Wild Bios authors Maggie Fischer (left), Courtney Acampora (right)
Courtney Acampora: I’ve been writing children’s books for five years. I work in children’s publishing and am lucky enough to write books as part of my job! I am fortunate to work in a creative field where I can imagine a storyline or book idea, write the book, then watch it come into fruition.
Maggie Fischer: I have been writing children’s books for three years now. I have adored reading since I was really little, and my mom is a children’s librarian, so it feels like a love of children’s literature is in my blood! Courtney and I are both fortunate to work in a place that really fosters creativity and allows us to champion our projects. We get to be a part of the whole book process from pitch, to manuscript, to publication.
CA: Wild Bios fuses two things that I love: animals and history. Each book in the series highlights a historical figure, but with an animal twist! We created puns out of historical figures’ names and wrote bios about them…with lots and lots of animal puns! It’s a unique and fun way to introduce kids to history.
MF: Wild Bios is the perfect blend of nonfiction and just pure fun. Each book features a historical figure of significance and takes you through their lives and legacies—with a twist. Each historical figure is portrayed as a different animal, and we have a little pun fun with the names. We like to think that it’s for parents too, and that they’ll get a good laugh reading to their children.
CA: One day, I stumbled upon a cute illustration of a cat wearing a flower crown. It instantly reminded me of the artist Frida Kahlo. I imagined the word “cat” as part of her name and it became “Frida Catlo.” I shared the idea with Maggie and she and I came up with a list of famous names with animal puns! Frida Catlo became our first Wild Bios book.
MF: Courtney approached me with the name "Frida Catlo", and asked me to help her come up with other punny names of famous figures. We both got so excited about our list of names, and started to map out the book and its features. Sometimes it happens like that—the barest inkling of an idea, or even just a line of dialogue, can inspire the creation of a whole book (or in this case, a series).
CA: We wanted to be conscious about including figures from different backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities. When we brainstormed “punny” names, we also thought about what the illustrations would look like. If more than one animal could be incorporated in a figure’s name, we often went with the animal that we thought would look the best illustrated!
MF: We have a list of punny names we’ve come up with, and we try to evaluate it in a thoughtful way so that we’re representing a diverse group of people in our series. We are also always adding more, sometimes working backward from the person we want to feature and coming up with a twist on their name. We want the fun to be inclusive, informative, and maybe cast a new light on historical figures you’ve been reading about for years. We learn something new about every person we feature.
CA: We did write together! First, we did a lot of research about each historical figure’s life. Maggie and I created an outline for the book, then start writing. We typically began writing without puns. As the manuscript progressed, we’d see opportunities for words that could be swapped for puns. Sometimes, before we started writing, we’d make a list of animal characteristics and features that we could pull from as we wrote.
MF: We squeeze together around my computer and write, usually pausing to jot potential puns down and outlining the whole book before we begin. We usually research the historical figure separately before we get together and discuss where in their history we want to start, what key moments we should feature, and how. The puns can sometimes stump us, and if we’re really having trouble, we will write only the fact, and then go back and make them a little more fun.
CA: It was so great to have someone there to brainstorm animal pun ideas with! When we were writing a Wild Bio, we spent most of the time laughing at the punny sentences we came up with! Writing with Maggie was very collaborative and a lot of fun. It was definitely a different experience writing with someone else. We had to find a happy medium blending our two distinct writing styles. Once we got the first spread down though, it flowed a lot easier.
MF: Honestly, I’m not used to writing with someone else, and it was clunky at first for both of us, but we got into a groove quickly, and now I can’t imagine trying to write this series without Courtney. We are a well-oiled Wild Bios machine now!
CA: I like writing at a desk surrounded by things that inspire me such as cute illustrations and books that I admire.
MF: A cottage overlooking the rolling hills of Scotland, a giant cat on my lap, a babbling brook in the distance. However, since I live in the U.S. and don’t have a cottage (though I do have a giant cat), I usually just cozy up to my cubicle desk and give it a go.
CA: Green tea and a cozy blanket.
MF: Dangerous amounts of black coffee and rap music.
CA: Growing up, my two favorite books were Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes and Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards.
MF: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo is my favorite book, geared toward any age group. It feels as necessary to have in my house as food and a working smoke alarm.
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