Meet Laura Sassi: Cardinal Rule Press Author Interview Series

Yesterday I participated in my first Facebook LIVE Interview. Hosted by the delightful Maria Dismondy of Cardinal Rule Press, our 10 minute chat was part of their Winter Author Interview Series. Here’s their pitch for the series:

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a children’s author? Or maybe you are interested in hearing how award-winning authors got their start?

CEO of the publishing company, Cardinal Rule Press, Maria Dismondy,is hosting an interview series this winter with children’s book authors. Find out the inside scoop on how their journey began and hear about a day in the life of an author! We hope aspiring writers, classrooms and other fans nationwide will enjoy this exciting series!

I LOVE the mission of this series and thoroughly enjoyed being interviewed. You can check out their list of upcoming interviews here. Maria also hosted a Fall series and those interviews can be the Cardinal Rule Press blog.

GUEST POST with DANNA SMITH: My Journey from Reading Little Golden Books to Writing Them

Springtime Babies Cover HRFinally, spring is in the air!  I hear the birds chirping at sunrise. There’s a robin family building a nest in my neighbor’s tree.  The cherry blossoms are about to burst. It’s perfect timing to welcome today’s guest blogger, picture book author Danna Smith, in celebration of the release of her new springtime book, SPRINGTIME BABIES, published by Little Golden Books. Today she’ll be sharing her journey from reading Little Golden Books as a child to now writing them! Thank you so much for stopping by, Danna.  Take it away!

Wonders of NatureMost Americans can remember growing up with Little Golden Books, those little gems that captured our hearts at the store while our parents shopped. Books like The Poky Little Puppy, Scuffy the Tugboat and my favorite, Wonders of Nature, caught our attention with their distinctive gold foil spines, colorful illustrations, and exciting adventures. The first 12 Little Golden Book titles hit the shelves in 1942 during wartime when picture books were expensive, and money was scarce. At 25 cents, Little Golden Books were affordable for everyone. Today, with hundreds of titles available they continue to delight, and are still affordable—at about the price of a greeting card!

Little Golden Books aren’t just for children; adults love them too. Collectors rummage through piles of books at thrift shops and garage sales looking to find that illustrious 25 cent first edition to add to their collection. I have a small but beloved collection of my own.

Springtime Babies Cover HRImagine my delight when my agent called with news that I had an offer from Little Golden Books and then again with offers for three more books! I had to pinch myself! I remember scribbling my name in many Little Golden Books throughout my childhood. Reading was a joy and these little books were like friends. Joining the Little Golden Book family of authors and artists is a dream come true.

While I had initially written Springtime Babies as a picture book, it turned out to be perfect for Little Golden Books. Editor and author, Diane Muldrow, worked with me to cut the text from 32 pages to 24. Next, it was time for the illustrator to work her magic. When I saw the sketches and then the final color images, I was in love! Artist, Takako Fisher, did a fantastic job. I couldn’t be more pleased with her adorable, chunky animal (and human) babies.

springtime babies. pig is in a puddle

Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Takako Fisher

Springtime Babies. Babies with the farmers

Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Takako Fisher

Golden Books works about three years out which means if you sold a manuscript today in 2018, the book would most likely publish in 2020 or 2021. If you want to try your hand at writing a Little Golden Book, my advice is to draft a conceptually strong story perfect for a young audience of 2–5-year-olds. Your manuscript should be highly visual (illustratable) and original or at least have a fresh take on a familiar subject. A hook that can tie into an event or special day such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day is also a plus. Be sure to study the Little Golden Books line to make certain your idea is fresh. Paginating your manuscript in the way you see it published will not only help you better visualize your story but will help the editors see your vision. If your agent calls you with an offer, pinch yourself then get ready to revise!

Danna birds nest 2017

Danna Smith is the author of a dozen books for children. Her next Little Golden Book, Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby releases in January 2019 followed by The Colors of Summer (May 2019) and The Colors of Winter (Oct 2019).  Danna is currently living in Northern California, where she is hard at work on her next book. You can find more about her and her books online here:




Book Review Blog:

GOOD NEWS: Picture Book Deal!

DIVA announcement pic

I’ve been keeping this to myself for some time now, but the announcement ran in Publishers Weekly today, so I think I can finally let loose my vibrato!

Per their announcement, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE is “an ode to artistic collaboration, starring an opera-loving mouse who wants to help and the diva who thinks she deserves bigger help than a mouse.” It’s scheduled for publication by Sterling Children’s Books in Spring 2018 and is illustrated by British illustrator Rebecca Gerlings. I’ve already seen sketches and several spreads and I am over the moon with delight!  I can’t wait for this book to release!

For the official announcement, press here.

Those of you who have enjoyed participating in Tara Lazar’s STORYSTORM, formerly known as PICTURE BOOK IDEA MONTH, might be encouraged know that this was the very first idea on my 2011 PiBoIdMo list! It took several years and many, many revisions until it was finally ready to submit, but persistence (and patience) paid off!

