Author Interview: Jerry Wermund on The World According To Rock

The World According To Rock by Jerry Wermund, illustrated by Tony Sansevero (Rockon Publishing, 2005). “Wermund introduces readers ages 5-8 to all types of rocks with succinct geological information and Sansevero’s illustrations of the types of rock. The rock basalt is ‘black as a starless night, hard and dense, a winner in the battle of rock against water, wind…freezes into tabular bodies – horizontal, vertical…,’ with a picture of a young boy and girl walking across such rocks which look like giant stepping stones. Shaleis ‘tiny grains kidnapped off slopes of mountains, plateaus…a collectors’ dreamland of stuck-in-the-mud fossils…,’ with an illustration of a boyholding up a fossil of a small prehistoric animal. Wermund also notes buildings, gravestones, and other familiar objects made from rock.”

What was your inspiration for creating this book?

While tutoring reading in elementary schools, I investigated library holdings of geologic books. Little was available excepting books on volcanoes and earthquakes. Pursuit of geologic books in bookstore shelves revealed the same problem. As a retired geologist, I found this disappointing. So, I have a quest to supply better geologic information to elementary school children.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I began writing for children when I retired in 1998. I involved myself in workshops and in critique groups. My earliest drafts were stilted prose, much like textbooks that would put children to sleep. When I hit upon using free verse to explain geologic phenomena, I received great encouragement from my peer groups. On submission of this work to major houses, I also received strong acceptance from editors but no agreement to publish. Therefore, I decided to self publish.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

A major challenge came from my history of many technical publications. At first it was very difficult to write simple English and not “Geologeez” jargon. On receiving critical reviews from my peers in critique groups, I was enthused to to stay with my quest. When I decided to self publish I had to learn a whole new field. My academic and industrial research background did not fit with my new entrepreneurial cloak, in both producing and marketing.

How has the book been received?

My book has been well received by both my author peers and geologists. Elementary school librarians and teachers have been complimentary. Museum stores have proved a good market. The most fun has been to see children light up when they scan my book.

What can your fans expect next?

I have three drafts; another picture book – “Minerals Mall”, a geology/adventure chapter book set in Colorado, and a geology/adventure novel set in Alaska.

Cynsational Notes

Jerry Wermund was in my first critique group in Austin. He is a gifted poet, a first-rate advocate for non-fiction, and a true self-publishing success story.

Cynsational News & Links

Blooker rewards books from blogs: The best books based on blogs are to be recognised in their own literary prize. From BBC News. Thanks to Annette Simon, author of Mocking Birdies (Simply Read Books, 2005) for suggesting this link.

Bestselling author Dave Eggers is brandishing his cutlass in defence of underpaid teachers by Dan Glaister from The Guardian.

The National Book Foundation has announced finalists in the Young People’s Literature division, and finalists include Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (Harcourt, 2005), which was recommended earlier this year on cynsations. See the complete list of finalists. See An Interview with Deborah Wiles from Harcourt.

Books on Cyn’s Nightstand: Rosa, Sola by Carmela A. Martino (Candlewick, 2005); Dumb Love by Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson (Roaring Brook, 2005); Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart (Delacorte, 2006). Lucky me!