Many of us INK writers have a passion for biography. We thought it might be fun to have an open dialogue about cool biographies for kids--the how and why of who we choose to write about, how we discover the voice we need for any given topic, and what angle, perspective, or format we decide upon when embarking on a new biography. I've been asked to start, but we'll be open for discussion for a full hour, live, until 1 pm EST, so please jump in with any questions or comments you like to either expand on something we say, or take the conversation in a new, related direction.
This past November, I wrote an article for SLJ about picture book biographies and looked at several fantastic books by authors I inferred were extremely passionate about their subjects. For me, passion is a necessary ingredient. But what other factors inform a writer’s decision-making process? A small gem of information or an interesting angle often piques my interest, or a person who I know to be extraordinary but who seems to have escaped getting his or her fair share of attention for whatever reason. For example, and I admit the evidence for this is purely anecdotal--if you ask a random person who Elizabeth Cady Stanton is, chances are you will get a slightly embarrassed, incomplete response. But they will most certainly know who Susan B. Anthony is from her famous portrait on her coin. This has always irked me. No disrespect intended to Ms. Anthony who was extremely important, but without Stanton, Anthony would likely not have blossomed into the full mover and shaker she became. Stanton was the force behind the first Seneca Falls convention; Stanton was the first one to act on the idea that women should have the right to vote. My disappointment with her seeming lack of notoriety sparked the inspiration that became Elizabeth Leads the Way. This same sense of exasperation fueled my desire to write about the so-called Mercury 13 women who took all the same astronaut testing as our original Mercury 7 astronauts, but NASA would not admit women into the space program. Yet even self-proclaimed space buffs are often amazed that they have never heard of these pioneering women. With any luck, my forthcoming Almost Astronauts book will help change that.
And now, let the conversation begin! As a reader, what do you think of these approaches? As a writer? What other burning questions do you have? What do YOU want to talk about?