Larry Verstraete

At nine years old, there were subtle signs that Larry Verstraete might be a writer some day. While thumbing through a toy catalog just before Christmas, he found, and then later received, the perfect gift - a small toy printing press. The summer after, Larry and a friend started an ambitious publishing project, aiming to become as he puts it, ‘rich and famous’ with the printing press. Their goal was to publish and sell a newsletter filled with stories gathered around the neighborhood. For a week, the two would-be reporters spied on neighbors, filling notepads with facts and observations. But when they started setting the stories into type on the printing press, the project floundered. The work was too boring, too tedious, and they abandoned dreams of fame and wealth in favor of more enjoyable summer pastimes like swimming and biking. That was Larry’s earliest foray into writing, and although that venture was a gob-smacking failure, the drive to write simmered below the surface for years. One day, older now with a science degree under his belt and a teaching career already well in hand, fate intervened. While waiting for a haircut in a salon, a magazine ad for a correspondence writing course caught his eye, rekindling his desire to write and be published. He clipped out the ad, enrolled in the course and as the saying goes ‘the rest is history’.One of his first course assignments was to write a non-fiction article for children. He quickly latched on to a topic that fascinated him – accidental discoveries in science. By the end of the course, he’d written about 25 short stories, each telling about a breakthrough in science that owed much to a mistake, mishap, coincidence or spectacular blunder. That became his first Scholastic book – The Serendipity Effect (later re-issued under the title Accidental Discoveries: From Laughing Gas to Dynamite). Since then, Larry has published 13 non-fiction books and 1 middle grade novel. The roots of his writing lie deep in his own personal experiences and his interests in science, history and true adventure. For Larry, ideas usually begin with an intriguing story, event or fact, something that triggers his curiosity. He and his wife are devoted travelers, and each trip offers fresh opportunities to discover new writing material. Becoming lost on a mountain hike in Colorado, for example, sparked the idea for Survivors:True Death-Defying Escapes, and visiting the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona – the place where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto – eventually became C is for Compare in his book S is for Scientists: A Discovery Alphabet. Some key accomplishments of Larry’s career include:•Two-time recipient of Ontario’s Silver Birch Award for Non-fiction (Survivors: True Death-Defying Escapes; At the Edge: Daring Acts in Desperate Times)•Two-time recipient of the McNally Robinson Book of the Year for Young People Award (Lost Treasures: True Stories of Discovery; S is for Scientists: A Discovery Alphabet)•Awarded B.C.’s Red Cedar Award (Survivors: True Death-Defying Escapes)•Nominated for the Norma Fleck Award (Accidental Discoveries: From Laughing Gas to Dynamite) •Nominated for the New York Reading Association Charlotte Award & Alberta’s Rocky Mountain Award (Surviving the Hindenburg)•Among other distinctions: Honor winner, 2014 Story Telling World Resource Awards (Surviving the Hindenburg); Runner-up, 2012 USA Best Book Awards, Children's Picture Book (Surviving the Hindenburg); Outstanding Science Trade Book of 2011 by the National Science Teachers Association and Children’s Book Council (S is for Scientists: A Discovery Alphabet); Selected, 2001 Canadian Toy Testing Council, 25 Great Books, (Whose Bright Idea Was It?)


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