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LAURENCE PRINGLE'S BLOG

Sloths and Bats--Oh, My!

Earlier this fall I researched and wrote the text of THE SECRET LIFE OF THE SLOTH. An editor wondered why this manuscript had less action and drama than, say, my books about a woolly bear caterpillar, red fox, and little brown bat. I had to explain: it is a sloth! These mammals are the least-energetic and slowest of all mammals. So, in writing I could not use words like "leaped," "scampered," "raced," or many other action words. Nevertheless, readers will get to know, and become emotionally attached to, the female sloth and the young male she gives birth to. Artist Kate Garchinsky has started her research and sketches. This will lead, many months from now, to a gloriously illustrated book.

And speaking of bats, on October 24th a house painter removed our bat house from a wall of our home, and a bat fell out. I rescued it, putting it a nearby shed. The bat house was put back and on Halloween I looked in, seeing one sleeping bat. Perhaps it was the same one. This incident led me to watch for bats foraging in the sky, to see if they might still be out there hunting insects. They were--as long as the temperatures at dusk were about 60 degrees F. And I saw two sizes of bats, probably little browns and big browns. It never occurred to me to watch for bats so deep in the fall, so I thank the house painter for that.  Read More 

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The Secret Life of the Skunk!

Recently sent to my editor: THE SECRET LIFE OF THE SKUNK. It was fun to research and write, particularly because it is narrative nonfiction. In the process of writing I discovered that I needed some specific details not found in my research. So I sent an e-mail to a woman biologist who lives and works on Martha's Vineyard, MA. (I met her ten or more years ago. I was fishing at night on an ocean beach; she came along with an antenna to help her locate skunks that carried little transmitters. We've been in touch ever since.) She helped with some skunk details, and she will also be the expert who checks my writing and the illustrations.

Writing a nonfiction story for young readers allows a writer to play with words. For example, there's this, when young skunks (kits) are led by their mother to a rocky stream: "For the first time the kits hear the music of flowing water. It tinkles, splashes, and sploshes. It gurgles, burbles, and babbles."

One more thing: my wife and I are members of a secret group of people, of unknown numbers. The secret: we like very much the strong, musky scent of skunks!  Read More 
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Author Makes Big Mistake!

Sometimes, authors make mistakes in their books. And, often the error is
discovered by a kid reading the book!
That happened to me. I wrote a book called the Scholastic Encyclopedia of
Animals. (You might have a copy in your school library.) It has information about 138 animals, and all of the research and writing took most of a whole year. I know that I sometimes make mistakes, so I asked an animal expert to check my work. She found a few errors. I fixed them, and the book was published. It was my 96th book, and I thought it was perfect. Yeah!
A few weeks later I received a letter from North Carolina. It was from a 6-year old boy named Sebastian, and he had found a big mistake in my book. Here is what he wrote: "I was reading about my favorite animals with my mom and we read on page 62 that Lions are the biggest cats on Earth. But, tigers are bigger than lions! We turned to the Tiger page (page 111) and you wrote "The tiger is Earth's biggest cat." Did you know you wrote that?"
Oops! I had somehow written that two different cats were the biggest. Everybody, including the animal expert, had missed this BIG UGLY error. Quickly, I talked with the book's editor about fixing the mistake when new copies of the book were printed. And I wrote to Sebastian. I congratulated him, thanked him, and promised him a new, corrected copy of the animal encyclopedia when it was printed. When I mailed that new book, I wrote to Sebastian, "No other reader or book reviewer has let me know about this mistake. Hurray for you!"
When I visit schools, I am sometimes asked to autograph a copy of my animal
encyclopedia. When this happens, I always turn to page 62 and see what it says about
Lions. If it is a really old copy, the error is there. I sign the book, and also write, "Beware of the mistake on page 62. Tigers are bigger than lions!"
When I write, I try to do good research, and I ask experts to check my work. Mistakes are rare in my books. But I know that, if I mess up, some school kid--maybe even a 6-year-old--will probably tell me about it.  Read More 
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Finished writing a book!

On Friday the 8th, I send my editor the manuscript of Dolphins! Strange and Wonderful. And it felt wonderful to do that! When it finally becomes a published book, it will be my 119th. But first, a lot has to happen, and some of it is work for me. For example, I went through the pages and decided what the key illustrations would be. That information will be sent to the great artist, Meryl Henderson. And I'm now I'm making copies of illustrations and photos from various sources that can help Meryl do her work. (That's called "art references.").
As usual, I learned a lot when writing a book. And, as usual, I had to leave out many fascinating details. I could have written a whole book on the subject of dolphin intelligence, and what has been learned about that so far. However, in a fairly short book about dolphins in general, there isn't much space to explore anything in great detail. And, as usual, from now on I will be on the lookout for new research findings about the intelligence of dolphins--and many other creatures that are also smart in a variety of ways. Read More 
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