How I Wrote It


How did you get the assignment to write "Eddie's Ordeal"?

I wrote Cheryl Willis Hudson, co-founder of Just Us Books, and told her that I had written a picture book manuscript that I believed in. She invited me to send it to her. So I sent her that manuscript and other writing samples. Her daughter Katura, the company's associate editor, contacted me and asked if I wanted to do a writing test for NEATE, one of their chapter book series.

Katura sent me the first three books of the series to get a feel for the characters her father, Wade Hudson, created. (NEATE stands for the initials of each of the friend's names -- Naimah, Elizabeth, Anthony, Tayesha and Eddie.) Then, I wrote a plot outline and two sample chapters. I won an assignment to write book #4 about Martin Edward (Eddie) Delaney.

How did you begin?

I started by trying to picture Eddie and his dad, Floyd. In earlier books, an awkwardness between them had already been established. They were from different generations and never seemed to connect. I decided to focus on that part of their relationship.

What was the experience of writing it like?

Fun, tough, educational.

What was it like to work with Just Us Books?

After going through the editorial process, I feel like I've had a master class in children's book writing. Editors helped me see my manuscript with different eyes. They challenged me to make scenes come to life and compel readers to turn the page. They praised the good parts and worked with me to smooth out the rough ones.

What was your inspiration for the book?

The story line was inspired by Black history. I wanted young people to know how important youth were to the civil rights movement. I thought about those young heroes and sheroes who faced the blasts of fire hoses and daily injustices when I was coming up with the plot for “Eddie’s Ordeal.”

Was your interpretation of the characters based on anyone you know?

When I think about Eddie, I see the faces of young men I’ve met, of my own brothers. Eddie is funny, full of promise. He is a teen coming into his own. When I envision his father, Floyd, I see the older black men I met when I worked in Chicago. They were impeccable dressers, race men who remembered the way things were for Blacks not all that long ago. They led lives of purpose and tried to instill that value in their kids.

Was it difficult to write from the perspective of a boy and his father?

Not tough, but I had to do my homework. I interviewed my husband and guy friends, read up on the civil rights movement. One friend who used to coach middle school basketball gave me invaluable information about the practice regimen and mindset of boys who play ball. Thanks Darren.

Why did you choose the plot about the civil rights movement?

The earlier books did a great job portraying Floyd Delaney's character. Right away, I could see him: He was a civil rights attorney. He believed in achieving and using your talents to benefit the race. His pushing Eddie to be the best reminded me of people who grew up in that era and knew that not so long ago we were seen as inferior.

How has writing the book changed your life?

It has opened the possibilities for me. It's one thing to say you want to write a children's book and quite another to complete one. I now know what it's like and that I can do it.

Are there any parallels between what happens in "Eddie's Ordeal" and your own life?

In a way, there are. Just a couple months after moving to North Carolina, I went on a civil rights bus tour with veterans of the movement, curious adults and children. On the bus, I met kids like Eddie whose lives were changed by hearing stories from the front line and dads like Floyd Delaney, who wished the younger generation understood all of the sacrifices that were made to give them the freedoms they enjoy. I drew on those memories when playing up the tension between Eddie and his dad. I saw them as two people who loved but kept missing each other.

What was the hardest part of writing the book?

The toughest part was being disciplined. I was pregnant while I wrote it and working on a challenging series of feature articles. Making myself sit down and work on the book was hard sometimes.

What was the most gratifying?

The best part was finishing the manuscript and mailing it to Just Us Books. I felt such a sense of accomplishment. I had finally realized a childhood dream: I was an author.

Where did you get the idea for the subplot involving Liz and Jasmine?

The secondary story line came from my experiences as a teen and remembering how petty situations can separate girl friends. Like Liz and Jasmine, I entered talent shows too. I played piano and even sang in a couple of them. I created Jasmine’s background from my husband’s, who was an army brat. Patrick, who attended four different elementary schools, shared with me how hard it was to move to new cities and make real friends.

Where can I get "Eddie's Ordeal" and the rest of the books in the series? Will there be more?

Books in the NEATE series including "Eddie's Ordeal," which is book #4, the first three titles -- "NEATE to the Rescue," "Elizabeth's Secret," and "Anthony's Big Surprise" and book #5, "A Test for Tayesha" are available at select bookstores and websites like JustUsBooks.com and Amazon.com.