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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - NANCY CHURNIN

I'm so happy to feature my good friend Nancy Churnin on the blog today! Nancy is a prolific author and a true gem, always supporting other writers with her creativity and dedication to the kidlit community. Nancy shares about finding the heart of her manuscripts, as well as about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection. Welcome Nancy, and welcome to Henrietta and Eliza, the heroines in her two latest books!

STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

I write about people that inspire me that I hope will inspire kids to become the heroes and heroines of their own lives. I’m excited to share the story of courageous women in my two new books. A Queen to the Rescue, the Story of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah (illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg, Creston Books, Lerner Books, Kar-Ben Publishing) is the story of Henrietta Szold, who founded the first night school in America, founded Hadassah, the first charity created and run by women, and saved 11,000 children from the Holocaust. Dear Mr. Dickens (illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe, Albert Whitman & Company) is the story of Eliza Davis, a Jewish woman who wrote to Charles Dickens, challenging his use of ugly Jewish stereotypes, changed his heart, and changed history. Both stories required a lot of detective work as neither woman had written an autobiography. They also required a lot of revision as I worked on finding the elements of their stories that would resonate with young readers.

CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

One of the things I learned as I transitioned from being a journalist to a children’s book writer was to trust my instincts and feelings. I use my journalistic training to gather information, but then after I’ve learned all I can, I let the information rest and listen to my heart. What is my subject trying to say? What does my subject want kids to know about her story? I listen and channel my subject’s heart on the page. My creative side comes alive when I listen, wait and wonder, when I search for truths about my subjects and the world they changed.

CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

It’s very important to me that a young reader’s experience with a book doesn’t end with the last page. That’s why I create a project for each book with a dedicated project page. For A Queen to the Rescue, the project is Heal the World. I hope reading about what Henrietta Szold did will encourage them to come up with their own ways of making the world a better place. For Dear Mr. Dickens, the project is Dear… I hope that Eliza Davis’ courage in writing to Charles Dickens will encourage them to write to people of influence and ask them to right a wrong. With parental and teacher permission, I would like to post photos of their good deeds and letters on those pages. I am grateful to all the support I have continued to receive from the KidLit community. I try to support the KidLit community with a KidLitQuoteOfTheDay, where I do a daily boost of a book by sharing a favorite line from that book, tagging the author, illustrator and publisher and including a picture of the book cover. I post the KidLitQuoteOfTheDay on Facebook on Nancy Churnin Children’s Books, on Twitter @nchurnin and on Instagram @nchurnin. I am also an active member of multiple kidlit groups where writers support each other and the larger community, including the Book Meshuggenahs, Kidlit For Growing Minds, 2021 Word Birds, Nonfiction Ninjas, the Nonfiction Chicks and their NF Fest, Ink Think Tank and NF Minute. It is such a pleasure to be with others who know that kids need a wide variety of books and we can help kids most when we all work together. You do so much to lift up others with your blog, Melissa. Thank you for welcoming Henrietta and Eliza here!


Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of ten picture books about people who persevered to achieve their dreams and make the world a better place. Among her awards: a Junior Library Guild selection, School Library Journal and Kirkus Starred Reviews, multiple Kids’ Choice Book Awards finalists, multiple Bank Street Books Best Children Books honorees, multiple National Council for the Social Studies Notables, multiple Silver Eureka Awards, multiple inclusions on A Mighty Girl list, Sydney Taylor Notable, Towner Award nominee, Sakura Medal finalist, Notable Book for a Global Society, Anne Izard Storytellers Choice Award and the South Asia Book Award. DEAR MR. DICKENS, illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe (Albert Whitman) and A QUEEN TO THE RESCUE, THE STORY OF Henrietta Szold, FOUNDER OF HADASSAH, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg (Creston Books/Lerner Books) debut in October 2021. A native New Yorker, Nancy lives in North Texas with her family, which includes a dog named Dog and two cantankerous cats.



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