Allison's Book Bag

From Art to Teaching to A Writing Career

Posted on: February 3, 2016

The author of poetry, picture books, novels, and nonfiction for young people, Susan Campbell Bartoletti didn’t know that she’d grow up to be a writer. Bartoletti grew up liking books, stories, and art. The latter she majored in, but then switched to a teaching career which she pursued for eighteen years. How then did become the award-winning author she is today?

SusanBartolettiBorn in Pennsylvania, Bartoletti’s life started with early tragedy. She lost her dad only two months after her birth. However, after kindergarten, her mom remarried. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, Bartoletii not only wrote and drew, but she also explored nature, rode horses, and raised a variety of animals.

In school, Bartoletti most liked her art classes. So much so that she elected to study art in college. Yet Bartoletti also liked to read. When in 7th grade, Bartoletti writes in her Biography, the middle school librarian told her, “You have read the library out.” In college, Bartoletti also filled her schedule with literature classes. In middle school, she also discovered a passion to write. Bartoletti made such progress in writing that she became the editor of her school newspaper by eighth grade.  She took creative writing classes for the first time in college, as well as interned at a local newspaper. But art remained her focus. She switched to creative writing only after realizing the harsh competition on the drawing field and receiving praise from her creative writing professor. She then decided to major in English and Secondary Education instead.

All of these things changed Bartoletti’s mind on what she wanted to be and yet a writing career would still be years down the road. In her sophomore year, Bartoletti married her husband, a history teacher. Within days of her graduation, Bartoletti was offered a job teaching eighth grade English, which she accepted.

When Bartoletti accepted, she thought that teaching was going to be a short term job. It turns out, she was wrong. For the next eighteen years, she taught eighth grade. “It seems funny now,” Bartoletti tells Scholastic, “I never intended to teach, but kids are easy to get hooked on—even junior high kids.”

Bartoletti’s students wrote poems, stories, and essays. They researched, wrote, and illustrated their own nonfiction picture books. And, as her students grew as writers, they inspired Bartoletti. She joined a writer’s group and got serious about her own writing. At her Biography, Bartoletti credits her students with “… helping me find my voice and my audience—and lighting a passionate desire that would lead me to writing books for young readers.”

In 1989 she sold her first short story in 1989, followed by her first picture book in 1992. For the next several years, she got up at 4 a.m., in order to have time to work on her writing before she left for school. By 1997, Bartoletti was achieving success as a writer. She had published short stories, picture books, and her first nonfiction book, along with having a novel and another nonfiction book under contract. Scholastic quotes Bartoletti, “I knew the time had come for a difficult decision: either teach full-time or write full-time. I already had one career that I loved – teaching. Was it time for another? Could I make it as a full-time writer?”

“Leap and the net will appear,” her friend told her.

And so Bartoletti did.

Today Bartoletti resides in Pennsylvania with her husband and their pets. The couple have two grown children. Bartoletti also writes, teaches writing classes for Master of Arts programs at various universities, and leads workshops offered through the Highlights Foundation. Her work has received dozens of awards and honors.

You can read a fun biography of her from a student at: Nonfiction Author Studies

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