Happy Thursday all!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: A Chat with Laurie Wallmark in Celebration of her Latest Release – GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE

Grace cover 100dpi 3x4

Today I’m delighted to have children’s author, Laurie Wallmark, as my guest. Laurie and I met several years ago at the NJSCBWI annual conference, and I’ve been impressed by her passion for highlighting the careers and lives of notable women in the science field.  Her first book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, 2015), celebrated the life of a 19th-century female mathematician who is considered to be the world’s first computer programmer.  Her newest book, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling, 2017) celebrates the life of Grace Hopper, a 20th century female trailblazer in the field of computer programming.  Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code is engaging, informative, and fun and has already earned strong reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews and more. Welcome, Laurie and let’s get started.

Q: What inspired you to write Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code?

A: Since I teach computer science and am a former programmer, the early years of computing fascinate me. Grace was among the first computer scientists. I’m amazed at how her insight and creativity shaped the world of computers today

Q: There are so many fun – and fascinating – moments in this delightful picture book biography, including one particularly amusing moment involving a bug. What was your research process like? Were there any amazing moments where you discovered something completely new to you? 

A: It’s interesting that you ask about that computer bug. I had always heard that Grace discovered a moth in a computer relay, which caused her to coin the word “bug.” Well in doing the research, it turns out neither part of this sentence is quite true. Grace was not the person who discovered the bug, but rather someone on her team did. And as far back as Thomas Edison, the word “bug” was used to describe a glitch in a mechanical device. Grace was the first person to use the term “computer bug,” though. This is why research is so important when writing nonfiction for children.

Q: Most of your text is written in creative nonfiction, but on many spreads you also have special text that is set apart in large and colorful fonts. Can you share with us why you chose this distinction? 

A: Grace was known for her witty sayings, and the set-apart text contains some of the most interesting ones. Because not all of her quotations would easily fit as part of the story, we chose to separate them out like this.

Q: Katy Wu’s illustrations really enhance your text. I love the mid-century funky feel she creates in each spread.  What was it like to work with Katy?

A: In general, and that was true in this case, the author doesn’t work directly with the illustrator. Instead, my notes and suggestions went through my editor and the art director. I provided Katy with lots of pictures of Grace, computer equipment, and even a math problem to show on the blackboard. I was fortunate that Sterling solicited my opinions on the illustrations. That’s not common.

Q: Finally, teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum, and I think that’s especially true for a STEM rich book like this. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy? 

A: On the teacher page of my website (, I have a discussion guide for use with this book. Among other things, it includes the following activity:

Is there some gadget or gizmo you wish existed? Write the name of your invention and what it does on a blank sheet a paper. Draw a picture of what your invention might look like. Share you invention with your classmates and describe how it works. Listen as they explain about their own inventions.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Laurie.  I wish you the best with this remarkable new book.


Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, 2015), received four starred trade reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal) and several national awards, including Outstanding Science Trade Book and the Eureka Award. It is a Cook Prize Honor Book. Her recently released picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children’s Books, 2017), earned a Kirkus star and was well-reviewed in several trade journals. Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. When not writing, she teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College.

Click here to join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code.

Follow Laurie on:
Twitter: @lauriewallmark



Sea White

My eleven-year-old decided to write her own retelling of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.  First, she went to the library to find as many versions as she could of the famous tale. She read each one, noting what characteristics they shared and what details made each unique.

She titled her version “Sea White and the Seven Starfish”.  After several weeks of writing and revising, her story sparkled like sunshine on a salty sea. “Will you publish it on your blog?” she asked. “I could,” I answered, “but it might be more fun to see if you could get it published in a magazine.”  She loved the idea. But where to start?

With my daughter in mind, here now are SIX tips for young writers (and their parents) on how to submit original kid-written work to magazines.

Select a publication destination.  Only certain magazines accept work from children. For a comprehensive list, visit the NewPages Young Author’s Guide. Maintained by editor Denise Hill, a teacher who loves to encourage young writers, this great resource also includes a list of legitimate contests for kids. Each listing has a link to the publication’s website where you can find more information.

Read several issues before submitting anything. Once you have a short list of potential publications, be sure to take time to read several back issues. Not only is this a great chance for your kids to experience reading magazines, it will also give you and them a sense of the style and content of each.  Does one magazine favor poetry while another favors prose?  Are the illustrations also done by kids?  How many pieces by kids are included in each issue? These are just a few of the questions you and your child will want to think about.

Follow the publisher’s guidelines carefully.  Once you and your child have decided which magazine to submit to, revisit the publisher’s website and print out their submission guidelines.  Make sure your child follows their protocol exactly so that she/he makes a good impression and so that the piece is eligible for review. Pay special attention to word length and format. For example, does the piece need to be typed, or is neat handwriting okay?

