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Meet Baltimore’s Child Book Author Erin Hagar

Meet Baltimore’s Child Book Author Erin Hagar
Photo courtesy of Erin Hagar

Erin Hagar writes fiction and nonfiction works for children and teens. Before earning her Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, Hagar served as a curriculum and instruction specialist for several colleges and universities. While her childhood home was on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, she and her husband, two children and numerous pets now call Baltimore home. Hagar’s books include “Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures” (Duopress Books, 2015), “Awesome Minds: The Inventors of LEGO Toys” (Duopress Books, 2016) and “Doing Her Bit: A Story of the Woman’s Land Army” (Charlesbridge, 2016), a Junior Library Guild selection. Learn more about Erin and her work in children’s literature.

My published pieces are mostly nonfiction or historical fiction. A big part of my process is research. Much of that research doesn’t make it directly into the story, of course. When I do school visits, I compare research to an iceberg—a lot of it stays under the water, supporting the part that you see above the surface.


Once I feel on solid ground with the research, the next step is to find the arc of each particular story, which involves writing many, many drafts. A big part of the process—and one I always struggle with—is letting go of interesting details that don’t serve the story, preconceived notions of how I thought the story would look or phrases I’m proud of that don’t belong in the piece any more.

You learn something about yourself as a writer from each book you work on, but I have a special place in my heart for “Doing Her Bit.” It was a project that I began while I was earning my Master of Fine Arts degree at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and it became my first contract with a publisher.

Meet Baltimore’s Child Book Author Erin Hagar
Photo courtesy of Erin Hagar

Kids are as unique and varied as anyone else. I’ve always felt that a topic must be interesting to me. If I’m interested and I find an angle that will resonate with a child’s experience, then I’m usually confident I can make it work. For example, my picture book “Doing Her Bit” (Charlesbridge, 2016) is about the Woman’s Land Army of America, a little-known volunteer effort during World War I to support agriculture.

When I heard about this effort, I had two immediate thoughts: “How could it be that I’d never learned about these women before?” and “Kids would love this story.” I thought kids would love this story because it’s about the fight to be seen and valued. These women trained for months in agriculture to respond to an international food crisis. They learned everything about farming, but even though they were desperate for workers, no farmer would hire them. I think children resonate with the idea of feeling ready and able to help, but not being taken seriously.

Erin’s advice to aspiring children’s book illustrators: “Read as much as you can in the kid-lit space. Reread the classics, but pay special attention to what’s been recently published—not to mimic it, but to understand the ways the forms are changing and evolving. Picture books, for example, look very different today than they did when we adults were growing up. Join SCBWI, an international professional organization for children’s writers and illustrators. This organization is an incredible source of industry knowledge and support, and it welcomes writers at every level. Local chapters can connect you with writers’ groups. Joining a writers’ group can provide and receive critiques of your work. That’s a very important part of the learning process.”

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