One Writer’s Journey

March 1, 2018

Hidden Heroes: Hidden Human Computers Will Be Performed as a Play

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:39 am
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Hidden Human Computers, written by myself and Duchess Harris, is going to be performed by Stages Theatre as the play Hidden Heroes: The Black Women of NASA.  This children’s theater is located in Hopkins, MN. They will create the adaptation and perform it in April and May 2019.  What an honor!

Although I’ve written and sold one piece of reader’s theater about Gertrude Ederle, I’ve never had anyone else create anything to be performed on stage based on my work. It’s more than a little surreal.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with reader’s theater, these are not pieces that will be performed.  They are written to be read in the classroom.

This means that stage directions must be kept to a minimum.  You also have to create a fluid cast of characters.  In addition to the major characters, you need a body of characters that offer parts for both girls and boys.  There have to be enough parts so that everyone in the class has the opportunity to read.  But many of the parts should be small. That way if it is a small class, a handful of students can divide the parts without anyone being overwhelmed.

One way to make your cast of characters flexible is to create multiple narrators.  In a large class, three different students read the parts of three narrators.  In a small class, one student can read all three parts.

Reader’s theater also has to make sense without the “actors” actually moving around the stage.  This means that the dialogue has to describe the actions and events sufficiently to create a complete picture but not so much so that they slow everything down.

Playing the story out on stage changes the dynamic yet again.  You now have a setting so you don’t have to have a narrator announce “back in the lab.” I would really like to see a classroom adaptation and a theater adaptation just so that I can see how the two compare.

I have to admit, now I’m wondering what parts of Hidden Human Computers will be adapted.  I know which stories I would select!




October 16, 2017

Hidden Human Computers Nominated!

It has been completely sureal.  Friday I was working my fanny to a frazel, editing the last two chapters of a new Abdo title because I had a deadline to meet.

Then I see a tweet from my publisher:

The book I co-authored with Duchess Harris has been nominated to be on the Amelia Bloomer List for 2017.  This list of feminist literature comes out annually and targets readers up to 18 years-old.  These are the criteria for a book to be nominated:

1. Significant feminist content
2. Excellence in writing
3. Appealing format
4. Age appropriateness for young readers

You can see the full list of questions to ask yourself before nominating a book here.  The list is extremely detailed and the book would not have been nominated without the excellent book design for which I claim no credit.  But seriously?  Can I just say that I’m a little bit excited?  Excellent and appealing!

So often we put a book out there and then we wait.  Very few books, compared to the many published, get any recognition at all.  This?  This is truly amazing.

And I am so, so grateful.


February 9, 2017

Author Copies! and Getting Paid

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:04 am
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authorcopiesI’ve been checking the porch for my author copies for days.  Of course, the authors copies of The Zika Virus and Hidden Human Computers arrive while I’m on the rowing machine so please forgive my snazzy outfit.

My husband brought the box in and put it on the bed.  I walked past it on my way to the Little Author’s room.  “What is that?”

“A box?”

A box.  With a great big, bright green Abdo sticker.  I must like him pretty much though because I gave him the bubble wrap.


Some publishers, most often magazines, pay only in author copies.  Um…no. I can’t pay the electric bill with copies.

When you are researching potential publishers, make those that pay your top priority.  Also pay attention to when you will be paid.  Here are some of the terms that you might run across.

In Copies or In Copies Only:  These are the ones that pay you copies vs actual, spendable money.

Work-for-Hire:  This means that the publisher will hold the copyright and, most often, you will not get royalties.

Royalties:  This is a percentage of sales that go to the author.

Advance:  If you are being paid royalties, look for a publisher that pays an advance.  That means that you get part of your royalties up front.  Yes, you have to earn enough to surpass this before you get another check but you get it now vs later.

On acceptance:  This means that you get paid when the publisher accepts the manuscript. This is how Abdo pays.

On publication:  This means you get paid when it comes out.  That’s how Highlights pays.

Hmm.  That’s all I can think of right now.  Ask me about anything that I’ve missed and I’ll add it to the list.  Or you can add it in the comments below.


January 19, 2017

Hidden Human Computers vs Hidden Figures

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 12:33 am
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Hidden Human computersIt is so surreal to have a book out about the same thing as a major motion picture.  I just had someone e-mail me a question about one of the women in the movie.

She asked:

Just saw Hidden Figures which I LOVED.  Wondering what Mary Jackson could do that the white men in the same office couldn’t do?  Was she a genius at looking outside the box with math?  She must have had something special for her to be invited into those top circles already filled by talented men that they couldn’t do. What was that?

Hmm.  Give birth?

Okay, that’s the smarty pants answer.  And truly it was the one I was most comfortable giving for two reasons.

  1.  This is largely a matter of opinion.  I’m a whole lot more comfortable with fact.
  2. I haven’t seen the movie.

But after thinking about it a while I was able to cook up an answer for her.  Here is my response:

“I haven’t managed to see the movie yet so I’m not sure how they handled this.

But the men didn’t do the math.  They were engineers.  They came up with problems.  They tested the problems and generated results.  And the female computers crunched the numbers.  

