By Suzanne Slade


For me, the writing process usually begins when I stumble across a fascinating, little-known fact about someone from the past. Typically it’s about someone I’m familiar with and admire, such as Jane Addams, George Gershwin, or Gwendolyn Brooks, yet don’t know a great deal about. And that one obscure fact makes me want to know more. So I do a quick web search, which whets my appetite even more, and before I know it I’m knee-deep into research — visiting museums, talking to experts, and reading stacks of books about that person.

Next, because I just have to share the incredibly interesting information I’ve uncovered about this person with readers, I find myself scribbling out a rough book outline. Then I start writing. And writing. When the story is finally finished, I read it out loud from start to finish. Now you’d think after all that research and writing, reading a completed story would be a very satisfying moment. But to be honest, it’s usually not. Most times, I decide the story terrible. Truly awful. So I get out my pen and begin editing. I show it to my writer friends and ask for their feedback, which leads to more revisions. And slowly, ever so slowly, the story gets better. This editing process can last many months, but it’s worth it.

Until one day, the story seems to share a tiny bit of the brilliant light that this incredible person shined on the world. My hope is that in some small way my work will help the wonderful light of that person continue to shine, to inspire readers, and to make this world a little brighter. (I also hope the story causes readers to become curious and do more research of their own.)

Suzanne Slade is the award-winning author of more than 100 children’s books. Her recent title, Dangerous Jane (2018 Bank Street College of Education Best Books of the Year), shares the story of Chicago’s own Jane Addams, Hull-House founder and first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Some of her other books include The Music in George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story and releasing soon Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks.