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article imageInterview with Sy Montgomery: Acclaimed author and naturalist Special

By Markos Papadatos     Nov 19, 2014 in Science
Naturalist Sy Montgomery took some time from her busy schedule to talk about her book "The Tarantula Scientist" and her career in writing.
She has penned award-winning books for children and adults. The Tarantula Scientist book won the 2005 "Robert F. Siebert Honor Book" award. It features photographs by Nic Bishop.
Montgomery complimented her book's narrator, Sam Marshall, as a "great guy." "Sam is fantastic and he is such a good example, since he didn't like science growing up. He thought science was a book of answers that everyone had to memorize. That is a good message for kids: that science don't have to be a scary, imposing thing that you could do. It could be something that you are great at doing," she explained. "Sam was a great person to do this book with, because he was always saying these fun and funny things."
She had nothing but praise for her photographer, Nic Bishop. "Nic was very devoted. He actually borrowed some of Sam's spiders and took them home and waited for them to shed their skin so they could capture that moment," she said. "We should all be grateful to Nic's wife who allowed him to bring the tarantulas in the house."
Most striking about tarantulas is that they can live over 30 years and it is an animal that nobody is allergic to, according to Montgomery. "You got to have a retirement plan for your tarantula," she said with a sweet laugh.
On her inspiration to pursue a career in nonfiction and science, she said, "I always loved animals. Growing up, as a little girl, I thought I might be a veterinarian. As I began to read newspapers in the 1960s, the stories were all about animals and how they were on the verge of extinction. Even, our national symbol, the bald eagle, was in danger of extinction because of chemicals we were putting on plants. At that point, I figured if I became a writer, I could spread the news and people could begin to take back the world. This is one reason why I write for adults, kids, film and for print. I write anywhere I can, and I do it for the animals."
She added, "I write nonfiction since there are so many things out there urgently that we need to get across to people. With no disrespect to fiction, I think it is fabulous and powerful, but there are so many true stories out there that need to be told."
Regarding her plans for the future, she said, "Today, I started writing a book about great white sharks. I have been researching it this summer. This spring, I have two books coming out, one for grown-ups and one for kids, and they are both on octopuses. It was really a blast. I love these animals."
Each day, Montgomery is motivated by animals and her desire to learn more about them. "I love reaching out to all of these readers, since together, we can save some of these animals and their habitats," she said.
For aspiring scientists, she said, "Watching almost any animal, makes you better at watching all animals, and you use the same skills. You have to spend some time to get used to the species that you are studying, but the basic skills are the same. You just develop that eye. So, the best way to be an animal observer is to observe animals a lot, and work on your patience, and noticing things on a deeper and deeper level. That might include keeping a journal on things you saw, and you won't realize that unless you keep a journal. Keeping a journal helps you see things better."
For more information on Sy Montgomery, visit her official website.
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