With a self-imposed deadline of one week from tonight, I need to figure out how on earth to finish my first complete draft of J.R. — not to find time to finish it, but literally how to conclude the manuscript.

More often than not, it seems I have some inkling of an ending in mind fairly early in a project, and I write toward that ending. I picked J.R. as a topic because his life and times are fascinating, but the more research I’ve done, the bleaker the story becomes. I didn’t set out to write a downer, but at this point, I’m not sure how to avoid it.

So maybe I shouldn’t even try. Surely there are some examples out there of picture book histories or biographies that succeed despite — or even because of — the depressing nature of the stories they tell. Right?