Create Your Own Genius Hour

During a school visit a few months ago a teacher commented that my upcoming picture book, The Inventor’s Secret, would be the perfect title to kick off a school Genius Hour program.


Well, not being much of a genius myself, I had to admit to her that I’d never heard of Genius Hour. She kindly explained that Genius Hour encourages students to research and pursue topics they’re interested in for one hour each week (or whatever amount of time a teacher specifies.) The program is aimed at increasing student enthusiasm, creativity, and productivity.  Some schools have incorporated another similar program called 20-Time which allows students to select their own independent projects. It seems both of these programs were sparked by Google’s policy which allows their engineers to spend 20% of their time on any project they select.

So all of this got me thinking. Do writers spend much free time  thinking about new story ideas? (I mean story ideas the writer is passionate about, not necessarily ideas they think editors or agents are looking for.) Do writers feel they can muse about story topics they really enjoy, even though the topics may not be “saleable”?

Now I know time is valuable. And there never seems to be enough hours in the day to finish the projects at hand. But as I considered the idea behind Genius Hour, I wondered if sometimes we get so caught up in the business side of writing that we forget to allow ourselves the freedom to pause and consider new book topics (fiction or nonfiction) that really move us.

What would happen if we made time for our own Genius Hours? Maybe set aside the first 15 minutes of our critique group time to ponder book ideas or themes that resonate with us. I wonder if we’d come up with great story ideas that we’d be motivated to research and wouldn’t get sick of after the one-hundredth revision.

So to get the ball rolling — what fascinated you as a child?   Swans?   Snails?   Sailboats?


What are you curious about now?   Penguins?   Peacocks?   Paragliding?

penguins peacock paraglider-871282057902dqNX

Could Genius Hour help you create some awesome books? Why not take a little time off from the “business” of writing to find new creativity and inspiration and find out!

*****************Book Winner from my last post*******************

The winner of an autographed copy of Penny Parker Klostermann’s book, There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight is Maria Gianferrari! Congrats Maria!

[So how does one “randomly” select a winner from people who leave comments on a blog post? Well, there were just under 100 comments on my last post. So I asked my daughter to pick a number between 1 and 100. If her number happened to be a comment I made, I decided to select the next post entry.  That’s how it worked!]




Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at:


  1. “Genius Hour” has a great ring to it. I’d never heard of it either. I love that you passed this along. Maybe Genius Hour will be adopted by writers and illustrators, which would lead to even more great picture books.

    Best of luck with your upcoming book and book launch!

  2. What a great post! Thanks, Suzanne, for letting me in on this well-kept secret. We all owe ourselves at least one hour each week in search of our true genius. 🙂

  3. I love the idea of Genius Hour. ( or 20) I’ve never heard of it either and I’m a retired teacher! Today is the birthday of my book, If An Elephant Went to School and it too, is a perfect fit for Genius 20. Thanks for the tip.

  4. Excellent advice, Suzanne, and a good reminder to pay attention to the things that fascinate us (no matter what sort of work we do).

  5. Having just enjoyed a vacation (genius!) I loved this post. It’s so true that making the time to play and create feels like stealing from our “must-do” time, but it’s so important for our creative sides. Thanks for the encouragement (and great justification) to keep on playing!

  6. I love this post. I’m primarily an illustrator and always scrambling to please someone else, genius hour would be a good way to reorient oneself.

  7. What a great idea! I could see my genius hour turning into a genius week if I’m not careful.

  8. What a great idea–for kids and us authors. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Genius Hour brought to mind that expression “Great minds think alike”, which we used to say when two of us said the same thing. But what makes great minds great is that they don’t think alike.

  10. Fantastic advice (from one non-genius to another). I will now incorporate this into my writing life. Thanks, so much!

  11. I am a media clerk-and this idea sounds like so much fun! The students always have assigned work-never researching fun topics! Can’t wait to share this with my school!

  12. Genius Hour, I like that name. As I have not had anything published and hoping to find something that excites me, I often sit and ask myself, what was so very important to me as a child and let my mind and pen wander. I’ve ended up with many poetic mood pieces, not too publishable (unless I was famous!). Now, however, I’ve learned to take those pieces to the critique group and brainstorm ideas of where the story could go to get published. With the character grounded in that moment, and encouraging myself to find the adventure, find the fun, I’ve found myself on many travels with stories that are much more publishable in today’s market. I keep the first version as my inspiration on days when things are going right (or write!) I think I’ll start a binder called, Tales from the Genius Hour. 🙂

  13. Dear Jill–Love, inspiring idea! Rhanks!

  14. Whoops. That was “thanks.”

  15. Genius hour is genius! Great reminder and idea to step outside the ‘will it sell’, ‘is it marketable’ trap and just do something for fun. Thank you, Suzanne!

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