Whitney Stewart began writing young adult biographies and meditating after she met and interviewed the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, the subject of two of her books, in 1987 and lived with a Tibetan refugee family in India. For her next biographies, she trekked with Sir Edmund Hillary in Nepal, interviewed Burma's Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and climbed along China's Great Wall to research the lives of Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong. In 2004, Stewart collaborated with Sally Rippin on a picture book about the Buddha, which contains a foreword and meditation suggestion from the 14th Dalai Lama. In addition to nonfiction books, Stewart had published three middle-grade novels.In August 2005, Stewart was trapped in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and evacuated by helicopter from a rooftop. She returned home five months later and volunteered as a creative writing teacher at Sophie B. Wright Charter Middle School. She discovered that her students suffered from post-Katrina upheaval and disorientation. Using meditation, improvisation, and word play, Stewart taught her fifth-grade students to write poetry and short stories.