“Many of the women who climbed the ranks did so with male advocates.  I know that Jackson’s mentor was her boss and I think, I’d have to pull out my notes, that he was male.  A bit part of moving up was know what classes to take and what to do to make your qualifications more appealing.  Jackson was especially good at telling what might be holding someone back and went on to mentor her coworkers and act as the affirmative action program manager.  She was a serious go-getter.”
Phew.  That was a tough one.  And now I’m wondering if any other authors get letters like this?

January 11, 2017

STEM: Writing about the space race, math and science

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:40 am
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Hidden Human computersAs happy as I am about the reception that Hidden Human Computers is getting, some of the comments on social media about our book and the movie Hidden Figures have brought me up short.  It isn’t that they are critical but some of them certainly clarify why books written on STEM topics are so essential and why is it so important that these topics be covered in mainstream media.

“Could Hidden Figures make math cool?”

Math doesn’t need to become cool, sugar.  Math is already cool.

When Duchess and I set out to write this book, we wanted to tell the story of her grandmother who was among the first black computers NASA hired at Langley.  Duchess grew up hearing about her grandmother.  Wasn’t that just the kind of job that a grandmother might have if she was mathematically inclined?

For my part, I grew up with a tech-savvy dad who also happened to be a teacher.  When he was a kid he told everyone who would listen that he wanted to be George Washington Carver.  No, he didn’t pick a prominent white scientist as a model.  He picked the most awesome scientist who could name.  The fact that Dad was a white kid in small town West Texas telling his teachers that he wanted to be a black scientist didn’t seem to faze anyone. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, Dad took a correspondence course and built a television.  I was his willing and able assistant, laying out all the resistors and diodes and other bits and pieces.

As adults, Duchess and I realized that not all girls had been encouraged to pursue math and science.  When we wrote this book, we worked hard to make it clear that girls have done math and science for years and years.  They did it.  Our readers can do it too.

And when cool people like Duchess grandmother do math?  It’s cool of course.  Nothing has to change but people’s attitudes.





January 10, 2017

We’re Number 1! Hidden Human Computers #1 at Amazon


While everyone in North American seemed to be watching (and posting about) the Golden Globes, I got a message from my co-author Duchess Harris.  “Check out the reviews on Amazon!”

Our book Hidden Human Computers was Amazon’s #1 New Release in Teen Air and Space Science Books. Woot! You better believe that Duchess and I did a happy dance!

For those of you who aren’t family with the book, it is about the African American women who helped send the US into space. Duchess and I wrote this book because her grandmother was one of the original black women computers hired by NASA. We were lucky to have such amazing women who had a great story to tell.

So far we have two reviews and they are both fantastic.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that negative reviews won’t come our way but tonight we are dancing and singing.



December 16, 2016

Hidden Human Computers Launched Yesterday

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:59 am
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Hidden Human computersMerry Christmas, Sue and Duchess!   Abdo gave us the best Christmas gift ever — our book Hidden Human Computers: The Black Women of NASA launched yesterday.

Our book is features the three women in Margot Shetterly’s Hidden Figures but it tells about other women as well, including Duchess’ grandmother Miriam Harris Mann.  That’s why Duchess wanted to write the book — she wanted to tell the story of all of the women.  And she wanted to tell it for young readers in a way that anchored it into the larger history.

This larger history is vitally important but also too little understood.  Most people get that these women faced discrimination because they were black.  But they also faced discrimination because they were women.  It seems like a no brainer but I was amazed to realize that no one had studied these women.  Research on black NASA scientists focused on male engineers.  Research on women at NASA focused on women computers but sidelined the black women.  In fact, the only place they got equal time was an unpublished manuscript in the NASA library.

In a time when people need to be inspired, this is a story that needed to be told.  What an honor to get to work on it.  Merry Christmas to me!


August 26, 2016

Hidden Human Computers

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:24 am
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Hidden Human computersIt is always a great feeling when readers connect with your work.  But it is an even more heady experience when it happens before the book is officially out.  Early reviews of Hidden Human Computers, scheduled for release in early 2017, have this to say.

“How often do you see the diagram of a Jim Crow segregated dining room arrangement, in a book about Space and Math? How often do you read a book that discusses Civil Rights  and Halley’s Comet; the history of Black Colleges and the history of Human Computing; the evolution of aircraftand the evolution of government hiring policies?  How often do educators have one tool that teaches Science, Math, Social Studies and English — with a Black and female lens?” (Annie Winkler-Morey, The Minneapolis Project.)

“It’s told in a way that accepts its readers as smart and capable individuals while also telling a captivating story. At the same time, it doesn’t shame its readers for not knowing the information previously. Harris and Edwards, instead, are pleased and proud to be able to tell the stories of these important women. I very much appreciated the balance in the storytelling.” (Young Minds Need Stories.)

“Thanks to Hidden Human Computers, an emerging generation of thinkers will be able to have an ancestral relationship to the contemporary understanding of the universe. Black women, our literal and imaginary ancestors, were crucial to contemporary space travel, observation and astro-physics.” (The Feminist Wire.)

I am, to put it mildly, just a little jazzed.  Fingers crossed that the book is just as well received by our intended audience of young readers!



isn’t coming out but it is already bringing in positive reviews

(find all three)

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