Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome Karen M. Greenwald, an author who writes stellar nonfiction and also co-founded the #SunWriteFun Twitter kidlit contest. Here she is, chatting about her new book A VOTE FOR SUSANNA, illustrated by Sian James and published by Albert Whitman. Check out her journey below…
BUT first- YAY! Karen is generously giving away a free picture book critique. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends March 25, 2022.
Please describe the journey to publication for A VOTE FOR SUSANNA.
I researched for two and a half years. It began with virtual work “at” Kansas State University’s library. The next week when I called back, I found out the library had burned to the ground. Thankfully, nobody was injured. I did wonder to myself if it was a sign?! (It wasn’t!) There were great many hurdles not easily surmounted, but I had a deep desire to tell this story. It was strong enough to push past the challenges and get the information I felt necessary.
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Thanks to my work background, I understood the mechanics of politics—but Susanna Salter’s city election rules were fascinatingly different. I had to tell this story! Although it happened in the Nineteenth Century, the themes and challenges are also contemporary. These include bullying, gender discrimination, party politics, community unity, and the like. Newspaper articles from 1887 eerily felt current, as well. They discussed the physicality of the first woman mayor, her seamstress abilities, even her dishwashing skill. They delved into her motherhood and housekeeping. How disappointing that after 130 plus years, we still read the same types of things about women leaders today. I wanted to shine a light on all of this and get conversations started.
What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
I approach all projects, whether art or writing, the same way. I visualize and map them out first. By the time I start typing, I’ve spent a good amount of time strategizing.
How do you research nonfiction? How did you find primary resources?
I start with a macro view of the topic and then work my way in. The process changes depending on the subject matter—for instance, time period plays a major factor. I like to use primary sources as much as possible. For A VOTE FOR SUSANNA, I was fortunate enough to have copies of personal letters she wrote. It is incredible to learn how someone felt or what they thought by reading their own handwritten words…and cursive is the key—I can’t stress this enough. I won’t get on my soapbox too much, but this is a big concern of mine. If schools don’t teach cursive, how will future generations ever be able to read or understand first person documents? It will leave the presentation and preservation of history up to a small few who do know how to read it.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention? I have a passion for uncovering untold stories. I can’t say anything else at the moment (wink wink!)…
Please share your favorite books from 2021 that have inspired you.
This is like asking me if I prefer chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookies…too hard to answer1 So many have touched my heart—each for a different reason.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Ignore the noise. Ignore the hurdles. Ignore your inbox. Write what you were meant to write.
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
It is a toss-up between an elephant and a penguin. I would choose an elephant because I respect so many of their qualities—they’re loving, kind, protective, family-oriented, and intelligent. Why a penguin? They’re beloved, form bonds with other penguins, and are always fashionably dressed!
Karen M. Greenwald, author of A Vote for Susanna, The First Woman Mayor (Albert Whitman), has won international awards for STEM creative, writing, video, rebranding, and self-promotion. Bylined credits include online, print magazines, and The Washington Post. Recently, Greenwald joined women mayors at two Read Across America (RAA) events where A Vote For Susanna was celebrated. Thanks to a partnership between Mayor Treva Hodges and Ivy Tech Community College (Charlestown, IN), 110 copies of the book were given to students/libraries at four RAA events. School Library Journal and Kirkus gave A Vote For Susanna excellent reviews and A Mighty Girl included it in their “2021 Books of the Year list.” Greenwald and her book have been featured on NBC affiliate’s Good Day, Kansas!, in Bethesda Magazine, at National Women’s History Museum events, and at Wichita’s Kansas Day statewide celebration. Greenwald co-founded #SunWriteFun—a writing contest that raises money for “kidlit” charities. She is a member of SCBWI and 12×12. Before launching her strategic branding boutique, Greenwald worked as an attorney on international environmental compliance issues. She is a double Hoya.
Agent: Liza Fleissig
The book can be purchased on Amazon or the Kansas State Historical Society (and other indies)!
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