Matt grew up in Florida but has lived in Fridley for over 10 years. He has written over a dozen nonfiction books for kids. Good Eating: The Short Life of Krill is Matt's first picture book. Matt has an M.S. in scientific and technical communication. His favorite topics to write about include health and medical writing, and books about exploration and nature.
- Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
Good Eating is all about Antarctic krill. They are these strange, small sea creatures that live all around Antarctica. One thing that makes them interesting is how important they are to the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean. Pretty much all the large animals that live down there either depend on krill for their food or depend on something else that eats krill. All the animals from the little sea birds and Adélie penguins right up to the blue whales depend on krill. When I first learned about krill, the more I read about them, the more amazing they seemed. As soon as I learned about them, I thought that they deserved to have their own picture book. I knew, if I could write the book well enough, other people, especially kids, would be excited to learn about them too.
- Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching, outlining, or planning before beginning a book?
With narrative nonfiction, there is the factual research and then there is the process of trying to turn that information into a compelling story. You go back and forth between researching and writing the story. There is definitely more research on the front end. The more facts you can gather, the more compelling your story will likely be, even if all those facts don’t make it into your book. The more deeply you understand the topic, the better you will be able to write about it. Of course, you can’t research forever. Some of your research questions won’t come up until you are deep into the writing process. For instance, in Good Eating, the narrator mentions the fish but never says what kind of fish they are. But I had to be able to give Dan Tavis, the illustrator, a list of fish that are known to live around Antarctica and eat krill. I researched what depths the different fish live at, to see which ones were most likely encounter the krill at the correct point in the story. The book never gives their species’ names, but the main fish you see are Antarctic lanternfish and mackerel icefish. For this book, giving the illustrator advice on the images, I was doing research even after the text was basically finished. There’s no set amount of time, but the whole process can easily take several years.
- Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
Way too many to try to list them! There’s a ton of fantastic narrative nonfiction children’s writers out there right now. My focus is on nature writing, so just to name a few of those, there are Nicola Davies, Sandra Markle and Claire Saxby. Here in Minnesota, we have tons of talent. Some of my favorite for their writing about nature are Joyce Sidman, Phyllis Root, Laura Purdie Salas, and Mélina Mangal.
- When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I spend a lot of time with my family and our dog. Doing things like walking the local nature trails. Nothing too exciting. And reading, of course. I’m usually in the middle of at least 3 books. I keep one book to read in the living room, one by the bed, and one in my car. I’m also a little bit of a gamer. My favorite game is Splatoon 2. It’s a competitive shooter, except you play as a squid-type creature and you shoot ink at your opponents, using weapons like buckets and brushes.
- Do you have a website or social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) where readers can learn more about your work? Please feel free to list or link them below.