Friday, February 29, 2008


Three weeks ago, I blogged about my next picture book project, and how inspired I was about the subject, an ex-slave who went on to do great things. As inspired as I was, however, I was also discouraged. Not much is known about my subject's life, particularly as a child.

Much has happened in three weeks. I began my search on Amazon. I wanted to see if other books had been written about this person. I only found one, and it appeared to be self-published, in 1975. The cost was way out of my budget range — over $150.00. There was no description of the book offered, so I didn't want to make an investment, not knowing if the book included information that I needed, or for that matter, if the book was about the same person I wanted to write about. I decided to shelve this project until later in the year, once my finances were a bit healthier, and when I had more time to invest.

Before shelving this project, I decided to Google the author's name to find out if he was still living. Maybe I could conduct a phone or email interview. Well, long story short, turns out the author of the book was a personal friend of the subject I want to write about. Both men are deceased — remember, my subject was born a slave.

The good news is that the author's son is still living. And he sent me a packet of information that included a photocopy of the book, original newspaper articles written about the subject, photographs and much more! In addition, he said I could hold onto these materials as long as necessary. Needless to say, I was floored that a complete stranger would trust me with these materials. Wow!— the kindness of some people.

I'm ready to begin writing, but I still have a major problem. The materials document the person's life after he found success, but doesn't include much information about the person's life as a child. Apparently, my subject was very private and didn't discuss his childhood. But that should be OK. For Bill's story, the picture book I recently sold, I researched life in general for a child of that part of the country, in that time period.

More research is still needed. But I'm on my way!


INDIGENE said...

Isn't it wonderful that there are still trusting and wonderful folks still in the world! I know that you will bring to life this man's story! I look forward to reading it. What a great commentary on hope for all us authors/illustrators! Have a great weekend!

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Wow! How wonderful! By the way, I don't know if your subject was from Texas, but just in case, the Capitol Visitors Center is hosting "Before Freedom: Texas Slave Narratives," which will include photos, dramatic readings, artifacts, and audio recordings, including "firsthand interviews with former slaves recorded in the 30s and 40s." Through Nov. 2. Free. See

Don Tate II said...

Thanks Cynthia. Though my subject is Floridian, I will definitely check this out.

Cloudscome said...

This sounds fascinating! What a great opportunity to do original research. I can't wait to see the final book.

Rita said...

What an incredible boon. Wonderful, wonderful.