Sadly, the reception from booksellers was cool (that's putting it mildly). Fiction was their bread and butter. Despite my promotional olive branch to show up anywhere, any time to sign any thing, I never got a call-back. I did not get a single invitation to an educator event, children’s festival, book signing, or writing workshop. No one, it seemed, shared my passion for all things factual. It was disappointing. Of course, it did not deter me from the genre I loved. If there was not a drop of glory, in nonfiction, so be it. I continued on my writing journey, happily turning out books on everything from the history of Gunpowder to Keeping a Journal to Octopuses, Squids, and Cuttlefish (ah, the diversity of nonfiction!).
One day, a local middle school librarian called to ask if I would attend her school's career fair (I had just published my first fiction novel, so my work was starting to get a bit more attention). I agreed to go. On the appointed day, I arrived at the cafeteria and set up my books in the booth, making sure my one and only fiction novel was prominently displayed so the kids could see I was a ‘real’ author. Students had begun to fill the cafeteria when a shout rose above the din. “Trudi Strain Trueit!”
I spun to see a boy about 12 years old charging toward me. “Are you Trudi Trueit? The author?"
"I used your book, Rocks, Gems, and Minerals for a report I did. And I got an A! I just wanted to say thanks.”
“Uh . . . you’re welcome.”
“Can I have your autograph?”
I was stunned.
Was he serious? My autograph. The girl who had written an earth science book? Was he sure?
He held out a pen. Okay!
His excitement had drawn a small crowd and they were curious.
“Where did you get all those facts for your earthquake book?”
“Do you choose your own photos?”
“How long does it take to write a nonfiction book?”
“Do you come up with all the ideas yourself?”
I spent the afternoon talking about my work, signing autographs, and meeting readers who knew my books by name. It was exhilarating!
It didn’t take me long to realize what was going on. All this time, while booksellers had shown little interest in my books, students had been reading them. My readership was being cultivated, thanks to enthusiastic school and public librarians (who were, and will always be, my heroes). I also learned that children, especially boys, LOVE facts as much as I do. They devour books about volcanoes, fossils, reptiles, squirrels, and Viking shipbuilding (all topics I have written books about).
Today, I am pleased to share that librarians ask me to talk to students about nonfiction almost as often as they request fiction. Boys and girls write to me about their ambitions to one day become a nonfiction author. And in my Skype sessions, nonfiction now tops fiction as the most popular topic of choice. At long last, the proverbial clouds have parted.
Now, if I could just get booksellers to see the value of children’s nonfiction, I’d need sunglasses!