Monday, February 28, 2022

How a Walk Grew into a Book

 Nearly a decade ago, I shoved a notebook and handful of pens into my duffel and headed off to a Highlights Foundation workshop that focused on Writing Nonfiction for kids. The only thing I had to guide me was a well-worn map with the route highlighted in yellow and some notes jotted down from an email.  What I remember most from my time there was heading out for a walk with another writer – that would be you, Alisha.

photo by Alisha Gabriel
Alisha: That was my first time attending a Highlights workshop and it made a huge impact on my writing! I remember that walk, and stopping to photograph a mushroom along the side of the trail. As we talked, we realized we both had book ideas that involved fungi.

Sue: For different reasons, we ended up putting our fungi projects on hold. But that was okay because something else grew out of that fortuitous forest amble: a partnership.

Alisha: Yes. After the workshop, I was fortunate to join a newly formed critique group with you and a couple other nonfiction writers. We’ve been critiquing and encouraging one another for almost ten years!

Sue: Fast-forward to the pandemic lockdown of 2020, when Alisha emailed me. Remember that cool mushroom from Highlights? she asked. Let's work on a fungus book together.

Alisha: It took me awhile to reach out and ask. I wasn’t sure if you’d be interested in co-authoring a book about fungi, but due to our shared interest in the topic, I figured it was worth a shot. Plus, it was the middle of a pandemic and, other than work, I wasn’t getting out much.

Sue: Plus two heads are better than one. If I found some interesting fungus facts, I could share them with Alisha. What I really loved was when Alisha emailed me photos of fungi she found in her garden. It inspired me to look more closely at what was growing in my lawn and garden. We also got to play around with – I mean, test drive – a bunch of activities.

Alisha: And share really bad jokes. Hey Sue, why didn’t the Fungus come to the Pizza Party?

Sue: I don’t know. (shudders at the thought of fungal fruiting bodies on a pizza)

Alisha: Because there wasn’t Mushroom!

Check back next month for another post about our book-writing journey.  Funky Fungi, 30 Activities for Exploring Molds, Mushrooms, Lichens, and More is part of the Young Naturalists series. You can find out more about our book at the publisher’s website. It will hit bookstore shelves this June, but you can pre-order it at your favorite local bookstore, or online at B&N or Amazon.


  1. Oh, what a delightful interview. Fungi are fascinating and I can't wait to see what activities you came up with. Congratulations to you both!

  2. Ah, the Highlights Workshops are so wonderful. Fun post! I can't wait to read this wonderful book. Thanks for the post.