Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults


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I was one of those kids who always wanted to be a writer. One of my favorite TV shows was a Superman series starring George Reeves. Superman didn’t impress me. I was more interested in Lois Lane and her work although I don’t remember her doing any actual writing. She spent most of her time trying to learn more about Superman, clearly an indication that she wasn’t much of a researcher. A good reporter would have been able to see through a disguise that consisted only of removing eyeglasses, a different hairstyle, and tights and a cape. But I saw Lois with her little notebook and pencil acting very reporterly, and I wanted to be just like her.

I also did a lot of reading mostly mysteries. I went to a small school that didn’t have aBarb0001(2)1.75x2.34 library for elementary students. Instead, each classroom had a few shelves of books that we could check out. The fourth grade classroom had a series of books about trailblazers including Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, and Kit Carson. That was my introduction to biographies, and I loved them. I think I read the series about three times that year.

In high school, I wrote stories, poems, and of course, the usual school reports. In my senior year, I was editor of our school newspaper. In my mind, I was preparing for a career as a writer. I got off that path after people warned me I couldn’t make a living as an author. I needed to do something practical rather than chasing a writing dream.

So, I went off to college where I majored in English and got my teaching certificate. Then I settled into jobs such as teaching and working at our public library and in school libraries. All very practical jobs! I wrote when I could, and sold a few articles, but I didn’t get serious about writing until 1991 when our son and daughter were in high school. Then I began writing every day, mostly stories and picture books. I started writing biographies after another writer said I should write what I like to read. I remembered how much I enjoyed biographies when I was a kid and decided that’s what I wanted to do.

My first nonfiction book was a collective biography about young girls who had saved someone’s life. I thought it was a book that belonged in every library. Unfortunately, publishers didn’t agree. I didn’t sell that book, but it opened a door for me. An editor liked my writing style, which led to a contract for a young adult biography about author Alice Walker. The rest, as they say, is history.


Comments on: "About" (2)

  1. Very interesting and I love that you followed your dream.

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