Thursday, October 15, 2009

Interview with Scotti Cohn

Featured Book for October:
It Happened in Chicago by Scotti Cohn
Author bio for Scotti Cohn:

I was born and raised in Springfield, Illinois. I have been writing poetry and fiction almost since I learned the alphabet.

My first major opus was a joint project with my best friend in fourth grade. We wrote a sequel to 101 Dalmatians and sent it to Walt Disney Studios. They accepted it and we became famous child prodigies, and. . . oops. There I go, writing fiction again.

Anyhow, although I was bitter at the rejection by Disney, I continued to pursue my calling. I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, graduating from the latter with a double major in English and Russian. I lived in North Carolina for 25 years. I have two adult children.

I have worked as a technical editor for a bank holding company, an educational software purchasing agent, a legal secretary, an advertising executive, and a public relations and communication specialist for a health care system.

My first nonfiction adult book was published by The Globe Pequot Press in 2000, and I have since written five other books for Globe. My first picture book was published in 2009 by Sylvan Dell Publishing.

I now live in Bloomington, Illinois with my high school sweetheart and five cats. I work from home as a writer and copyeditor.

Kathy: Scotti, Thank you for taking the time for this interview. You have just released your book, It Happened in Chicago. In it you highlight some of the major events that took place in Chicago that shaped history.

Okay, first, a couple of fun questions:

Favorite book, favorite movie, favorite TV show?

Scotti: My favorite books in general are fiction, typically fantasy (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle; The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman; The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper). I'm not much of a movie-watcher, but I lean toward movies that are clever, funny, or quirky. In the area of television, I enjoy Animal Planet and Discovery Channel programming, but I also watch Law and Order, NCIS, and CSI with my husband.

Kathy: A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorites, too. What is your favorite of the books you have written and why?

Scotti: I would have to say that my picture book, One Wolf Howls, is my favorite. That's because I came up with the idea, I wrote it, and I found a publisher -- and because the illustrations (by Susan Detwiler) are gorgeous. The topics for my other books were chosen by the publisher, who then provided me with loose guidelines for content.

Kathy: Granola or hot fudge sundae?

Scotti: Hot fudge sundae -- maybe with some granola sprinkled on it.

Kathy: Jeans or skirt?

Scotti: Jeans mostly.

Kathy: Would you rather go fossil hunting or shopping for shoes?

Scotti: In general, I would rather go shopping -- not necessarily for shoes, however.

Kathy: Pets?

Scotti: Five cats.

Kathy: Tell me, why Chicago? Is it because you are from Bloomington, Illinois, or are there things about the Windy City everyone can appreciate?

Scotti: An editor at the Globe Pequot Press asked me if I wanted to write It Happened in Chicago. I said yes because I was raised in Springfield, I now live in Bloomington, and I have been to Chicago many times. I was interested in the subject and knew I would enjoy doing the research.

Kathy: Why did you choose to cover the historical events that you did?

Scotti: I started with a list of 90 historical events from Chicago history. My publisher wanted no more than 30 in the book. My criteria for inclusion was based on a desire to cover various time periods and various types of events (funny, horrifying, inspiring, sad). I wanted to include famous incidents as well as less-known incidents.

Kathy: What Native American people lived in the Illinois area prior to white settlement? Were they peaceful tribes? What happened to them?

Scotti: My understanding is that there were several different Native American tribes in Illinois and the Chicago area prior to white settlement. There were periods of fighting among tribes and against white trappers and settlers, as well as periods of peaceful coexistence. The Potawatomi were the principal Native American residents of the Chicago area in 1835, when the Treaty of Chicago was signed. Within three years, in accordance with treaty requirements, most of the Potawatomi had left the area. They relocated in Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, and Canada.

Kathy: What role did Chicago play in Abraham Lincoln’s bid for president? What role did it play throughout his life, his funeral and his wife’s later years?

Scotti: Lincoln supporters lobbied tirelessly for the Republican Convention of 1860 to be held in Chicago because they knew that would give the home-field advantage to Lincoln, who was Illinois' "favorite son." As an attorney living in Springfield, Lincoln spent a lot of time in Chicago. His funeral train stopped in Chicago, where an elaborate procession and viewing took place. After his death, Mary Todd Lincoln spent considerable time in Chicago, as did her son Robert.

Kathy: What were the Atrocious Acts of 1886, in a nutshell?

Scotti: I took the chapter title "Atrocious Acts" from a handbill distributed by labor activists in Chicago in May of 1886. At that time, all across the country, American workers were on strike in support of the eight-hour workday. Many "atrocious acts" were committed by labor activists as well as police. The handbill distributed in Chicago decried "the latest atrocious act of the police" -- a reference to a violent police response to strikers who had attacked replacement workers at McCormick's Reaper Works on May 3. On May 4 during a meeting in Haymarket Square, a bomb was thrown, causing the death of several policemen. Four men were later executed for inciting, advising, and encouraging the throwing of the bomb.

