Susan Bosak collects optical illusions. "I like optical illusions because nothing
is ever as it seems. Life is a lot like that."
There are many ways to describe Susan, but she prefers to be called an educator above all. "I have an opportunity to do a lot of traveling and my classroom stretches across the continent," she says. She enjoys working and connecting with all ages – children, teens, young adults, and elders. She believes the best teachers are the ones who are always learning, which is why she's always reading, surfing the net, listening and asking a lot of questions.
As a researcher, Susan explores "what is" with an eye toward creating "what can be." She's able to combine seemingly unrelated pieces in unusual ways to create thought-provoking new wholes. She brings together information and ideas in a way that's fresh, meaningful, and useful.
Susan's research and education work brings together human development, communication, literacy, intergenerational, aging, life course, community building, science and environmental issues.
She helped found the Legacy Project because she feels "we're stuck in little stories. The challenges of the 21st Century need bigger stories to encourage bigger, better thinking."
The Legacy Project is a big-picture learning project that uses the multilayered concept of LegacyCubed to empower all ages. It's all about connecting your lifetime to the bigger picture of generations and the world, and re-learning our relationship with time to bring together past, present, and future.
The Legacy Project's programs reflect the three levels at which each of us evolves our legacy through our lifetime: personal development (LifeDreams), our relationships with others (Across Generations), and the ways we make a difference in our communities (Our World).
As an author, Susan believes stories, BIG stories, are one of the most powerful tools we can use to change ourselves and the world.
They breathe life into information. Sharing stories is an important part of Susan's educational work, and she encourages people to tell their stories through the Legacy Project, including the Life Statement program.
One of her favorite ways to tell a story is through picture books. "Words and pictures go together so deliciously," says Susan. "It's like chocolate and peanut butter. They're great on their own, but all the better when they're together!"
She sees an illustrated story as an art form that can reach all ages on many levels. In terms of picture books, there are many authors that inspire her: "Who isn't inspired by the inimitable Dr. Seuss? His brilliant use of language and the topics he tackled with flair – from the environment in The Lorax to war and conflict in The Butter Battle Book – make him a role model for me. I also admire the work of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The Little Prince is one of the multilayered kinds of books that I love. I'm inspired by the way Patricia Polacco can tell a story with heart; by the way Australian writer John Marsden brings his convictions to his writings; by the way Peter Sís brings brilliant, richly-textured layer after layer to every book he does; and by the way David Wiesner can turn a story upside down and inside out. Two of my all-time favorite children's books are Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney and The Tin Forest by Helen Ward. I wish someone would read them to me every night before bed."
One of Susan's books is Dream, a story about time, legacies, and hopes and dreams across a lifetime illustrated by 15 top children's illustrators from five countries. This one-of-a-kind illustrated story was Susan's vision from the start. She oversaw all aspects of the book's creation, from the choice of the illustrators to the design of the endpapers. "It was an amazing experience to work with these fifteen illustrators. The creative energy was unlike anything I've ever done before. I really believe in synergy, that ideas brought together can be far more powerful than any individual's ideas. I learned a great deal."
When asked where she gets her inspiration, Susan has two responses: listening to the whispers of the trees in the Legacy Center arboretum – and in the shower!
Susan has a diverse background. She holds degrees in English and Sociology, and the applied social science of Human Communication with a specialty in education and multigenerational issues. In addition to the social sciences, she has a background in the natural sciences. She headed an eight-year project to develop the classic science activity book Science Is..., which has been translated into ten languages and is used in schools and universities internationally. Her other bestsellers include A Little Something and How to Build the Grandma Connection.
Her books have received many honors, including Parents' Choice, Teachers' Choice, Children's Choice, the Joan Fassler Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Children's Literature, two Benjamin Franklin Awards, and a Visionary Award.
Susan is an active member of several organizations: National Council on Family Relations (NCFR); American Society on Aging (ASA); Gerontological Society of America (GSA); International Reading Association (IRA); National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE); Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI); International Communication Association (ICA); International Listening Association (ILA); Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR); and International Society for General Semantics (ISGS).
Susan is a popular speaker. She talks from her heart and takes you on a rollercoaster ride by making surprising connections between ideas to inspire and enlighten. Her work has been written up in many newspapers and magazines, such as The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Sun-Times, Dallas Morning News, Reader's Digest, and Woman's Day. She is a popular radio and television guest, appearing on shows across the country, including Weekend Today in New York.
Susan doesn't like a lot of clutter. But there are two important keepsakes on her desk. One is a small figurine she received from students during a visit to Meadowview Elementary School near Milwaukee. A young child hoists a big star over her head emblazoned with the word "DREAMS." That figurine and where it came from reminds Susan, particularly when the going gets tough, why she does what she does. The other keepsake is a ceramic duck in a pratfall. When you meet Susan, you'll have to ask her what that duck means.
In addition to having new books on the boards, Susan is helping lead the new global YOU 177 initiative. She's also focused on one of her biggest dreams, more than a decade in the making. Together with the Legacy Project team, she's working to complete development of the Legacy Center – an international, multigenerational research and education center – to connect people to the past, present, and future in new ways, as well as to each other through the natural world and the virtual world.
Susan lives in the country with her family, a forest of towering trees, her collection of optical illusions, more books than fit on her shelves, an ever-expanding list of questions and, of course, her dreams.