Nancy Castaldo is a former environmental educator and author of many notable nature books for children, including Keeping Our Earth Green and River Wild. Her latest, Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World has received a starred review from Kirkus and is due out from Houghton Mifflin July 2014. She is the Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Eastern NY Region and a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. Find out more about Nancy and her upcoming titles at her website.
What aspect of the “good old days” do you wish could make a comeback today?
Quite happy in the here and now, but I’d love a pair of strap-on roller skates with four wheels.
What is the weirdest thing about your relatives?
I plead the 5th!
Why would somebody choose not to date you?
Because I’m happily married.
What one thing have you kept over the years for no good reason?
My red Parker pen. I’ve had it as long as I can remember, but I rarely use it anymore.
If you were the boss at your job, what incentive or perk would you offer your employees?
I am the boss! That’s a perk of being a writer. But if I did work in an office setting, I would offer employees a recess time that would allow them to explore their creativity, relax, or brainstorm ideas.
If you could buy one object to complete your home, what would it be?
When do you know someone is exceptionally smart?
By the questions they ask.
What movie character freaks you out?
Jack Torrance in The Shining played by Jack Nicholson. My favorite horror flick!
What is the most revolutionary TV show of all time?
MASH – fantastic comedy, high drama, groundbreaking issues.
If every activity in life were an Olympic sport, what would you win the gold in?
Talking on the phone.
What one rule do you frequently disregard?
What Girl Scout breaks the rules?
If you were looking at an abstract piece of art, what would your general reaction be?
Where are the Impressionists?
What’s the most interesting trivia tidbit you can think of?
I worked on a fact book, so I’m all about trivia these days. One of my favorites is that a tiny 8 pound Chihuahua named Midge is the world’s tiniest police dog. Isn’t that fun?
How do you know when a book is finished?
I don’t think a book is ever finished, but there is a point when you need to stop working on it and let it breathe without you.
When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Have you ever questioned that decision?
I wanted to become a veterinarian when I was young, but in college I realized I could combine my love of animals and the outdoors with my passion for writing. Writing enables me to explore so many different interests – how could I ever question it? That’s not to say it isn’t difficult. Everything worthwhile involves work. Writing, like all artistic professions, is challenging, but so worth it!
What traits do you think that creative people have compared to people who are not?
That’s a tough question. I think everyone is creative in some way. It might be how they handle problems or scientific experimentation. Some of us channel our creativity into an art form like music or writing. Life affords us many opportunities to be creative. Perhaps the creativity trait is the ability to look at things a bit outside the box – stretching the usual into the unusual.
Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?
Going outside always jumpstarts my creativity. Getting away from the phone, daily chores, and other interruptions allows my mind to play with new project ideas and unknot any blocks I might be having with works in progress.
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?
READ!!!!! So many new writers tell me they don’t have time to read. That’s like avoiding the classes before becoming a doctor or the practices before performing in a play. Reading provides the foundation for writing. Squeeze it in to your day! And learn to read like a writer. Examine the author’s sentence structure, character development and plotting.
How did you pick your writing genre?
I write in many different genres – and I love it. Each story dictates what genre it needs to be. Some are strictly nonfiction, but often my research leads me to wonder…what if? and then a fiction project emerges.
What life experiences have inspired your work?
All our life experiences inspire our work. Sometimes we can point to something directly, but sometimes it isn’t until we’re finished with a project that we recognize where the passion may have come from. My latest book, Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World, was definitely influenced by the years I volunteered in an animal shelter that euthanized too many unwanted pets. Many of the dogs I feature in this book were saved from shelters and have gone on to become amazing working dogs.
My picture book, Pizza for the Queen, was inspired by a trip to Italy. Travel often inspires ideas!
We are the sum of our experiences and our work reflects them.