One Writer’s Journey

November 8, 2017

Read Beyond Your Comfort Zone

If you heard someone yelling like a lunatic on Monday – that was me.  But it’s okay cause I was celebrating.

Monday I found out that Black Lives Matter was part of a radio broadcast on Minnesotta Public Radio.  Kerri Miller did a segment titled Read Beyond Your Comfort Zone.  She opened by discussing the work of Gene Luen Yang, LOC’s Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, who encourages children and teens to read beyond their comfort zone.

Miller feels this advice is just as solid for adults and invited a panel of guests to discuss relevant books.  They were Anitra Budd, a writer and visiting assistant professor at Macalester College; Sarah Park Dahlen, an associate professor of library and information science at Saint Catherine University; and Matt Keliher, manager at Subtext Bookstore in downtown St. Paul.

Here is a complete lists of the books discussed and recommended.  First, it cracked me up that children’s book were included although the host was directing this towards adults.  Then I looked at the list. I’m overwhelmed and humbled. Check out this list.

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino

We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards and Duchess Harris

Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

The Brother by Rein Raud

Four Reincarnations by Max Ritvo

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz; audiobook narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita

Truthfully? I am well and truly astonished that a book I worked on is on a list with Sharon Creech, Kwame Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Angie Thomas.  I still can’t wrap my brain around it.  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe?  Every time I look at the list, I get swoony all over again.




September 28, 2017

Why I Write What I Write

Why do I write what I write?  The answer varies according to what my focus is at the moment. I’ve written for the horse loving kid I once was.  I written for the young reader who just wants to find a great book.  I’ve also written for the kid who loves to work with their hands.

Right now?  My focus is on writing for young readers who want to know the world.  They want to know what is vs what they have been told.  They suspect something in that “common knowledge” may be a bit off and they want to know fact.

It’s why I write about race and about science.  As a society we are spectacularly clueless about both. Ironically enough, my current project has more to do with science than race but my recent reality check came from the world of racism.

The other night, I tried to explain to someone that I really do know a little something about the Kaepernick situation, the protest, the racism in the National anthem, etc.  Really.  I’ve researched it.  I’ve written about it.  My first two books on race have gotten really good reviews.  The third one has only been out for a few weeks.

“Well what’s the name of your book?”

I was going to tel him the names of all three books.  I got as far as Black Lives Matter.


The fireworks were glorious.  Let’s just say he has blocked me because we “have no common ground.” He turned off notifications.

cricket  cricket  cricket

The ignorance, fear and narrow-mindedness that led to that reaction?  Yeah, that’s why I write what I write.  Kids need books that present them with facts about topics the adults in their lives are afraid to discuss.  Apparently, I’m the aunt that appalls those adults.

Or, as my son explained to one of his professors the next day – “What does my mom do?  She writes socially incendiary books for teens.”

And the best news?  This whole argument about the NFL and the flag has given me an idea for another book.  I’m still noodling it over and I’ll be diving back into the constitution and may have to interview vets.  Still, I’m sure it will be offensive to many.  I seem to have a knack.


September 5, 2017

Book Spotting: Letting a Fellow Author Know You’ve Seen Her Book

Photo by Susan Ahearn

Last week I spent some time walking on air.  One of my students “sighted” Black Lives Matter at her local library and sent me a photo.  It’s great to know that my book is a part of special displays and librarians are working to put it in young reader’s hands.

Given how great this made me feel, I’m going to make a point to do this for other writers.  I’ll be taking photos of books and audio books at my local library.  We now have separate floors for adults and children but I spotted some of the children’s books upstairs in a “Check Me Out” display put together by the librarians.  Given that our phones double as cameras, this is going to be super easy to do.

But I’m also going to post book covers on Twitter whenever I check something out.  My planned tweet will be something like “Thanks to @SLCL for stocking books by Missouri authors! Checked out and on top of my TBR pile.”  Why tag my library system?  Because books that don’t circulate enough get remaindered.  With libraries serving so many functions they no longer have the space to act as long-term storage for books that may circulate once a year or so.  Checking it out helps but so does letting other readers know I’m excited about the book and where I got it.

I recently read an article that discussed the fact that millennial may well be the salvation of our library systems.  They are used to having free access to media online.  But they’ve also discovered that they can’t find everything they want online so they are turning to another free source of media – the public library.

Why not help get the word out about the great authors I know and the great books I am reading.  Thank you to Susan Ahearn who sparked this.  Check out my twitter feed (@SueBEdwardslater today to see what book/Missouri author I tweet.


July 12, 2016

#BlackLivesMatter Booklist

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:12 am
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It isn’t surprising when libraries and librarians stride forward to help teens cope as they try to find their place in today’s world.  That said, it is 000 How It Went Downsurprising when you see your own book on one of these lists.  Chelsea Couillard-Smith, a librarian in Minnesota’s Hennipin County Library, created a #BlackLivesMatter book list.  Duchess messaged me Monday to let me know – our book, Black Lives Matter, is on the list.  While I’m glad our book is being put out there for young readers to find, I do wish the need for books on this topic was much, much less.

000 All American BoysSome of the books I’ve read but others are entirely new to me.  Still, do I have to say that I’m walking on air to see my book rubbing shoulders with a book by Water Dean Myers?

Check out this amazing book list.  My own library list has grown by several titles as I seek out the ones that I didn’t already know.

000 Monster
How It Went Down
by Kekla Magoon (Henry Holt). 
A 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book about the shooting of a young black man by a white assailant. This is the story that the victim’s friends, family and community tell of “how it went down.”

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely (Atheneum). A 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book, and recipient of the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature.  When a young black shopper at the local bodega is assaulted by a violent cop.  The story is told in alternating points of view between the victim and a young white witness.

000 Wreath for Emmett TillMonster by Walter Dean Myers (Amistad). This New York Times bestselling novel and National Book Award nominee about how one decision can change a young man’s entire life.

000 Troubled the WatersA Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson (HMH).  A Coretta Scott King and Printz honor book, this collection of sonnets about the murder and lynching of Emmett Hill in 1955.  His crime?  He may have whistled at a white woman.

We Troubled the Waters: Poems by Ntozake Shange, illus. by Rod Brown (Amistad).  
A collection of poems about the Civil Rights movement’s well-known figures and everyday folks.

000 Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards with Duchess Harris (ABDO).
A nonficiton book about recent high-profile cases of police brutality and racial profiling.  Includes historical context and a wide range of viewpoints.

000 Claudette Colvin

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose (Farar, Straus and Giroux). 
Claudette Colvin
is the National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature, a Newbery Honor Book, A YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist, and a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book. Examines the role she played in helping to integrate Montgomery’s bus system during the Civil Rights Movement.

Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case by Chris Crowe (Dial).  Another book about the murder of Till. Emphasis on primary sources.

000 Getting Away With MurderNo Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin (Henry Holt). 
A nonfiction book about teens on death row. Includes the words of their families, victims, and those involved in their cases.

March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illus. by Nate Powell (Top Shelf). A graphic novel memoir for teens and adults that begins with the story of Congressman John Lewis who stood on the front lines of the Civil Rights 000 No ChoirboyMovement as a teenager.

A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota edited by Sun Yung Shin (Minnesota Historical Society Press). 

A collection of essays written by authors, educators, and artists.  Discuss the author’s experiences as someone who is “other” 000 Marchin Minnesota, and the current state of race in an increasingly diverse Midwestern landscape. Written for adults.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates (Speigel and Grau). Naitonal Book Award Winner, NAACP Image Award Winner, Pulitzer Prize Finalist. The author’s letter to his son highlights about the history of brutality against Black bodies in the United States. Reveals 000 Racethe hopes and fears this father had his child.

000 BetweenI have to say, I still can’t believe that I’m among such lofty companions!


May 18, 2016

SCBWI Summer Reading List

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:49 am
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On a wet rainy day is Missouri (I’m writing this on Tuesday), I am almost literally walking on sunshine.  Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards and Duchess Harris is on page 48 of the SCBWI Summer Reading List.  Woo-hoo!

A resource for libraries, teachers and bookstores, this is a listing of books published by SCBWI authors.  “The Reading List Program includes books of all genres from our PAL authors and illustrators, both front list and backlist titles. This is an opportunity to find that book that a kid or teen will enjoy and can  engage with the fun and adventure of reading. Authors and illustrators from close to your hometown to those around the world are featured on the List. The Lists will be published bi-annually this year in the Summer and Winter.”

