Tales of my NF PB Biography

Where to Start?

A month ago I was challenged to tackle writing a nonfiction picture book. A biography, specifically. My friend told me to brainstorm topics that interest me and start my research there.

But I quickly became stuck! I am passionate about Christ, my family, leadership, friends and writing. None of those seemed to be exciting enough for a children’s book. What would excite kids in lower elementary school?

Heroes.

That does not mean sports heroes to me. (YAWN) I was thinking unsung heroes. Ordinary people who did extraordinary things. The stuff movies are made of.

So, I Googled “unsung women heroes” and went from there. Hey, “women” is a hot topic in children’s lit right now.

I read snippets and got ideas. Then those Google breadcrumbs showed up. One search led to another to another. Then I found it! Science. Scientists. Women scientists. Award-winning women scientists.

I smiled as it dawned me how much I enjoy research. Reading and learning new factoids about people, inventions, accomplishments.

I was in the research-zone!

When I was administrator of a Christian school, I told parents of prospective students that we “want to turn your child into a life-long learner.” I had forgotten that I am one of those.

I love to learn. About stuff of no real import even. I just love to learn new skills and information for the fun of learning it!

That’s one of the reasons I love to write. I read, I learn, I get enthused, I process, I reformat and share what I’ve learned with others. I write.

Anyway…

I’m glad my friend challenged me. I chose an ordinary person who did great things and started digging. For my Shelter-in-Place research I used:

            Google

            Wikipedia (for a place to start)

            My public library’s “Research Tools” for magazine articles, encyclopedia entries,                                      professional journals, historic documents, government publications, etc.

            A book or two I ordered online

            You Tube – you will be surprised at how many documentaries are archived there.

Next, since I can’t check out books at my library, and I can’t afford to buy a stack of picture books, I headed for an online bookstore. There I read as much as I could about and inside other picture book biographies—about 25 of them. Now I had a feel for the format and wordcount.

Then I used this sponge-like brain God gave me to absorb all the information about my character that I could. Especially anything related to her childhood.

See, to create a picture book I must find a hook, a doorway, into a child’s world. Or my book will read like an encyclopedia. Not fun! So, I focused on smidgens of facts I found about her family, her home, her childhood.

Then, it was time to set my imagination free to create a fact-filled, but fun story.

I really don’t know how good of a job I’ve done with my first draft. I like it. Of course, I do. I wrote it! We’ll see after it goes through a few critiques.

But I really enjoyed the process.

Try your hand at nonfiction. Maybe you’ll spark the life-long learner in you, too.

2 Comments on “Tales of my NF PB Biography

  1. Thanks Jean,
    I love writing non-fiction bios and would one day hope to become published. I think that sometimes people forget the power of Wikipedia and references provided by authors there. I am one who forget s the power of YouTube! Authors reminding authors. What a wonderful thing! Thank you.

    • You are welcomed!

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