Coffee and Conversation with Mary Bowman-Krum

Good Friday morning! I am excited to welcome to the Cyber Cafe another speaker who will be at Lucky 13: Make 2013 Your Year. Say hello to Mary Bowman-Krum!


Dr. Mary Bowman-Kruhm has authored or co-authored two picture books and more than thirty nonfiction books for children, young adults, and adults. She worked in special education with Montgomery County Maryland Public Schools and the School of Education, Johns Hopkins University. Her current passion is bringing fresh water wells to Oltorotua, a Maasai village in Kenya (visit for more information). She also blogs for News for Social Justice Actions. Mary’s current release is The Leakeys: A Biography.

First off, what’s your favorite coffeehouse beverage?

Strong coffee with soy creamer.  Only one cup per day so I relish it and drink slowly.

And your favorite snack?

Coconut flakes.


What was your favorite book as a child?

Old Swedish Fairy Tales and any baseball books by John Tunis.  Odd mix but I read most anything.


When did you decide to be a writer?

After a first career in education, where I wrote about 5,692 memos, lesson plans, and curricula guides no one ever read, I decided to write for kids. I thought they might actually read what I wrote!

What is your favorite writing how-to book, technique, or website that have helped you improve your craft or provide inspiration?

Harold Underdown has been helpful over the years with clear, honest advice at conferences and on his website  I also used to write regularly for Children’s Book Insider because I loved their newsletter and still consider their advice spot on.

Where’s your favorite place to work?

My office, which is horribly messy because I hate to throw out anything I might possibly use in future.


You haven’t seen messy until you’ve been to my workspace! So, how were you inspired to write your current or upcoming release? 

I actually gave up writing for publication for a few years and am getting back into it now.  I wanted to focus on online teaching for interns in special ed. administration, on doing social justice work for my church, and on raising money to dig wells for a small village in Kenya.  I got involved in helping the Maasai while researching in Kenya for a biography of three generations of the Leakey family who have dug in the scorching hot, stark, barren, forbidding, arid land of East Africa.


What is your favorite line from this book?

“This [Kenyan] landscape is pierced by Lake Turkana, the world’s largest permanent desert lake, whose water simmers with shades of jade.”

Simmers is absolutely the correct verb, not shimmers.  I often find my favorite lines get cut but that one didn’t!

Wonderful line!

If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now?

A stay-at-home housewife who never expected to work.  Make that a miserably unhappy housewife.

You’ve been locked in a bank vault like the man from Twilight Zone, so you finally have time to read! Your glasses remain unharmed, (whew!) so what’s the first book you crack open?

Any biography or memoir.  I have always felt truth is stranger (and a better read) than fiction.

For one day, time travel is a reality and you have the opportunity to visit any famous deceased author you want. Who do you pick?

Shakespeare.  Love his histories and dramas and I can hardly believe he wrote also all those comedies. I have sat through well-acted versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and been thoroughly bored every time.


You magically find a $100 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it?

Knitting yarn.  So it could co-mingle with the seven bins full of yarn already in my stash.

If you could go back in time and make changes to any of your published books, would you?  If so, which one and why?

I never go back and read my books, unless I have to for a speech, and what’s done is done.  However, I continue to edit until the last possible minute and absolutely hate to send off a final manuscript.  Then I wander around the house and feel lost for several days.

Congratulations, Steven Spielberg is doing a movie based on your book! Who would play the lead role and what songs would be on the soundtrack?

I doubt George Clooney would want to play Louis Leakey singing, “Out of Africa, we all came out of Africa, yes we did, yes we did, 8 million years ago” but it’s an intriguing thought!



Bless you, Mary, for the excuse to post a picture of George Clooney. My life as a blogger is complete!

What is your favorite quote?

“Don’t ask permission. If it does not work, you can apologize later.”― Paulo Coelho

If you could sum up your best advice for new writers in only four words, what would they be?

Network to learn conventions.  Explanation: I’m using two definitions of convention (i.e., how to write and submit and how to get the most from a writer’s conference or convention).

Now for the Lightning Round!

Do you . . .

Outline or wing it? Outline.

Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped?  Share with critique group.

Sell by proposal or completed draft?  Proposal.

Prefer writing rough drafts or editing?  Editing.

Dread marketing/blogging or love it? Love to blog.

Read Kindle or traditional books?  iPad with Kindle app.

And finally, what’s your favorite:

Time to work? Morning.

Music to listen to while writing?  Never listen to music while writing.

Writing tool?  Big Mac, 27” screen.

Pair of shoes?  No heels.

Guiltiest pleasure?  Coconut anything.

Thanks so much for participating Mary! We’re really looking forward to seeing you at the conference.

Have a wonderful weekend friends!

About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
This entry was posted in Conference Information, Interviews: Authors. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Coffee and Conversation with Mary Bowman-Krum

  1. Thanks for this wonderful interview! Mary is such an interesting person–and I can totally see George Clooney in a biopic of the Leakeys!

  2. Such an interesting interview, Mary!

  3. Fun interview! Thanks, Mary and Susan!

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