Interested parties can download the list by region (look below the yellow cover for the list) or in its entirity by clicking on the title, “Download the Summer Reading List.”

The lists are organized by region, Missouri is part of the Mid-South, and within that region by grade level.  Take a look and find some great books to read this summer.



March 14, 2016

Guess what came in the mail?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:34 am
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trench warfare and black livesFriday, I got a package in the mail from Abdo — yay me!   Black Lives Matter came out in November of 2015.  I’m not sure why this one took so long to arrive since Abdo has always been pretty prompt before now.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it is on its 3rd printing.  So glad that they are getting this into so many young reader’s hands.

Trench Warfare has been out since January.  Frankly, I was a little apprehensive about this one in terms of the art work.  So many of the images that I saw while researching this were incredibly gruesome.  Let’s just say that there were a lot of rats in and around the trenches.  Ugh.

One of the things that you should consider before working with a publisher is whether or not you like their book design. The fact is that some publishers do much better than others.  Abdo’s books are consistently gorgeous but that isn’t to say that they all look alike.  Black Lives Matter actually manages to look angry which is fitting for a book on the contemporary civil right movement.

Have I ever decided not to submit to a publisher based on their book design?  Maybe I’m fickle but the answer is yes.  I checked out the books from one newer publisher and discovered that they illustrations were often badly placed on the page and out of focus.  Other deal breakers for me would be lack of white space, a hard to read font, or a design that is too busy.

What design elements would make you look for another publisher?


January 18, 2016

Martin Luther King Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 5:10 pm
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Black Lives MatterFirst things first, my apologies for not getting this up last night.  I was just heading to bed when I realized I didn’t have everything ready to go.  My apologies.

This time last year, I had just finished working on Black Lives Matter.  I had turned in the full manuscript and done the rewrites under the advice of Duchess Harris.  As the topic expert, Duchess read through the manuscript and pointed out places that I needed to add more information.  More often than not, her expansions involved how the experiences of black women differed from those of black men.

That makes sense but Duchess also pointed out that the experiences of black women are often ignored when we write about Civil Rights and black history.  I saw this for myself as Duchess and I started work on our next project.  It involves NASA and black women in the 1940s through the 1970s.

First I read about the black experience at NASA.  The author wrote about black men.  Okay.  Feminist writers would surely set the record straight.

So next I read about women at NASA.  I read about the jobs that the women Duchess and I are writing about actually did.  There is one, One, ONE piece that discusses the black women.  It doesn’t discuss them exclusively but they are a part of the manuscript.  Get that — manuscript. It is an unpublished scholarly paper.  The published works addressed what white women doing the same jobs had done. It completely ignored the black women.

Duchess and I are working to correct that oversight.  Our goal is to have a marketable manuscript by summer.  Until then, I’ll be reading and looking for the blank spots that other researchers have left unfilled.



November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy ThanksgivingFor those of you who are in the US like I am, today is Thanksgiving Day.

We’re always warned not to make assumptions during the holidays.  Don’t assume that everyone has a loving family to spend time with.  Don’t assume that everyone enjoys this time of year.

I understand that but I’m still going to make an assumption.  I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this that you are a writer or are interested in writing.  I’d like to encourage you to spend a few moments in contemplation and consider this — what are you thankful for in the writing realm?

I am thankful that I make my living as a writer.  Yes, part of this is due to hard work on my part, but not all of it.  There are a lot of hard working writers who don’t have a supportive spouse.  I am thankful that I have a spouse who supports this way of life even if he doesn’t always “get it.”

I am thankful for my co-author Duchess Harriss.  Whenever I write a book for Red Line, they bring in an expert to evaluate my work.  Not surprisingly, someone with a greater depth of knowledge then I posess always comes up with something that needs to be changed.  Duchess is a step beyond this.  She took ownership of the book in a way that none of the other experts have done and immediately saw what it could be.  Thank you to Duchess for helping Black Lives Matter be that book, definitely a step above and beyond the book I had created on my own.

Last but not least, I am thankful for the online writing community.  When I started writing, I was one woman sitting in her kitchen with an electric typewriter or working on the PC in my spare bedroom.  I hadn’t gotten involved in the internet to any great extent and blogging wasn’t a thing.  Now I’m part of a vibrant, giving community.  I’d like to thank all of you for that.

