Susan’s journey began long before she began writing, but it was her turn as author that helped inspire women and children to find the inventor within. It was through her books that she found another calling as a public speaker.
I recently asked Susan Casey a few questions about who she is, and what inspired her to take this path.
Tell us a little about what you do, Susan.
I write magazine articles for the general public and non-fiction books for middle grade and young adult readers. After the publication of Women Invent! many schools and groups invited me to speak about the topic which prompted a speaking career as well. I’m also a teacher and enjoy interacting with students.
What inspired you to become an author and speaker?
After researching for a magazine article on women inventors I had a lot of material I didn’t use so I realized I might have the start of a book. Since there were books for adults but not for middle grade students, I continued my research and wrote Women Invent! for that audience. What surprised me was that people of all ages took an interest in the topic. I was invited to speak not only at schools and libraries but to community groups and at conferences. The book prompted my work as a speaker.
What are some of the books you’ve published?
Tell us a little about Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors.
Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors is unique among invention books because it doesn’t just include a few tips and a few stories of young inventors. It includes stories of over 50 young inventors with details steps about how each of the inventors thought of the idea or made a model, or prepared for a contest, got a patent, or had their invention manufactured or licensed. It combines their personal stories with information so it’s not your usual guidebook. It’s more fun. And has many more details than other invention books.
For example, I included the story of Chris Haas who at age 9 came up with the idea of putting hand prints on a basketball, and trademarked it Hands-On Basketball®. Kids who don’t know how to hold a basketball can use his basketball to help them hold the ball correctly to shoot a basket. Chris and his father licensed the idea and the trademark Hands-On Basketball to a company. Chris is now in his 20s now and the basketball is still selling. The profits paid for his college education and that of his brother and sister. And Chris contributes to a lot of charities.
What separates you from the competition?
When I speak to school groups or to kids at libraries, I not only talk about my books but also involve my audiences in the inventing process. They become involved in the topic of the book. I think that’s an added element to a book talk/author visit. I demonstrate inventions by young inventors and show videos of them as I talk about what is involved in writing a non-fiction book and students become inspired to invent.
I am working on a book for teachers about teaching invention to youngsters. I’d like to finish it. Some teachers I know are helping me test the materials but I’m open to working with other teachers if any are interested.
What are some lessons your business has taught you?
It’s very important to be responsible to my readers. People read my books and articles to learn about topics so it is extremely important that I have all my facts correct. I spend a lot of time fact checking.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Also, since Kids Inventing! is a good primer for would-be inventors of any age. Adults who want to invent can get up to speed on patents, manufacturing and selling their ideas by reading the chapters about those topics.
What are a couple lessons you’d like young inventors to take away from your book?
Inventing can be an ongoing activity and it can pay off in terms of scholarships, awards and opportunities. And young inventors who sell or license their inventions can benefit financially.
Another lesson is that many young inventors invent in response to an assignment from a teacher. Then, they don’t invent again. So if young inventors want to keep inventing, it’s a good idea to find out about and enter invention contests or competitions. Entering competitions helps young inventors focus their efforts.
There are new ones all the time. For example, Student Ideas for a Better America is a monthly contest open to PreK+College and administered by the National Museum of Education. The prize for the Student Ideas for a Better America each month is $100. Past winners have invented all sorts of things: A peanut butter jar with lids at both ends. The Handy Holder, a special device that helps people with rheumatoid arthritis. The Quizzer, an educational computer-assisted board game that allows the players to chooses categories,switch topics, change the questions and play.
Some other programs are annual or one time only. Awards can be for thousands of dollars. One asks students to invent with rubber bands. Another asks for inventions using Bubblewrap®. I have a list of many on my website.
Sometimes young inventors get frustrated and discouraged with the thought, “I can’t think of anything.” One suggestion is to start by trying to improve an existing item. Try to focus on improving something common—hairbrush, ladder, broom etc. That’s one trick for thinking of ideas.