Simply 7 with Tootie Nienow–“There Goes Patti McGee!”

Today I get to share another fantastic debut nonfiction picture book biography about someone I hadn’t heard of before I read the book.

Head ShotTootie Nienow has been a school librarian for ten years. Before that she was a teacher, photographer, mother, social worker, and soldier. She loves sharing silly, scary, and suspenseful stories with her students. Although she has ridden a skateboard around her neighborhood, she has never once attempted a handstand. Tootie lives in Southern CA with her husband and dog.  You can learn more about her at her website.

patti mcgee_final front cover (1) (1)Tootie’s debut picture book “There Goes Patti McGee!” is about a very talented young gal who refused to do what others expected of her.  She was called a tomboy but didn’t care.  She loved sports and especially loved the skateboard.  She was one of the first females to accomplish a great many things when skateboarding was just starting to be recognized.  In fact, as you can see from the cover, she was the one to invent the hand stand.

This will date me, but when “Back to the Future” first came out in the movie theaters, the skateboard craze was in full tilt.  I admit to being a little star struck with it myself, but it was short lived.  I’m clumsy by nature and hate pain.  Need I say more?  LOL!  BUT I loved reading about Patti’s determination and invention.  This is a book that will inspire young girls everywhere to keep pursuing their dreams.

Welcome Tootie!

Me: You have been a school librarian and love books of all sorts.  So what is it then that draws you to writing picture books?

Building boardTootie: You are right, I LOVE all sorts of books but I especially love the way a picture book is kind of like a short little movie. When a picture book is read out loud, either shared with a group in a library or at home with mom and dad, you feel like you are right there, just like in a movie.

Me: I love that.  This is your debut nonfiction picture book (yay!) and you have another one about to come out later this year.  What is the secret to your success?  How do you find so many interesting true stories to write?

Tootie: I have many stories in the works but no dates of when they will come out yet. I find story ideas everywhere! Some of them turn into books but some are just interesting observations. But who knows, combined with another interesting observation, they might turn into stories as well.

Me: Patti McGee’s story is fascinating.  Sadly it was one I wasn’t familiar with until I read your book.  What was it about her story that first grabbed you and drew you to write about it?

Tootie: Well, I rode a skateboard when I was a kid, but I never thought of doing a handstand on one and I thought that was amazing. I wonder how many handstands she has done? My arms are tired just thinking about it. I’ll have to ask her.

Me: Did you have to do a lot of research for this story?  Can you tell us a bit about that process for this story?

Hanging heelsTootie: I did a LOT of research. Then I interviewed Patti, and went back again and again to ask her more questions. Then I wrote a story and didn’t really like it. So, I sat down and thought about what it must have been like to be Patti and that’s when the story came to life.

Me: Erika Medina’s illustrations in this book are absolutely amazing!  Did you communicate with her at all during the creation of them?  Were there any illustration surprises for you?

Tootie: I love her illustrations. They are better than anything I could have imagined. We only communicated through our editor a couple of times about the tricks that were popular in the 1960’s. She hadn’t heard of some of them and I had to explain how the trick was done. I was blown away by the way she puts so much movement and excitement into each illustration. I also loved the palm trees and long shadows. They really look like California. 

InteriorMe: Any advice for other new picture book writers?  

Tootie: Read a lot of picture books and especially out loud. Pretend you have an audience. I found that I hear the story differently when I know someone is listening.

Me: Great advice.  Patti McGee is determined to learn the skateboard, become amazing at it, and win contests.  What is one thing that you are as determined about as Patti?  What drives you?

Tootie: I am determined to get more books published and in the hands of kids who love them as much as I love books. I think the thing that drives me is that I keep thinking of new things to write about and if I don’t I feel like they will just float away.

Thank you for stopping by my blog Tootie.  Dear readers, if you haven’t had a chance to check out this book yet, I highly recommend it.  I had no idea what a legend Patti McGee was (and still is).  I’m convinced that this is a story that will inspire young readers to pursue new goals.  That alone is worth checking out.

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