Several years ago I wrote an educational e-book and edited ninety-five college student e-books for children in Uganda, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. It was a lot of work, but I loved it and when the program ended I looked for new ways to write for children. That’s when I began writing for children’s magazines. So far, I’ve published articles about manatee hair, birds with really long bills, pirates, the brain, and even Thanksgiving. Find fun facts from these articles and more below.
My picture books are represented by Tracy Marchini at BookEnds Literary Agency. I write about women in the natural sciences. At the moment, I am particularly interested in the areas of botany, entomology, and malacology.
Fun facts from “Water Fleas, Transform!” Muse Magazine, May/June 2017 :
Water fleas have two large antennae they use to swim; the antennae jerk them through the water like jumping fleas. Daphnia magna footage by Dieter Ebert, share url: https://youtu.be/CAkaunELusc
Daphnia longicephala are a type of water flea that defend themselves against backswimmer bugs by developing balloon-like crests (like the one pictured on the right). It’s difficult for the bugs to reach around and hold on to a crested water flea, making it hard for these body-fluid suckers to pierce its thin shell. Photo credit Linda Weiss from Inside JEB Kathryn Knight 2015 J Exp Biol 218: 2816 download figure link
Fun facts from “Use It or Lose It,” Odyssey Magazine, March 2015:
Warning. As you read this parts of your brain are disappearing. On the plus side, other parts of your brain, like the ones you are using to read this, are getting stronger. Illustration by Andrew Mason CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Whenever you experience something, neurons start sending messages to each other. Different experiences activate connections between different neurons, creating networks. And it is these networks that are responsible for what we sense, think, feel, and do. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology http://giphy.com/gifs/mit-research-nx0MDnbVyyTgk
Fun facts from “Beware of Pirates,” AppleSeeds Magazine, November/December 2014:
St. Augustine, Florida has many pirates lurking in its past. One of these was Andrew Ranson whose execution went wrong. The rope used to strangle him from behind snapped on the final twist and he lived. Was it a miracle it snapped? It depends on who you ask. Either way, after almost 20 years it is believed that he earned his freedom and left. The last English pirate in St. Augustine was gone. Picture credit: Herman Moll [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Another notorious St. Augustine pirate was Robert Searles who with his crew captured a Spanish supply ship, snuck into the colony, ransacked the town, and vowed to return. It was this threat that convinced Spain to build the Castillo de San Marcos. Picture by Diego Delso [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons
Fun facts from “The Real First Thanksgiving?,” AppleSeeds Magazine, November/December 2014:
The menu for the 1565 Thanksgiving meal was likely hard sea biscuits and “cocido,” a dish made of garbanzo beans, salted pork, and garlic. Picture Credit: Detalle Cocido Madrileño CC BY 2.0 jlastras http//www.flickr.com/photos/jlastras/3077335981/sizes/o/
In 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and the settlers and soldiers who traveled with him to Northern Florida celebrated a Thanksgiving ceremony and shared a meal with the Timucua tribe. That’s more than 50 years before the English settlers arrived in Plymouth! Picture by José Camarón y Boronat (1730-1803), published by Francisco de Paula Marti in 1791
Fun facts from”Amazing and Unusual Birds,” Nature Friend, February 2014:
Sword-billed hummingbirds are the only bird in the world to have a bill longer than their body. Their bill is so long they have to keep it pointed up so they don’t lose their balance and fall over. Can you image having a nose longer than you are tall? Photo by Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org), Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0
Clark’s nutcrackers have an amazing memory. They hide about 30,000 pine nuts in thousands of different places each year and are able to find most of them months later. Photo by Gunnsteinn Jonsson, Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-3.0
Fun facts from “Hair that Feels,” Ask Magazine, March 2013:
The hairs on a manatee’s face are as sensitive as your fingertips. Manatees also have thicker bristle-like hairs on their upper and lower lips that they use to wrap around vegetation and sweep it into and out of their mouths. Photo by Aarin-Conrad Allen
Manatees can sense water movement with the hair on their face and body. Researchers think their hair may act as antennae that help manatees “see” the world around them and navigate through murky water. Photo by Laura K. Zimmermann
Fun facts from “Finding Ways to Save Them,” purchased by AppleSeeds Magazine, April 2015:
To track rhinos, a GPS transmitter is sometimes placed in a hole drilled into their horn. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt them any more than clipping your fingernails hurts you. Some of these trackers also send alarm signals when the rhinos show high activity, like they do when they’re trying to escape poachers. When these alarms are received, patrols can use the GPS coordinates to find the animals quickly. Picture by Eduardo Sortica (“Fotografia própria”) CC by 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s hard to protect a species if you don’t know where to find them. Loggerhead turtles, for example, spend 99% of their time at sea and much about their underwater life is still a mystery. However, satellite tracking is helping to change that. To track loggerheads, a transmitter is attached to their shell. The transmitter uploads data to satellites when the turtle surfaces, which can then be downloaded and sent to wildlife researchers. Picture by USFWS public domain (CC0)
Fun facts from “What’s That Smell,” purchased by Highlights for Children, August 2013:
Crested auklets are funny-looking seabirds that smell like freshly peeled tangerines. Dr. Julie Hagelin is working hard to figure out why. Photo by Julie C. Hagelin
Crested auklets rubbing their heads and necks together–this is where the tangerine smell appears to be the strongest. Photo by Julie C. Hagelin
Other fun facts I have come across in my research:
Manatees can eat more than 70 heads of lettuce a day. When their front teeth wear down from all of that chewing, they fall out and new ones march in to take their place. Photo by Laura K. Zimmermann
Manatees don’t have hands, so they use their lips to grab things, much like an elephant uses the tip of its trunk. To grab objects they move the left and right sides of their upper lip independently, grasping things a lot like you do when you have mittens on. Manatees use their prehensile lips to explore objects and gather food. Photo by Hal Brindley (travel4wildlife.com/amazing-manatee-lips/#.UyhDd17G0-M)
Bee-eaters eat bees and other flying insects. They watch for an insect from a perch above the ground, often a tree branch, fence, or power line, and then swoop down to catch it, matching the insect’s every move until they snatch it from the sky. However, before eating a bee or other stinging insect they return to their perch, hit it on the head to stun it, and then rub its abdomen on the perch to get the venom out. Photo by Rashuli, via Flickr, Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-2.0
Unlike bee-eaters who eat bees, bicolored antbirds do not eat ants. Antbirds get their name because they follow army ant lines. From 2 to 20 bicolored antbirds gather at an ant swarm. They follow the ant lines and eat the panicked insects, small frogs, and lizards who run from their hiding spots trying to escape the ants.
Photo by Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/), Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0
Interviews and Presentations
Zimmermann, L. K. (2017, April).
Welcome to BookEnds, Laura K. Zimmermann! [blog interview]. Retrieved from http://bookendsliterary.com/2017/04/19/welcome-to-bookends-laura-k-zimmermann/
Zimmermann, L. K. (2015, June).
It started in the classroom: My path to publication in nonfiction children’s magazines. Presented at the Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference, Winchester, VA.
Sozzi, E. (2014, November 24).
From the Writer’s Desk: Laura K. Zimmermann [blog interview]. Retrieved from http://www.eugeniasozzi.com/blog/from-the-writers-desk-laura-k-zimmermann