Interview with a STEM Author: Anita Nahta Amin
Updated: Feb 25, 2020
I'm super excited about our next STEM author interview on STEM Spark, as she's a fellow engineer who has not 1, but 2, nonfiction STEM books coming out this year: please welcome Anita Nahta Amin to STEM Spark!
Anita Nahta Amin is an Indian American author of children’s books, including What Would It Take To Make a Hoverboard? (Capstone Press, Jan 2020) and What Would It Take To Make a Jet Pack? (Capstone Press, Jan 2020). Over 100 of her stories also appear in children’s literary magazines and educational resources, including Highlights, Humpty Dumpty, Spider, Ladybug, and Super Teacher Worksheets.
She earned a BSE in Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering and an MS in Computer Engineering. She is a former information technology manager and business consultant. She now enjoys writing fiction and nonfiction for children. She enjoys spending time with her husband and twin children.
How long have you been writing and what inspired you to write a STEM book?
I’ve been writing since childhood. In high school, my city newspaper published many of my
poems. I wrote every day – mainly short stories.
College and graduate school took up a lot of my time though. I put my writing aside for more
than two decades. I earned a BSE in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering, an MS in Computer Engineering, and I started (but decided not to finish) a PhD in Molecular Genetics. Then I focused on a career in information technology and business consulting.
In 2006, I left my job as an IT manager for family. But I remembered how much I had enjoyed
writing. I took courses at the Institute of Children’s Literature to gain confidence. Later, I joined
writing organizations, such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Julie
Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge.
At first, I focused on the children’s magazine market – mostly fiction. A few years after I started submitting short stories, I received my first acceptance from Highlights magazine – the same day I found out I was going to have twins!
This past year though, I saw some calls on social media for chapter book writers for the
educational marketplace. I responded and was matched to a STEM project about cutting edge
technologies, including hoverboards and jet packs. It felt rewarding to apply my STEM
background to children’s books!
Are you working on any new projects you’d like to tell us about?
Two STEM biographies for grades K-2 and one STEM fiction reader for grade 3 will be coming
out next year. I hope to write more STEM leveled readers soon. I am also working on an idea for a multicultural STEM fiction picture book.
But my current project is actually not STEM-related. My debut picture book, RAJA’S PET
CAMEL, is being finalized for publication in October 2020. This is a fiction story set in India
about a boy trying to save his mischievous camel from being sold at the fair. It is a very special
story to me as it was inspired by my family village in the desert in Rajasthan, India.
Where do you get your ideas from?
My nonfiction STEM books have all been by assignment for the educational market. I was hired to research and write about specific topics.
Childhood memories, conversations, holidays, everyday life – all inspired my other books and
stories. Even a newspaper article about escaped zoo animals inspired one of my short stories,
later published in a children’s magazine.
I keep a journal of ideas to refer back to later. Sometimes, I write down just one line of the story, sometimes a full outline or scene. My debut picture book started as one line in my journal; a few years later, I happened to flip through my notebook, see that line, and feel compelled to write a story around it. My journal has been especially helpful with my work-for-hire fiction assignments. Having a book of ideas to pull from comes in handy when trying to meet a deadline.
What is challenging specific to writing about STEM?
Research can be challenging because technology and products change rapidly. I might refer to a possible future advancement or technology in my book, only to have it occur or change while I’m writing the book. I’ve also found disparities while doing research, so digging deep and reviewing multiple sources is important.
What has surprised you about STEM? What fun fact have you learned about STEM as you
I was struck by how there are so many different ways to accomplish the same goal and how the inventors pursuing these goals are so persistent. For instance, some hoverboards use magnets, some use fans, and some use engines for lift – all different technologies to accomplish the same goal of hovering. And engineers testing jet packs have endured numerous and sometimes serious crashes, but they still kept trying.
A fun fact I learned while researching jet packs and hoverboards: Sound can move objects. So
can light! It’s amazing how far science has come and exciting to think about where it might lead.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I’ve imagined myself back in my old role as an engineer, or as an astronaut, secret agent, doctor, lawyer, explorer, and more. But those are all daydreams – stories in my head. So, I wouldn’t want to be anything else – just a writer. Writing is my passion!
What advice do you have for anyone interested in STEM/in pursuing a career in STEM?
Be open to continuous learning and embrace challenges as learning opportunities. Technology changes rapidly. A system may become obsolete, but your knowledge base doesn’t have to. Take classes, self study, learn from others. Don’t let new opportunities escape! Those are your chances to learn!
Thanks Anita for your wonderful insight into STEM and writing! You can learn more about Anita's books here: www.AnitaAminBooks.com. I personally can't wait to get a copy of What Would It Take To Make a Hoverboard? for Jack. Happy STEM-ing everyone!