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Marti

Learn 3 Ways DRAGONFLY GIRL Encourages Girls In STEM

It challenges stereotypes

The clever protagonist in Dragonfly Girl, with a head for math and science, is a high school girl. Not only that, she’s a high school girl who wants to be liked, to wear nice clothes, to go to dances and be part of a friendship group just like any other girl.

Her best friend, also interested in science, is a popular, pretty and much admired by everyone – especially boys.

When Kira meets other adult scientists, there is an even distribution of men and woman.

By presenting a diverse group of girls and women as scientists, Dragonfly Girl challenges what educator Carly Berwick describes as “the persistent subconscious images of male mathematicians and scientists that…may be one explanation why girls enter STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – at dramatically lower rates than boys.” 

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, girls and boys perform similarly STEM related subjects on standardized tests. However, larger gaps exist between students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds or family income.” from lower income families were less likely to take advanced science courses. In part, the disparity is due to a perception of who belongs in sciences. In Dragonfly Girl, the main character is the daughter of a single parent with a chronic, critical illness. When (eventually) she gets an after-school job in a laboratory, some of her young colleagues are women of color. 

It shifts perceptions about who belongs in science

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, girls and boys perform similarly STEM related subjects on standardized tests. However, “larger gaps exist between students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds or family income.” from lower income families were less likely to take advanced science courses. In part, the disparity is due to a perception of who belongs in sciences. In Dragonfly Girl, the main character is the daughter of a single parent with a chronic, critical illness that means the family is in debt. In the course of the book, not only does the heroine meet women in science but also men and women of color in science.

It may even raise girls’ test scores

Studies show that giving high school girls images of female scientists resulted in higher performance by these students. For example, this study showed that  “female students had higher comprehension after viewing counter-stereotypic images (female scientists)” in their textbooks and study materials.Studies show that giving high school girls images of female scientists resulted in higher performance by these students.

Dragonfly Girl

Dragonfly Girl is young adult suspense novel about a troubled high school girl with a gift for science who discovers a “cure” for death and ends up embroiled in an international rivalry.

Wait…a cure for death? As in, the dead come back to life? Yes, but we aren’t talking zombies (sorry…I like a good zombie story as much as anyone). And we’re not talking about those who’ve been buried for centuries. Not the dead dead.

But say a person was dead a few hours ago or even a few days ago…yes, there’s hope! And the process, which as I wrote the book began to feel more and more real to me, is called “post-death recovery”.

You’d think that discovering a cure for death would be a good thing, but it doesn’t work out that way for Kira, at least not at first. She’s in trouble  from the moment she arrives on the page, with school problems, money problems, family problems, and a big lie that sends her hurdling toward danger.

Dragonfly Girl is published by Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins USA

 

Advance Praise for Dragonfly Girl:

…This is a compelling YA debut from the internationally bestselling Leimbach. All the characters have depth, especially Kira, whose growth will entice readers to invest in her struggles and cheer for her successes. Leimbach also handles the science well, explaining what is happening without letting it slow down the action, focusing more on the characters’ emotions than the scientific procedures. The book lends itself to upcoming volumes, which should be eagerly anticipated. Kira’s race isn’t specified, and there is a range of racial and ethnic diversity among secondary characters. VERDICT: A thrilling debut with a heroine to root for and an excellent story that will keep surprising readers.

—School Library Journal

Dragonfly Girl is unlike any book I’ve ever read. The plot is taut and devilishly cunning, the science behind the story is brilliantly researched, and the writing pulls you in and doesn’t let go until the very last page.You’ll find yourself aching for the heroine’s hardships at first, before suddenly being whisked off to a heart-thumping adventure that will leave you breathless. THIS BOOK SLAPS!

—Jesse Q. Sutanto, author of DIAL A FOR AUNTIES

 

… fast pace and high stakes are engaging … An exciting adventure about a girl in STEM.
                                                                                                  —Kirkus Reviews 

 

Dragonfly Girl is a uniquely smart book. Readers will be challenged and delighted, as I was, by its originality. Invest some time in Dragonfly Girl and let author, Marti Leimbach, take you on a surprising and thrilling ride.

 

 

 

To Plot Or Not

 

I’m often asked if it’s best to begin your novel by making an outline. It sounds so logical to say that, yes, of course we ought to have an idea where the story is going before deciding how best to execute the work. Blueprints are necessary in the building of any sound structure. People plan everything from dinner party seating to what to plant in flower beds.