Kathy: Tell us about the World’s Fair of 1893. What inventions and innovations were introduced to the world at this event?

Scotti: The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 brought us the Ferris wheel, the moveable sidewalk, the elevated intramural railway, the Kinetograph (an early version of the movie projector), and numerous tasty delights such as Cracker Jacks, Juicy Fruit gum, Pabst beer, and Cream of Wheat.

Kathy: The location of this world-class event stirred jealousy from old, established cities like New York. Why was it significant that Chicago, an up-and-coming city on the world scene, be the host for such an event?

Scotti: New York, in particular, expressed concern that Chicago would embarrass the entire country by hosting a fair that was little more than a cattle show. Prominent Chicagoans like Charles T. Yerkes, Marshall Field, Philip Armour, Potter Palmer, Gustavus Swift, George Pullman, and Cyrus McCormick were determined to prove otherwise. They succeeded, which did wonders for Chicago's image and status on the national and world stage.

Kathy: I was aware of certain events, like the Chicago world’s fair of 1893, and the great fire. But you explore some off-the-beaten-path events and people, like Mary Todd Lincoln’s confinement at a sanitarium toward the end of her life. What did you learn as you researched and wrote this book?

Scotti: Among the things I did not know before researching and writing this book are:
- A Black person is regarded as Chicago's first permanent settler. (Historians don't know for certain where he came from. He may have been from Santo Domingo or Haiti or Canada. He is referred to as a "Negro" in records from the late 1700s).
- The grade of Chicago's streets was raised six to ten feet during the 1850s and 1860s.
- One of the very first "open heart" surgeries was performed by an African-American doctor in Chicago in 1893.
- Charlie Chaplin filmed a movie in Chicago in 1915.
- The term "Windy City" was historically used both literally (as a reference to gusty winds) and figuratively (as a derisive reference to pretentious bragging on the part of Chicagoans).

Kathy: You do speaking engagements on a number of topics. Tell us about that.

Scotti: Currently my presentations center around my two most recently published books: It Happened in Chicago and One Wolf Howls. For It Happened in Chicago, I created a PowerPoint slide for each chapter, using music, visuals, and voice-overs to capture the essence of the chapter. I lead an interactive discussion with the audience about the events depicted in the slides. For One Wolf Howls, I talk to elementary-school children about wolves and their role in nature and/or how I wrote the book and got it published.

Kathy: Scotti, thank you so much for spending time with us and sharing your research and a glimpse into your latest release, It Happened in Chicago. Best wishes on its success.

It Happened in Chicago gives a rich historic overview, useful to history buffs and those who would like a better understanding of one of our country’s great cities. The link to the book trailer is
The website/blog for the book can be reached here:
Scotti’s website is

Other books by Scotti Cohn (all published by The Globe Pequot Press):
More Than Petticoats: Remarkable North Carolina Women (written under the name Scotti Kent) -- Fourteen mini-biographies of extraordinary women from North Carolina's history.
It Happened in North Carolina (first edition written under the name Scotti Kent; second edition - including two new chapters - published under the name Scotti Cohn) -- A collection of narratives about 29 events that shaped the history of the Tarheel State.
Disasters and Heroic Rescues of North Carolina -- A collection of 18 true stories of tragedy and survival that occurred over the course of North Carolina's history.
Beyond Their Years: Stories of 16 Civil War Children -- A collection of mini-biographies of people who were children or teens during the Civil War, displaying courage, devotion, and wisdom beyond their years.
Liberty's Children: Stories of 11 Revolutionary War Children -- A collection of mini-biographies of people who were children or teens during the American Revolution, actively participating in the war or simply enduring as best their interrupted youths allowed.


  1. Great interview Kathy and Scotti. Very interesting. There is so much rich history in our country that most of us don't know. Your book sounds like it's preserving some of Chicago's and getting it out to the people. It makes me realize how much I just take for granted or don't boter to think about.

  2. Interesting information. I think of the fire and the fair, some insights with Lincoln, but each city has alot more history then we know. One might wonder what the other 60 events were for Chicago.

  3. Great interview! Nicely done! Very interesting. I'm going to have my daughter read it and maybe even see about the book. We're studying 1800's history this year. It would be a nice addition.

    Blessings, Kathy and Scotti!

  4. Thanks, Kathy! I enjoyed participating!

  5. thanks, Tina, Debbie Lynne and Susie for stopping by. And thank you, Scotti, for your time and expertise. I would love to know more about the fire, myself. I'll have to get the book.
    ; )

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