a Story is perfect for curious kids who have questions about Earth's rocks and landscapes—kids who wonder where rocks come from and how Earth came to look the way it does today. A Stone Is a Story is also great for kids who wonder about deep time. The book follows a rock as it forms and transforms over hundreds of millions of years. In this way, it allows kids to travel back in time and see the dramatic processes that shape the Earth.