Interview – Joan Marie Galat, Author of “Dot to Dot int the sky, Stories of the Aurora”
Although she started making books at the age of nine, Joan Marie Galat wasn’t published until 12 years old, when she became a paid weekly newspaper columnist. Today she is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books, with new titles scheduled for 2017 and 2018. Her newest title, published by Whitecap Books is Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Aurora.
She shares her love of the stars in the Dot to Dot in the Sky series, which combines the science of the night sky with the ancient myths that give constellations and planets their names. Her first title, Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories in the Stars, became a best seller within six weeks of its release.
Joan’s books for children explore astronomy, ancient myths and legends, light pollution, history, and nature, and include both fiction and non-fiction. Her titles for adults include a travel guide and motivational title. A prolific writer for all ages and relentless promoter of reading, Joan loves to use storytelling to connect with audiences. Highlights in her career have involved speaking at a United Nations Environment Programme event in Seoul, South Korea in 2016; presenting Korean translations of her books at an international book fair in Seoul in 2005; and touring at schools and libraries in Canada.
Joan operates MoonDot Media, a communications business offering writing and editing solutions in broadcast, print, and multi-media. Her freelance jobs have encompassed writing radio and video scripts, an Internet cartoon, magazine articles, exhibit text, speechwriting, and much more.
Tell us more about you and what ignited your passion for words.
I became a paid newspaper columnist at age 12 and got hooked on writing. Later, I became a freelance writer and editor, and much later, in 2001, my first book, Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories in the Stars arose from wanting to share the night sky with my children.
Reading and enjoying books first inspired me to write. The reason I write—what I write—books about the night sky, or ecology, trees, travel, or other topics, is that when I feel really excited about a subject or activity—like looking up at the aurora and knowing the stories ancient cultures told—I want to encourage others to know the fun of exploring these topics too.
Stories in the Stars shows how to jump—dot-to-dot-in-the sky (not on the page)—from one constellation to the next. It also includes the stories ancient cultures told when they first looked up and wondered about the mysteries they observed. I couldn’t find a book that partnered astronomy and mythology, and so the title was born. I was honoured to have it become a Canadian national bestseller within six weeks of its release. As of 2017, the series includes five books, each with a back cover endorsement by a Canadian astronaut.
What type of books are you writing? Can you tell us more about it or where we can find it if already published?
Many of my books embrace a science theme, such as astronomy or ecology. Although classified as non-fiction, they often include a storytelling element. An upcoming title—Dark Matters, Nature’s Reaction to Light Pollution offers compelling facts about how animals need dark nights to thrive and survive. This is accompanied by personal stories from my childhood relating to the outdoors, wildlife, and the night sky. Finding a unique approach to sharing facts is part of the fun of writing.
Current children’s projects include titles with National Geographic Kids on volcanoes, cats, and engineering. A recent release with Crabtree Publishing Company explores the maker movement with Be a Maker! Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Printmaking.
In addition to contracted titles, I’m always working on new ideas. When not writing books, I provide freelance writing and editing services in broadcast and print through my business: MoonDot Media.
As of spring 2017, my books include:
Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Aurora
Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories in the Stars
Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Planets
Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Moon
Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Zodiac
Day Trips From Edmonton
The Discovery of Longitude
Give Yourself a Pep Talk
Branching Out How Trees are part of Our World
Be a Maker! Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Printmaking
Dr. Bufflehead Explores Energy
Dr. Bufflehead Explores Dirt
Black Holes and Supernovas
Titles can be ordered through my website or through almost any bookstore.
Would you mind sharing a high, a low or something special you experienced writing this book?
During the final stages of seeing Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Aurora sent for print, I was invited to speak at a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) event. This led to me traveling to Seoul, South Korea to present at A Special Rendezvous of the Environment and the Arts.
My speech, called The Nature of Night, revealed the relationship between art and science in our Earth and sky environment. It was my first opportunity to share the science and tales from Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Aurora as well as discuss the importance of dark nights. My talk partnered science and storytelling and also discussed climate change, reflecting content in Branching Out-How Trees are part of Our World.
UNEP hosted a beautiful, outstanding event. It was a truly memorable evening for me as an author, made even more special by the warmth of my hosts and the interest from the audience. While in South Korea, I also provided presentations to student and family audiences. It was enormously rewarding to share my stories and promote science, reading, and writing, with welcoming audiences in South Korea.
Are you working on anything new? At which stage are you with this new project?
I’m working on a variety of book projects. Some are in the outline stage, others are in the proofreading stage. Working on multiple writing projects at the same time keeps me fresh. It is impossible to become bored!
I’m also working on production projects, such as book trailers to promote upcoming titles and a video to showcase my public speaking. You can see some of the results on my YouTube channel.
Once a writer has a book published, promotion becomes part of the author’s routine. I celebrated the release of Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Aurora by putting the book in a rocket and literally “launching” it. The book sailed over Edmonton’s Telus World of Science, reaching 175 metres (nearly 600 feet). After reaching maximum height, a parachute opened and the book floated down. Launching a book in a rocket shows that books should be celebrated. So, another project is to think of other original ways to celebrate upcoming titles.
What advice would you give a new writer?
The path to publishing taught me that it is not enough to have interesting, well-expressed ideas. It is also necessary to understand how the publishing industry operates. Aspiring authors need to research the needs of publishers. This includes exploring their catalogues, reading their books, and staying current with the industry by joining writing organizations, networking with other writers, and attending conferences when possible.
One of the workshops I teach to aspiring authors is called The Business of Getting Published. As well as showing how to write a book proposal and query letter, I provide information on the publishing process and how to improve your chances for getting your writing noticed. I also offer one-on-one consulting (virtual or in-person) to help people realize their writing goals.
My advice for aspiring authors includes:
Read current books in the genre you wish to be published.
Analyze why award-winning titles are effective.
Remember that writing is about rewriting, and never submit your first draft.
Take rejection in stride and persevere. You only need to find one editor who likes your idea.
Visit writers-in-residence at universities or public libraries to take advantage of the opportunity to get knowledgeable feedback on your manuscript.
Consider hiring a professional editor to review your manuscript, or at least a portion of it. A good edit from someone who understands the book industry can advance a project by years. Although not specifically about writing, my book Give Yourself a Pep Talk can help readers achieve the focus needed for writing projects.
Besides writing, what do you enjoy most? Can you tell us something about what you do outside of writing?
Well, I really do spend a lot of time writing! When not sitting at the computer or playing with a pen, paper, and words, I enjoy the outdoors. My spare time includes walking the dog, swimming, cycling, nature walks, camping, and of course, staying up late to look at the night sky.
I enjoy travel and book research has brought me many places including behind the scenes at NASA in Houston and to observatories in Australia, to view the southern hemisphere night sky.
Public speaking to both student and adult audiences is another favorite activity. On school visits, I sometimes promote the virtues of reading and writing on stilts that make me nearly nine feet high. I connect reading to stilt walking through story and also juggle—a skill I make sure kids know I learned from reading a book. This allows me to reinforce the point that reading can lead to fun and adventure. It also demonstrates gravity and falling stars!
Another pastime is stilt walking for fun and at events. I belong to a stilt walking organization, and can occasionally be seen in costume, as a roving stiltwalker, at festivals and other events.
Connect with the Author!
Websites: www.joangalat.com and www.moondotmedia.com