How could growing up in Annawan, Illinois, a farming town of just 800 people, lead to writing a book about the Everglades? That long journey started for Sue Van Wassenhove when she left home for the University of Illinois. It continued on through Miami, Austria, Switzerland and St. Petersburg, Russia.
Sue, who holds a degree in teaching German, has taught middle school foreign language and art. In 1999, with her husband Joe and four sons, she moved to Miami, where she became familiar with the ecosystems and wildlife of the Everglades during weekend birding trips.
At that time, she turned to painting and writing while recovering from breast cancer. The best topics around were the Everglades' birds.
One particular painting of a bird "kept telling me it was a quilt," Sue says. "So I finally bought the fabric and made the green heron quilt." Then came an alligator quilt, and eventually seventeen more works of art, with poems that were a natural match to carry the spirit of the Everglades to young readers.
The poem "Standoff" in The Seldom-Ever-Shady Glades won first place in the South Florida Chapter of the 2003 National Writer's Association writing contest. "Royal Palms" won honorable mention in the 2003 Florida State Poets' Society contest.
Sue's other interests include making Ukranian Easter eggs and Swiss paper cuttings, painting watercolors, sketching portraits and designing beadwork. Two of her bead design articles have been published in Bead and Button magazine.
Sue currently lives in Peoria, Illinois, with her husband and two sons. Any more moves in the future? "We never know," she says. "Each new place has something wonderful to offer."