Liz Heinecke: On Writing Creative Nonfiction

Nonfiction author Liz Heinecke explores her journey from writing books for children to a more general audience and the journey to write her latest book Radiant.
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Liz Heinecke has an undergraduate degree in art from Luther College, a master's degree in bacteriology from UW Madison, and worked as an academic molecular biology researcher before starting her wildly successful online educational platform KitchenPantryScientist.com. She has written seven books teaching kids (and their parents) how to perform simple science experiments at home, including two which pair science experiments with history lessons about scientists. She is a regular fixture on local TV morning shows including CBS and ABC, and frequently makes appearances for library programs, and at STEM, STEAM and tech festivals. Between experiments and writing, Liz paints, sings, and plays the banjo. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn.

Liz Heinecke

Liz Heinecke

In this post, Heinecke explores her journey from writing books for children to a more general audience, the journey to write her latest book Radiant, and more!

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Research, interview, and explore the subjects that interest you. Then write about what you've learned in Writing Nonfiction 101: Fundamentals. Writing nonfiction is a great way for beginner and experienced writers to break into the publishing industry.

Research, interview, and explore the subjects that interest you. Then write about what you've learned in Writing Nonfiction 101: Fundamentals. Writing nonfiction is a great way for beginner and experienced writers to break into the publishing industry.

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Name: Liz Heinecke
Literary agent: Rhea Lyons
Title: Radiant: The Dancer, The Scientist and a Friendship Forged in Light
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release date: February 16, 2021
Genre: Creative Nonfiction
Elevator pitch for the book: Part hidden history, part love letter to creative innovation, this is the true story of an unlikely friendship between a dancer, Loie Fuller, and a scientist, Marie Curie, brought together by an illuminating discovery.
Previous titles: Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books), Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books), STEAM Lab for Kids (Quarry Books), Star Wars Maker Lab (DK), Kitchen Science Lab for Kids, Edible Edition (Quarry Books), The Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Chemistry for Kids (Quarry Books), The Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Biology for Kids

Radiant

Radiant: The Dancer, the Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light by Liz Heinecke

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What prompted you to write this book?

My literary agents wanted me to write a middle-grade book about a scientist, and I was drawn to the stories of women who worked with radioactivity. While reading about Marie Curie, I stumbled across the name of the dancer Loie Fuller, who met Marie when she asked for some radium to light her costume. In addition to dancing, Loie was an inventor who was fascinated by science and had written accounts of visiting both Marie Curie and Thomas Edison in their laboratories. A friend of the famous sculptor August Rodin, she had taken the Curies to his studio to meet him. A dual biography seemed the perfect vehicle for telling their stories. As I wrote, I dove deep into the art and culture of Belle Epoque Paris and Radiant evolved into a book for a general audience.

(Charles Vidich: The Timeliness of Nonfiction)

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? 

I just looked back at my old emails and found the one where I first proposed the idea, dated March 22, 2018. My pub date is February 16, 2021, so idea to publication took just under three years. The idea did not change much at all, although I’d initially envisioned writing about some of the other women who worked in the Curie lab, which I didn’t end up doing.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title? 

I was surprised how quickly the process moved once my agent pitched the proposal. At the time, I was in New York with my daughter’s high school theater troupe and extended my stay for a few days to meet with editors. We had a contract with my publisher within a week or two.

(3 Ways to Make Your Nonfiction Article Pitch Stand Out)

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I was surprised by how easy it was to get caught up in the research and lose track of time. For example, I think I spent three days looking at old maps to find the exact location of Loie Fuller’s theater at the 1900 Paris Exposition.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope that readers will come away feeling excited about art and science, with the desire to search for inspiration outside of their usual spheres.

Liz Heinecke: On Writing Creative Nonfiction

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

A perfect, quiet space for writing would be nice, but a kitchen table in a noisy house will suffice.

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