From the age of five, Sue Ganz-Schmitt dreamed about writing children’s books. “It was what I always wanted to do,” Sue’s life took her in different directions. She has served as a NASA Social Media correspondent, is a volunteer for The Planetary Society, and a space advocate representing the Space Exploration Alliance to Congress, and has been a musical theater producer and once performed in RENT on Broadway. Her dream of writing, however, was deferred until she had children of her own.
Her first books evolved out of incidents she experienced with her children in a Topanga Mommy and Me group. They deal gently and sensibly with some of the real world special needs her children encountered in the group.
The Princess and the Peanut is a fable about a girl with a severe food allergy. Even Superheroes Get Diabetes helps demystify the potentially frightening things a child with diabetes faces, including finger pricks, shots, and doctor’s appointments.
Ganz-Schmitt’s first two books were followed by Planet Kindergarten, a picture book that uses space and science to channel the energies of its energetic and imaginative five-year-old hero. It was followed by a sequel, Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit.
After her initial success, Sue hit a wall. “I went to workshops, I kept submitting, but I wasn’t getting anywhere,” she said. She made the decision to quit her job, and with the encouragement and support of her husband, to go back to school for an MBA in creative writing.
“I applied to Vermont College around the time of the 2016 election,” Sue explained. She describes the dichotomy of working on manuscripts for her program in an academic ivory tower that include a residence at a tranquil and historic manor house in Britain, against the background of hate speech, anger and growing intolerance at home.
Both of her new books are a response to that atmosphere of anger and divisiveness. In one, a community of monsters learns to accept an unlikely new neighbor; in the other, a child learns that it is OK to be different and finds friends and acceptance.
Sue says her goal with both books is to help her young readers develop empathy, but the message isn’t heavy handed. Instead, the books present a joyous space that celebrates the imagination. For The Monster on the Block, illustrator Luke Flowers has created a not-too-scary community of classic movie monsters with bright colors offsetting the Halloween vibe.
Now I’m a Bird has a very different feel. Artist Renia Metalinou created joyous images filled with autumn colors to accompany Sue’s story of the girl who finds herself growing feathers.
“I never know where a story is going to end,” Sue said. “It just flows from experience. With I Didn’t Mean to Be a Bird, that experience started with the birds and peacocks on that manor house in Bath, England. “It’s about self acceptance, community acceptance,” she said. “And then, I’m attracted to flying in one form or another.”
Flying is central to the author’s current project: a children’s book on a forgotten female balloonist who lived in France in the 18th century.
Whether she is writing about kindergarteners and outer space, monsters or unicorns, or children who fly, Sue draws support and encouragement from her husband and her two children, and inspiration from the beauty and tranquility of her Topanga home, and the nature outside her window. “I am so lucky, so blessed,” she said.
Learn more about Sue and her books at www.sueganzschmitt.com