I definitely have plenty of reasons to be thankful.  I hope that you do too.



August 31, 2015

FOX News: Black Lives Matter and how to deal with bad reviews

Black Lives MatterThis past week has been interesting.  I mean interesting in that midwestern sense — I don’t want to say anything mean so I’ll just say “interesting.”

It started last Sunday when a message popped up on my Facebook author page.  I don’t remember the exact working but apparently I am racist and “he” is right about me and my book (the poster has since deleted the message).  What the heck?  Who accuses you of being racist when you’ve written a book about the Ancient Maya?  Or Pearl Harbor?  I don’t have a copy of that yet but maybe . . . Slowly it dawned.  Black Lives Matter.  Sure, I expected a stink about this book, but I didn’t expect much to happen two months before the book came out.

Somehow FOX news and Larry Elder discovered my book.  The only facts they got right were the name of the book and the authors, myself and Duchess Harris.  What do you expect? They haven’t seen the book.  Thanks to FOX news, nasty comments popped up on Facebook and the book has 6 pages of nasty Google results.

In the past week, I’ve learned a few things about how to deal with negative reviews/news articles.  Hopefully you won’t need this advice, but here it is.

  1.  Do NOT respond.  This is tough when they’re making things up.  But don’t engage.  Don’t sarcastically thank them for sharing their opinion.  Don’t point out their factual errors.  As my friends have pointed out, haters gonna hate.  Let. It. Go.
  2. Stop reading .  It’s going to be tough because you want to know what people are saying about you.  DO NOT read this trash.  Do a Google search and look for positive stories to read.  How can you tell which ones are positive?  The search results don’t include words like “indoctrinate” or “fancy pants.”  Admittedly, I haven’t quite figured out the last one.
  3. No comments.  Don’t read the comments either.  You will not learn anything beyond how badly hateful people spell.
  4. Proceed with caution.  After this all started, several people contacted Duchess and I wanting interviews.  The temptation it to defend yourself and your book.  Check out each would-be interviewer.  Duchess and I talked to a few people and the facts about our book are making their way out into the world; see one article here.
  5. Be patient.  In about four days, it all more or less blew over.  I don’t know whether stirring things up myself would have made it last longer, but I would have been a lot more miserable for the duration.

Whether your hater is a reporter or a book reviewer, you aren’t going to win any wars if you engage.  Instead, work on your next book.  Duchess and I are doing the research and debating titles for our next joint effort.  More about that soon.


June 4, 2015

Bias: Writing about tough topics

Last week I read a post about author Matt de la Pena.  Apparently his Tweet, “Something I can’t ignore: Tomorrow’s #teenlitcon in Minn will be 95% white. The juvenile detention centers I just visited were 95% brown” got quite a bit of notice.  It was tweeted and retweeted and went wild.

As a population, we writers for children and teens tend to be lightly pigmented.  Yet we are called upon to create literature for a diverse audience.

Recently, I finished the second rewrite of Black Lives Matter for Redline Editorial.  This was not a topic I would have chosen.  It simply hits too close to home.  No, I’m not black but I live just outside of Ferguson.  Our school district cancelled classes for two full weeks because of the riots.  Let’s just say that I was a woman with firm opinions.

My academic background is history and anthropology.  In anthropology we learned that it is really hard to study your own culture because you are simply too close to it.  You have biases that you aren’t even aware of.  I accepted the assignment anyway because I knew this was an important issue and I hoped I would learn something.

Among the things I learned was just how essential this book is because our society is highly polarized.  This was brought home to me when I would tell people I had this assignment.  I can’t even tell you how often I was asked — you aren’t publishing this under your real name, are you?  The person asking the question was always white and always worried that some scary black person would come hurt my family.

As frustrated as I was, I still wasn’t certain that I had managed to put my biases aside to create a solid work until I got to do this last rewrite. The academic who reviewed my manuscript is an American Studies department chairman with books on the topic.  Yes, she had things for me to add but she also told my editor that she was proud to be associated with the book.  Then she connected with me on Linked In.

That was when I knew that I had pulled it off.  It isn’t easy to write about a topic that hits close to home and it may take you more than one try, but it can also be well worth the effort.



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