Sue Alexander (1933-2008)
Children’s Author and Co-Founder of SCBWI
Author Sue Alexander was a founding member of SCBWI and was instrumental in the formation of the L.A. region. Her clear vision of the need for an organization to support children’s literature made her a vital force in establishing the early structure of SCBWI and growing it into the international society we enjoy today. For 35 years, she mentored writers, illustrators, librarians and teachers – always nurturing, but setting the highest standards for the craft.
Sue wrote more than 25 books. A spinner of tales, she wrote from the heart and from experience. She worked long and hard to create the best stories she could. After years of unsuccessfully submitting stories to children’s magazines, Sue sold her first book in 1973. Published by Scholastic Books, Small Plays for You and a Friend evolved from the simple dramas she created for her own children to act out. Success soon followed with the well-received World Famous Muriel series.
One of her most beloved books, Nadia the Willful, about a Bedouin girl mourning her brother’s death, grew out of Sue’s own grief over the death of her brother and her father’s unwillingness to talk about it. Lila on the Landing recalled her 1940s childhood in Chicago. With the birth of her first grandchild, Megan Elizabeth, Sue found a new source for storytelling and wrote One More Time, Mama. Her last book, Behold the Trees, was published in 2001. In this poetic, historical picture book, Sue captures the significance of trees planted in Israel and how that changed a small, but precious piece of earth.
Students of Sue’s UCLA writing classes remember her as a benevolent yet stern taskmaster. Sue did not waste her time on dilettantes. A writer had to be up to the demands of crafting a good, well-told story, and willing to revise and revise and revise in order to get to the story’s nugget of truth, and to earn Sue’s approval. It was all about story – and not the glory – for Sue. It was also about creating “new readers” in children – a most worthy goal in Sue’s eyes.
Sue was emphatic about “service and commitment.” Each year at L.A.’s Writer’s Day, she took great pride in announcing the name of the recipient of the Sue Alexander Service and Encouragement Award. This award is presented to a volunteer who has given his or her time, energy, and expertise in extraordinary ways on behalf of the region. The service award, as well as the Sue Alexander Grant for writers help Sue’s legacy of encouragement to continue.