Writing a book is a solitary endeavor, but getting a book published is a team effort. I always enjoy the team part – getting together with others, either online or in person, to discuss changes, visions, and possibilities. After weeks, months, or years of solitude in my writing room, I get to be with other people! Not that my book characters aren’t fascinating!
Of all my published books, Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña had the biggest team effort. I am forever grateful for every person who had a hand in getting this book, inspired by the life of Valentina Cruz, into the most important hands of all – our young readers.
First there was my steadfast agent, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary. Even members of my writers group sadly shook their heads and told me this manuscript would never be acquired. Yet Karen kept sending the story out until our perfect editor was found. That editor is Jessica Echeverria, wrangler extraordinaire for the Galápagos Girl team. At the end of our journey, I emailed Jessica a thank you. I mixed my metaphors (something I love to do) and wrote: “There were so many cooks in this kitchen, with you, our illustrator Angela, the copy editor, the Spanish translator, the Spanish copy editor, art directors, research experts, Valentina and me. I’m sure you felt as if you were herding cats much of the time.” It was indeed quite the team, quite the wonderful team.
The research for Galápagos Girl was challenging. I’d worked on the story in one way or another since 2007, the year I visited the Galápagos, a volcanic archipelago of thirteen major and hundreds of small islands. Things change quickly in the natural world. What was true or believed in 2007 might not be today. Also, scientists, like writers, have different opinions, different viewpoints. They don’t always agree and they don’t always have the same statistics. How was I to decide whose information to go with?
Some of the animals I researched for Galápagos Girl.
|Galapagos marine iguanas enjoy sunning on lava rocks.|
|Sea lions are everywhere.|
|This blue-footed bobby seems surprised by his bright feet.|
|The colorful Sally Lightfoot crab can't be missed.|
At one point, Jessica asked me to obtain the latest scientific count for the Galápagos penguins. The figures in my manuscript were from 2008. We were ten days away from the final editing deadline and I was worried. I considered grabbing my calculator, flying to Ecuador, and paddling around searching for those Galápagos penguins. Instead, I searched the internet. Luckily, I found a promising blog written a few months before by Daniel Francisco Unda García. I went to Facebook and looked up his name. There he was! Humbly, I private messaged him about my predicament and asked if he might help. Within seconds, he responded, “Let me ask Gustavo.” “What?! Who’s Gustavo?” Within minutes (truly), Daniel got back to me with a number, photos, and a video. Gustavo was Gustavo Jimenez-Uzcategui, the scientist in charge of the Galápagos penguin census! Daniel had taken the photos and video as he’d been on the boat with Gustavo counting those penguins just the month before! One can’t get more up-to-date than that, with people truly “outstanding (should we say ‘out sailing’?) in their field.”
|I love swimming with the penguins.|
This is only one example of people who helped me with research. They helped partly because they are generous, kind people, but also because they are passionate about the Galápagos and the unique animals that live there.
On the copyright page, I’ve acknowledged a few of the people who helped with scientific information. Birgit Fessl was my bird expert. She confirmed and shared things that simply weren’t stored in my brain, like Galápagos petrels nest on a volcano in the Floreana highlands and Galápagos flamingos are currently classified as an endemic sub-species, but further genetic studies may prove it to be a species.
|Galapagos flamingoes on Florence Island.|
In Galápagos Girl Valentina’s father tells her “Giant tortoises still live on some Galápagos islands, but on Floreana, pirates and whalers took them all for food.” That’s why a friend had given him baby tortoises, called Carlitos and Isabela in my book, from other islands. (This was long ago. It is no longer legal to keep tortoises as pets.)
But nature is always surprising us! In 2015 over 100 tortoises were discovered near Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island that show partial ancestry from Floreana Island tortoise! Linda Cayot, Coordinator of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, helped me navigate the ongoing Galápagos tortoise puzzles and surprises.
Oh, what a journey this book has been. My hope for readers is that they will delight in the book journey Galápagos Girl gives them and that someday they may take a real journey to visit the animals of the enchanting islands called the Galápagos.
While my main website is being restored, you can find me at https://earthsvoices.wordpress.com or contact me through Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MarshaDianeArnoldAuthor/ .
All photos were taken by me, except of course, the one of me with those wondrous penguins.
Thank you, Margie, for having me on your blog. You are a super star school librarian and supporter of books and authors!
You're welcome, Marsha. It makes for a richer reading experience when people can learn about the process of creating a book. Whether your book is read individually or aloud, now people will know the authenticity of your story. I am looking forward to talking more about this book in the near future with a post of my own.
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