Creator Spotlight with Author Dan Swanson

Headshot of Author Dan Swanson holding a book and reading it to a group of kids in a library.

Dan Swanson’s first book, an illustrated children’s holiday story called The Book Cook, was published in October by Baobab Press, located in Reno, Nevada.  The book follows two children as they set out in a snowstorm to find a last-minute Christmas gift and discover the Book Cook’s magical shop where children can mix ingredients together to make stories come to life.  The book is written in rhyme and illustrated by Iowa-based artist Clint Hansen. Swanson was a longtime counsel on the staff of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, working for the Committee Chair, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, from 2006 to 2023.  His Twitter handle is @swanson_dc.

What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

My grandfather wrote clever rhyming poems for all his grandkids on our birthdays, which inspired me to start writing rhymes of my own as a kid.  Once I became a dad to two bookworm daughters, I had dreams of creating stories that we could read together and found myself once again writing rhyming poems.  I think the rhymes we learn as children can help the world make more sense, and life lessons are often better remembered when they rhyme.  I enjoy the challenge of trying to fit complicated concepts into a rhyme scheme where the last word sounds just right.

Can you talk through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?

I’m a late-night writer; I can only enjoy the process after my day job is done.  I wrote The Book Cook with help from my older daughter when she was in first grade, and while my family loved it, for seven years I sent it off to publishers and agents and found no takers.  I never felt discouraged though; occasionally I would share the story with writers I found on Twitter, and I’ll never forget the encouragement I received from two former professional female wrestlers, the Blossom Twins, who are now authors. I figured if the story resonated both with my kids and pro-wrestler/writers, then I might be on to something. I was thrilled last year when Baobab Press picked my story out of their submission pile, connected me with an outstanding illustrator, Clint Hansen, and brought the story to life.  It’s now my hope to write a series of rhyming stories that all connect back to objects found on the Book Cook’s shelves – whether that endeavor makes money remains to be seen!     

When did you first become aware of copyright, and why?

I spent 17 years as a staff attorney on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee where I had the chance to work for Chair Durbin on important copyright legislation like the Music Modernization Act (MMA) and the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act.  During my Senate career I always enjoyed working with the Copyright Alliance and other associations representing creators, and in meeting after meeting I heard compelling stories from creators about how challenging it was for them to make a living in their profession and to protect their works from theft and infringement.  It was a highlight of my career to help put together and pass bipartisan legislation like the MMA and CASE Act that help make the copyright system fairer for creators.  

Have you experienced copyright infringement and, if so, how has it affected you personally and financially?

I’ve only been a published author for a short time now, so we’ll see what types of copyright infringement situations I may end up facing.  But I do know that if those situations arise, there are important resources and avenues that creators can use to seek redress.  In particular, the CASE Act created the Copyright Claims Board process to help individual creators and small businesses stand up to infringers in low-cost proceedings.  I was proud to work for Senator Durbin, the lead Senate Democratic sponsor of this law, and now that I’m a creator myself I’m even more glad that it’s there!  

What is the best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?

Don’t be afraid of copyright – respect it, learn it, and use it.  There are many organizations and associations like the Copyright Alliance that are there to guide creators and help them thrive – seek their guidance.  And don’t be afraid to tell your personal stories to lawmakers about the challenges of working in creative fields.  Those stories can make an impact—they did on me—and they can help shape laws for the better.  Your work is an important part of your legacy, and it’s worth protecting. 

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