- Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
Stacey Abrams: Lift Every Voice explores how Stacey Abrams became a super helper who encourages, empowers, and protects voters. It also includes a history of changes to voting rights in the United States.
I write biographies about really cool women who take on problems that can seem unsolvable. Stacey Abrams is one of those people. Researching and writing about her efforts to register, educate, and defend voters gave me hope and a roadmap. Now I know how I can make a difference in my own community.
- Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I spend a lot of time reading, watching, and listening to everything I can by and about my subjects. For this book, I traveled to Georgia to visit the Atlanta History Center. I dug through decades-old boxes of notes from city council meetings so I could get sense for what Stacey saw and experienced when she attended city meetings during college. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but it was riveting!
I really like working with my subjects when I research their stories. That’s not always possible, but it’s helpful to have their perspectives when I examine their lives, especially since they are still living and working and doing big things!
The hardest part is sitting down and doing the work. Since I enjoy learning about my subjects, it can be difficult to transition to the creative writing stage, where I synthesis all the information I’ve reviewed and turn it into something new. I can invent a million distractions before I write a single word.
- Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
Two of my all-time favorite children’s biographies are Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome and Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketballby John Coy. Cline-Ransome’s book is such a treasure. Sometimes women don’t get enough credit for how many hats they wear in life. In my preschool classrooms, we rarely learned the names of the parents. We called moms “Mom,” as if that pretty much summed them up. I really regret that. This book shows the complexity of Harriet Tubman’s identity and the vastness of her heroism. So beautiful!
Coy is so good at knowing when to start and end a story. I’m telling you; I can’t believe how focused this book is! The spare storytelling gets right to the point, and I can bet it was hard. The backmatter reveals that James Naismith, Coy’s subject, led a very interesting life! I reread this book a lot to remind myself to stick to the story.
I was lucky enough to take a picture book writing class from author Lisa Bullard at the Loft Literary Center when I was getting started. Lisa is an awesome teacher. If you want to learn about writing for children and you can get into one of her courses, do it!
- What inspired you to start writing? What is your favorite place to go for inspiration and/or your favorite place to write?
My preschoolers at the YWCA Children’s Center and Head Start inspired me to write. They were obsessed with superheroes. I wanted to share developmentally appropriate biographies about real-life heroes that reflected our diversity. When I couldn’t find books to share, I decided to write them!
- When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I do a LOT of bookmaking with my Kindergartener. By bookmaking, I mean we fold up massive amounts of paper and draw out strange stories full of monsters and butts and whatever else he can think up. I’m a terrible artist, but it’s fun to sit with someone, doodle, swap ideas, and sometimes swap whatever we’re working on.
- Favorite place to go to in Minnesota?
My son and I love getting outside where we can be loud, fast, and messy. We could squander a whole day tossing rocks into Minnehaha Creek. We spend as many summer afternoons as possible sitting by Lake Harriet, eating hamburgers, and listening to kid’s audiobooks.
- Where can readers find you online?