Alison Pearce Stevens—Rhinos in Nebraska: The Amazing Discovery of the Ashfall Fossil Beds

Rhinos in Nebraska

Rhinos in Nebraska


Alison Pearce Stevens
Henry Holt & Co. (Books for Young Readers), July 20, 2021
Hardcover, $19.99, ebook $10.99
ISBN 10: 1250266572, ISBN 13: 9781250266576
Ebook ISBN: 9781250266583

Stevens reports:

I grew up in Colorado, not far from Dinosaur Ridge, so I’m no stranger to spotting fossils, but when I moved to Nebraska ten years ago, I discovered its soils hid evidence of a completely different—and much more recent—history. Mammoths, rhinos, camels, horses, and more once flourished across the state. A scene straight out of Africa once existed in my backyard.

In 2016 I started a two-year stint at the University of Nebraska State Museum as part of a team developing an entire floor of exhibits that focused on Nebraska history. It was during this time that I discovered Ashfall Fossil Beds, which hold some of the best evidence of the ancient savanna. Hundreds of perfectly preserved skeletons lie beneath several meters of volcanic ash. I met and interviewed people involved with ongoing excavation there. By the time the job ended, I had a book proposal in hand.

Alison Pearce Stevens

Alison Pearce Stevens

I met my editor by chance at a writing conference. We struck up a conversation, and the topic caught her interest, so I sent her the proposal. At the same time, I sent it to an agent I had met at another conference, wanting to have representation should the editor decide she liked the story. Which she did. I got an offer on the book within days of my agent offering representation. It was a whirlwind week.

After signing the contract, I spent a lot of time expanding on my research. Ashfall is a good 3.5 hours from my house, so there were long day trips to visit, take photos, and interview researchers, all of whom were generous with their time and knowledge.

My advice for aspiring writers is to network. Don’t attend conferences to pitch your proposal, but to get to know other people in the industry. I met both my agent and editor at conferences, and I didn’t set out to pitch either one. Getting to know other writers is equally, if not more, important. Form connections with people who can give feedback on your writing and help you through the rejections. They can make all the difference.

Contact info:

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Jul. 21, 2021

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit for information on submitting your report.

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