 

Let’s say it’s a love story.  Who is doing the loving and who is being betrayed?  Why does this story, of all the millions of similar ones, deserve a telling? What will be the consequences anyway? You could write four-hundred pages and decide there are no consequences, none at all. Joe loves Jan and Jan loves John. Tough luck on Joe, but maybe he’s rather partial to Suzie anyway, and so the story reduces to nothing.

 

(Except, well. I’d probably read that)

 

Right, it’s decided! Settle on the architecture of the plot before going up dozens of  blind alleys or plowing through thousands of words a day figuring out where you are. In her entertaining and educational book about the process of novel-writing, Write Away, the mystery writer Elizabeth George expresses her utter bewilderment for people who “write hundreds of pages in search of a plot.”

 

I agree with her—how could I not? There is only one problem with me telling you to take the sensible direction of Elizabeth George, map out the structure of your book, fill out file cards for each of the necessary scenes that will escort the reader through your story, and only then embark on the actual writing.

 

But…um….no. It’s good advice, bt I never do it that way. If someone told me I had to work out where my novel would go before I even began the thing I’d take up pottery. Really, I would. Because I need the freedom to invent as I spin the wheel and if I don’t have it, I don’t want to go to the trouble.

 

Do I waste tremendous amounts of time, “writing into” the story that I wish to tell? Sometimes. Does some of my best work take place when I’m sinning that pottery wheel. Yes, the best. Also, the worst. ,

 

I can spend anywhere from one to four years on a single book, and a lot of that is spent trashing chapters and rewriting others because I’m not sure where I’m going or if it even makes sense to continue. Did I say this was a good career choice?

 

Do I ever feel lost inside my own book, not even sure this is the novel I wanted to write? At least once or twice during the writing.

 

So, why don’t I plan out the plot of the book? Well, I do. Sort of. I work out a few chapters ahead of where I am. I sometimes work toward a big watershed moment, but I come upon the important aspects of my novels—the tone of the book, the uniqueness of this moment of its telling, the idiosyncrasies of its characters, by allowing myself to play with the work.

 

Even the notion of progress destroys the fragile nowness of what I am doing, executing story as it is freshly in my mind. But let me assure you that my grasp of narrative structure, even of plot, is not entirely primitive or without influence. I think the three-act structure has been so ingrained in my head from all the books I’ve read for the past five decades that it isn’t an absolutely necessity that I make myself consciously aware of it as I write. I now “naturally” create the rising action you can find in any page-turner in the same manner with which I tell a friend a personal anecdote.

 

Does this mean I completely ignore what is called “craft”? Not at all. Elizabeth George has a nice statement about craft. She says, “Craft is there to rescue you when the art fails to.” That’s pretty accurate. And this is part of why I envy people who draw great structures of their novels across taped pages, or work out each scene on a card and then arrange the cards in different orders. People who write out character analyses and backstories. I love all those ideas. I just never do them.

 

And I am not the only one. In her excellent book on writing, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes, “Everyone I know flails around, kvetching and growing despondent, on the way to finding a plot and structure that work. You are welcome to join the club.”  She justifies the uneconomic manner with which our club writes as being necessary due to how much we learn from our characters as we work our way through a scene.

 

Anne Lamott is correct, of course, and she is also correct when she says that, at times, we have to take our already-written draft of a novel and lay it out page for page, or scene for scene, in clumps upon the floor of the biggest room in our house and look at it structurally. For me, and for all of us in the club of inefficiency, this is absolutely fine because we still have the magic of that initial writing, the germ of life that grew into a giant, living thing that wove its way through the whole of the manuscript. Working on it at the revision stage, shaving off this, adding to that, re-working the structure, won’t hurt it the way that pre-ordaining its shape often does.

 

You don’t have to sit at the desk like a medium, waiting to hear from the dead. Plan a bit, look for a little horizon with your book, and then make adjustments as you need to. The point is that it is more like being on a long walk through the woods, being able to see just up to an edge of pine, or as far down as a stream, not being able to see beyond that place but knowing, with the confidence of having walked in similar landscapes, that when you get as far as that, there will be more that you can see, and that you can reach if you just keep going.