Last May, there were nine different wildfires in San Diego. Two of the largest fires were just a few miles from our home. Even though we did not have to evacuate, I decided to err on the side of caution and gather up important documents in case we did. I grabbed the deed to the house, our birth certificates and the like, but what I worried about most were old family photos - the only picture that I have of my great-great parents, baby pictures of my mom and dad, and of course, my own baby pictures - all of which were taken before digital cameras were available. These pictures are precious to me.
Photographs not only document lives, they preserve memories. And no one understood that better than George Eastman, the subject of Lynda Pflueger's non-fiction biography for children, George Eastman: Bringing Photography to the People.
Most people know Eastman as the visionary who transformed photography from an expensive hobby of a few devotees into a relatively inexpensive and immensely popular pastime. Pflueger's biography digs deeper and introduces us to a multi-faceted Renaissance man.
In the same spirit, I asked Lynda to tell us a bit about herself and her project. A long-time member of SCBWI, I got to know Lynda better when she and I enrolled in a drawing class at UCSD Extension.
MW: What made you want to write for children?
LP: I started writing for children when my daughter was growing up. It was hard to find good biographies for her to read. That is when I started researching people to write about. I sent a short biography of Thomas Nast, the political cartoonist, to Highlights Magazine. The article was rejected but the editor wrote me a personal note and encouraged me to continue writing. then, I joined SCBWI and found my tribe.
MW: What inspired you to write about George Eastman?
LP: I was given a Kodak camera when I was a teenager. I never thought about who invented it. All I knew was that I liked taking snapshots. Many years later, I visited by family in Rochester, New York and toured the George Eastman House. From the docent I learned that George Eastman invented the word "Kodak" and it became his company's trademark. Then I went upstairs and viewed a display of Brownie cameras. The display mentioned a big camera give away that George Eastman sponsored. I remembered my grandmother telling me she had been given a Brownie camera, from her local camera shop, when she was twelve years old. I was hooked.
MW: Are you an avid photographer or do you have a special interest in photography?
LP: I like taking snapshots of my family and recording my travels with photographs. But, I am really an amateur photographer.
MW: How does one make a non-fiction topic exciting and engaging for young readers?
LP: I pretend that I have a 10 year old sitting beside me while I am researching a book. I try to find information that piques their interest or would make them want to know more. And, of course, I am always asking my favorite question and theirs, "Why?"
MW: What are some of your favorite biographies?
LP: My three favorite biographies are: "We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin" by Larry Dane Brimner, "Thomas Jefferson: Man on the Mountain" by Natalie S. Bober, and "Franklin and Eleanor" by Cheryl Harness.
MW: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
LP: Read, Read, Read! Join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and find your local chapter. If there isn't one, start one.
MW: What can we expect next from you?
LP: I am researching a book about Lady Bird Johnson's whistle stop tour of the South in 1963. Plus, I am interested in writing about her husband. I think history has overlooked the importance of his presidency concerning civil rights.
MW: Thank you, Lynda.
Lynda will be celebrating the release of her book, George Eastman: Bringing Photography to the People, tonight, September 29, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Hera Hub, 5205 Avenida Encinas, Suite A, Carlsbad, CA, 92008.