Theanne Griffit is a neuroscientist and children's book author who loves bringing STEM themes into her work.
THEANNE GRIFFITH is a neuroscientist and the author of the STEM-themed chapter book series The Magnificent Makers and co-author with Andrea Beaty of the Ada Twist, Scientist: The Why Files series, a full-color nonfiction early reader series based on the new Ada Twist, Scientist Netflix show. Since she was a little girl, she’s loved both storytelling and science. Her books blend these two passions, taking young readers on out of this world adventures they’ll never forget. Theanne received her BA in neuroscience and Spanish from Smith College, and earned her doctorate in neuroscience from Northwestern University. She is currently as Assistant Professor at the University of California Davis.
Visit theannegriffith.com to find out more and follow her at @doctheagrif.
When and how did you start writing?
I don't really remember precisely how or why I started writing, but my first memory as a writer is submitting a short story to a competition at my local public library when I was seven. Subsequently when I was ten, an essay of mine won a local competition and was featured in the daily paper. I've basically been writing since I was able to and I've always found a lot of joy in it.
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
Amazing Grace was definitely a childhood defining book for me. It told, and beautifully illustrated, a story that I identified with closely, even as a young child. As I got older, I was really into the horror genre. I became a huge R.L. Stine fan and owned just about every Goosebumps and Fear Street book. I really admire horror writers to this day. It's a genre I still really enjoy but wouldn't be able to write well myself.
Can you talk us through your career so far? What were the key moments?
I'm a neuroscientist by training, and an Assistant Professor at the University of California Davis. I started my professional author journey in 2017, when I was on maternity leave with my first daughter. After listening to a lot of podcasts and attending a writer's conference, I began querying agents. Then, in the spring/summer of 2018, I began working with an editor at Random House Children's Books on a STEM-themed chapter book series. After a few brainstorming meetings and several months of drafting, The Magnificent Makers series was born. The first three books in the series were published in the spring/fall of 2020. Books four and five are slated for release in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
I am a morning writer, albeit not the 5am Writers' Club kind of morning writer. . . I need to start writing by 9–10am if I am going to be productive. When I have my children's-author hat on, I usually write for about three hours. On the other hand, when I'm writing as a neuroscientist, grants or manuscripts for example, I will write for much longer. I can write in many places, and have even written in my car! But I always need the environment to be quiet. I don't even listen to music when I write! When I'm in the brainstorming phase, I look to my daughter's for inspiration. They are so entertaining and an amazing window into today's young minds.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
Keep honing your craft. The more you write, and the more feedback you get, the better your writing becomes. And remember, your best story is the one only you can write.
Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?
1) Character’s voice and learning how to capture it in an age-specific manner.
2) World building—it's a tough balance making a world fun and exciting but not going over the top.
3) Effectively incorporating science into the backdrop of my stories without it overwhelming the main plot.
Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?
I'd be thrilled to have dinner with Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, and Elizabeth Acevedo. They are currently slaying the kidlit/YA world and I am loving every minute of it. In terms of character-development envy, I would have loved to create Moana. I know, she's not from a book. But I love her! Wish a character like her was there for me to admire as a kid!