A few years ago, Donna Bowman didn’t know the first thing about lions, tigers or jaguars.
After completing her first published children’s book, “Big Cats,” there’s little left she doesn’t know.
“I love doing research, so I dove into it and contacted several different experts who were able to verify facts for me as I went through my research,” said Bowman, whose husband Danny is Forsyth County’s fire chief.
Breaking into the children’s book business has proven difficult for Bowman. But after nearly 25 years, she got her first break during a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference.
Publishers Intervisual Books approached Bowman and asked her to add to its informative and interactive series on dinosaurs, snakes, wolves and sharks.
“I was elated,” she said.
Now that she’s got her foot in the door, Bowman is writing two more books for a different publisher, Picture Window Books. Her stories on dinosaurs and outer space are slated for a fall 2009 release, she said.
“I love doing research, I love writing and I love teaching others what I learn,” she said. “It’s absolutely like living a dream.
“To me, the icing on the cake is getting to go to schools and bookstores and talk to children about these animals. The kids are so enthusiastic and inquisitive.”
Bowman started writing 25 years ago when she was pregnant with her first child. A mother of three, she is now a grandmother.
“I’ve always wanted to write, but [having kids] is what gave me enough motivation to start doing it.”
Her research has connected her with a paleontologist at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, a zoologist at the Bronx Zoo, an African safari guide and a ranch owner, who showed her his discovery to cohabitate with the big cats.
Bowman credits her father, George Martin, with inspiring her career.
“We both love writing, so it’s a lot of fun to get together and go over different things we’ve written,” she said. “It’s wonderful to have somebody to bounce ideas off of.”
Martin is an educational entertainer who performs poetry, music and magic for younger children in the area.
In addition to facts and information on cheetahs, jaguars, leopards and others, “Big Cats” has interactive elements like pop-ups, pull-tabs and lift-flaps.
The book was illustrated by Christina Wald, with paper engineering by Jim Diaz.
“There are lots of beautiful illustrations and fun activities in the book,” Bowman said. “I’m just having so much fun showing this to kids.”
E-mail Jennifer Sami at email@example.com.