Product Management STL

Let Me Be Clear: Shannon Moore on How Business Analysis Makes Her a Better Writer for Children’s Literature

Shannon Moore

Dora Dougherty climbed into the cockpit of the B-29 bomber, with copilot Dorothea “Didi” Johnson right beside her. The two women had never flown a four-engine bomber before, but they were determined to learn. The airplane, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, was the most powerful bomber of World War II…It also had a dangerous reputation.

This is the opening paragraph of Women with Wings: Women Pilots of World War II — a nonfiction children’s literature book, written by Shannon Moore, a senior consultant at Daugherty Business Solutions.

When Shannon isn’t serving as a business analyst or data steward at Daugherty, she writes nonfiction for grades 6 through 12 (aka kidlit). She has published seven books so far, and, according to Shannon, each is like “writing a 120-page research paper that you have six weeks to write and almost every sentence has to be footnoted.”

Shannon first broke into kidlit when she discovered that, in the 1930s, for two years in a row, there were two different dates for Thanksgiving. Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the date from the fourth week of November to the third (to give businesses more time to sell Christmas goods), but some people chose to keep the original (mostly for football reasons), and some chose to celebrate both dates (probably for football reasons). Shannon wrote a nonfiction piece about “Franksgiving,” as it was called, which was later accepted by Highlightsmagazine — a big deal in the kidlit world, as Highlightsaccepts only a small percentage of the roughly 1,000 manuscripts it receives each month.

Through that experience, she was connected with an editor to write her first book.

“It was the scariest,” Shannon said. “I’d wake up at 3 a.m. with a pit in my gut, thinking ‘I’m not going to make my deadline.’”

But she completed her first book on the Korean War and has written six others since. Some of her favorites include Harlem Hellfighters, about the first group of African Americans to fight in World War I, and the above-mentioned Women with Wings, about women pilots during World War II. In both books, the characters face discrimination and setbacks, yet accomplish great things despite it all.

The writing process for kidlit is similar to the work Shannon does at Daugherty as a business analyst. Nonfiction writing is an iterative process that takes a lot of research. As a business analyst, Shannon’s research comes in the form of gathering requirements, interviewing stakeholders and often asking the same question from multiple angles to draw out hidden assumptions.

For her current client role at Daugherty, she serves as a data steward. The data asset teams at Bayer take data from various sources and enable them to be consumed in new ways to provide business insights. Similarly, as a nonfiction writer, Shannon combines historical information in new ways to provide new insights.

Shannon has also benefited as a writer from the Agile mindset. Just like no developer in Agile software development goes in assuming the first version will be great, no writer goes in assuming a “one and done.” Both require multiple iterations and frequent feedback. Shannon must be ready to “respond to change over following a plan” (Agile Manifesto) and change her book based on customer feedback (in this case, the editor’s).

Shannon’s editor also requires an outline for each book. The outline is just an estimation, to address any red flags up front. It’s like a project roadmap: The process involves determining and prioritizing initiatives, then focusing only on the top ones, rather than every single one.

The truth is, Shannon’s love of both business analysis and writing comes from the same place: She loves being clear. She loves taking complex subjects and explaining them as clearly and simply as possible — not that they become simplistic, but that they aren’t bogged down by unnecessary details.

You can view all of Shannon’s books at her website

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