Science, curiosity, and fun: these are the key ingredients in Long Island author Ella Schwartz’s children’s books.
Though her books tackle formidable subjects—from decoding ciphers to understanding stolen credit in science history—Schwartz believes there’s a way communicate complicated material to young people. “I think sometimes adults don’t give kids enough credit or respect,” she said. “I work hard to make sure my voice is kid-friendly and accessible, yet never insulting to readers.”
While Schwartz champions kid readers, she didn’t grow up as one herself. “I’m always jealous of writers who talk about how they were huge readers as kids and would sneak books into birthday parties,” she said. “That was definitely not me.” The author’s love of reading came later, when she could choose books on her own, rather than slogging through school-assigned works. Reading William Goldman’s The Princess Bride in seventh grade showed Schwartz reading’s magic. She’s been in love ever since.
In fact, “mere hours” after each of her sons were born, she read to her children. “Literally, I was reading to them from my hospital bed,” she said. Immersed in children’s books’ “whimsy and wonder,” Schwartz began to come up with stories of her own for her children. “I wrote the stories I wanted them to hear,” she said. Working full time in the cybersecurity industry, Schwartz assumed her tales would not have much of a life beyond her home. But that changed after connecting with other children’s book writers, who encouraged her to pursue publication.
Now published several times over, Schwartz said she’s learned a lot from and about the publication process. “I once foolishly thought I could click send on my finished book and it would appear on bookshelves shortly thereafter,” she said, adding that a finished book could take up to two years before hitting the shelves.
Through this process, Schwartz also learned to multitask. “I’m always juggling multiple projects at the same time with different deadlines and demands,” she said. While continuing to work her day job in cybersecurity, these deadlines and demands require focus and determination. “I’ve learned to set realistic expectations for myself,” Schwartz said of finding balance. “I’ve also resolved to only take on projects that truly speak to me. I’m determined to only pursue those book ideas that I’m so passionate about or so moved by that the words practically write themselves.”
Schwartz aims to incorporate science literacy outreach into all of her work, especially in regard to girls. Infused with her passion, readers pick up and connect to Schwartz’s messages. In speaking about her book Can You Crack the Code at a Brooklyn middle school’s “girls in tech” conference, Schwartz found the students engaged and up for the challenges she posed: the girls tried their hand at cracking ciphers, and learned about cryptography and Internet security. After the talk, Schwartz received a message from a student’s mother. The mother wrote about her daughter returning from school buzzing with excitement, her sights newly set on becoming a cryptographer when she grew up. “She wanted to thank me for the inspiration,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz hopes her books continue to spark curiosity and creativity in her readers. “If just one child is inspired by a new idea, or is motivated to pursue a topic they may not have previously considered, my heart is happy.”
- January 6, Hilary Topper Book Signing: Join Long Island author Hilary Topper at Book Revue as she signs and speaks about her book Branding in a Digital World: How to Take an Integrated Marketing Approach to Building a Business. Event begins at 7 PM.
- January 14, All Writers of Elwood: Join poetry and fiction writers at the Elwood Public Library to listen and share your work. Workshop begins at 7 PM, no registration necessary. Contact Tammy Green for more information.
- January 26, Amateur Writers of Long Island: Join writers of all genres and abilities in the back room of Panera in Huntington Village from 1-6 PM to give and receive feedback.
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