Non-Fiction | 22 July 2016Interview with Catherine Barr Share article facebook twitter google pinterest We’ve been chatting to the lovely Catherine Barr, author of two books for Frances Lincoln, The Story of Life: A first book about evolution and Elliot’s Arctic Surprise. Catherine studied Ecology at Leeds University before working for Greenpeace International for seven years as a wildlife and forestry campaigner. Following that, she also trained as a journalist. Catherine then worked as a Editor at the Natural History Museum, where she researched and wrote two major summer exhibitions: Dinosaurs of the Gobi Desert and Myths and Monsters. She now works alongside her partner in their communications company – and writes books. With a career so wonderfully varied you’re in for a real treat today so read on to find out about Catherine’s writing and what inspires her. How did your career in writing begin? My two primary aged girls came home from school full of the stories of creation. Shocked to discover that they were not also learning the story of evolution and then horrified to find out that this was not (at the time) even on the primary curriculum, I searched for a book. Unable to find one, Steve Williams (a local biology teacher) and myself decided to write it. Professor Brian Rosen (Michael Rosen’s brother) at the Natural History Museum (NHM), kindly became our expert consultant. And we had many fascinating discussions as a result. The Museum introduced me to Frances Lincoln publishers. Whether writing exhibitions at the NHM, as a press officer on or off Greenpeace boats or working with NGOs, I have long been involved in wildlife and environmental issues. But The Story of Life has ignited an unexpected and wonderful twist in kickstarting a new career as a children’s author. Do you have a favourite part of the writing / creative process? I love exploring knowledge and understanding around new subjects. Currently, my research scribbles cover an extraordinary range: from outer space to migration and elephant communications. I like synthesising complexity and ruthlessly editing. Can you tell us about the things that most inspire your work / what you enjoy writing about… I like the idea of igniting children’s interest in the big issues that shape our world. I am interested in environmental stories and the challenges we face in the natural world but also in exploring social issues. I love the idea of picture books as springboards for conversation between adults and children (and young people). So I hope my books spark curiosity and questions. What project are you working on at the moment? I am working on final edits to The Story of Space with scientist Professor Monica Grady from the Open University. I am also writing stories about strange endangered species; and working on a series of conservation themed animal books for very young children. I have a rolling and evolving list of ideas-in-progress! What has been the highlight of your career so far? The Story of Life being both long listed for the School Library Association Information Book Award and shortlisted for the English Association 4–11 Picture Book Award. This book was written with the hope of it reaching primary schools. The enthusiasm from teachers, parents and children for the story has meant a huge amount to me. If you had to pick three favourite books which have made a difference to how you see the world, what would you choose and why? In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall (Because as a teenager she inspired me and I desperately wanted to be like her.) Silent Spring by Rachael Carson (Because its message packs an incredible punch that has shaped my motivation and interest in campaigning to protect the natural world.) No Man’s Land by George Monbiot (Because I admired his tenacity and ability to get out there and get on with it.) The Story of Life: A first book about evolution Author: Catherine Barr and Steve Williams Illustrator: Amy Husband ISBN: 9781847804853 Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.