Send ONLY your BEST work.  This should be obvious, but it warrants special mention because, as I’ve learned from visiting young writers in schools,  kids often mistakenly think that once they’ve written something, it’s finished.  But good writing requires revision, preferably multiple times, with a nice final round of polishing.  And it’s always a good idea to proofread every sentence with care one extra time before sending.

Be patient. This is hard for kids, but waiting is the name of the game in the publishing world. Most magazines give a time frame for when to expect a reply.  A nice way to help kids wait is to colorfully mark the possible response date on the family calendar. While they wait, encourage them to work new stories and projects!

Stay positive and remember rejection is part of the process. This is also hard for kids, but the reality is only a few of the multitude of manuscripts submitted will make it into print. Still, kids can remain positive because just taking the time to hone and craft a story and send it off – no matter the ultimate response – makes them a winner in my book!  And if nothing pans out, there’s always the possibility of publishing it as an email to family members, or as a special blog post on a family member’s blog. Sounds like a win/win to me!

Happy subbing, young writers!


INTERVIEW: A Chat with Picture Book Author Lori Degman in Celebration of the Release of COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS!

ImageImage 1

Join me in welcoming fellow rhymer and picture book author, Lori Degman, whose brand new picture book, COCK- A-DOODLE OOPS! (Creston Books) hits shelves tomorrow! She is also the author of ONE ZANY ZOO (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010) which won the 2008 Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories New Author Contest. Well, let’s get started.

LAURA: Thanks so much for joining us. I always love chatting with authors – especially authors who love playing with meter and rhyme as much as I do.

LORI: Thanks so much for having me, Laura! I feel the same way – there’s nothing like talking to another rhyme geek!

LAURA: The premise of COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS! – in which Rooster takes a vacation, leaving the responsibility of waking the farmer to the other animals – is adorable. What inspired you to create this story? Did you perhaps grow up with a rooster at home?

LORI: No, I didn’t grow up with a rooster or live anywhere near a farm (though my brother used to make strange animal-like noises sometimes). I’m not sure where I got the idea for the story. Originally, I wanted to write a “boy who cried wolf” type of story and I thought it would be funny if a rooster crowed at all times of the day, out of boredom – or maybe he had insomnia – something like that. Anyway, that story somehow morphed into rooster leaving the other animals to do his job. At first he went on strike but that was a negative concept so I had him go on a vacation instead.

LAURA: Writing a picture book is hard enough, let alone adding the extra elements of rhythm and rhyme.  But as the reviews attest, you have a gift for it. The Kirkus Review, for example, describes COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS! as full of “puns and foolery pitched just right for newly independent readers” and they praise you as having a “gift for rhymes and language that is clever rather than forced”. What’s your secret for great story-telling?

LORI: I’m very flattered by the comments in the Kirkus Review! I really think the secret to writing good rhyme is persistence (good writing of any kind, for that matter). I’ll admit, I have a good ear for rhythm and that helps a lot! But, I work painstakingly to make every beat work so it flows smoothly. Also, my love for puns comes in really handy when writing in rhyme and especially about animals. There’s so much material to choose from.

LAURA: I can tell from your website that you have a barn-full of great book launch events and opportunities for your readers. Tell us a little bit about what you have planned.

LORI: My first book launch will be on Saturday, May 10th at 11:00 at Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, IL. My second launch (along with Deborah Zemke) will be on Saturday, May 17th at 11:00 at The Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park, IL. On Friday night, May 16th at 6:30 pm, Deborah and I will be at The Book Stall in Winnetka, IL for a storytime. All three events will include an interactive reading of the book, animal masks for the kids to color and of course, snacks!

LAURA: Finally, teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?

LORI: A writer friend of mine, Marcie Colleen, created a teacher’s guide for me and it’s great! She ties the activities to different areas of the curriculum. Teachers and parents can find it on my website or they can download it for free from Teachers Pay Teachers. There are also coloring pages kids can download – they’re masks of each of the animals (created by illustrator, Deborah Zemke) to color and cut out.

LAURA: Thanks so much for joining us today, Lori.  To learn more about Lori and her books visit her website and blog.  She’s also active on Twitter and Facebook.  Her books are available at bookstores everywhere or online.

LORI: Thanks so much again, Laura! This was a lot of fun!


Write like a TURTLE!



Want to survive, even thrive, as a writer?  Then take the TURTLE approach.  Enjoy!

Develop a thick shell. The business of writing is not all butterflies and daisies. It’s hard work with a steep learning curve and lots and lots of guaranteed opportunity for rejection. But if, like a turtle, you can develop a few callouses, or preferably a nice thick shell, you can let those rejections, doubting comments etc. bounce right off.

Be at peace with the slow pace of it all. The publishing world is notoriously slow.  Accept that, then use the time to bask in the sun, soaking up new story ideas and savoring the process.

Take time each day to retreat into your shell.  As writers it’s important to set aside quiet time to write each day. But if long “retreats into your shell” are hard to muster, take heart – good writing can’t be done in total isolation. It’s also important to mosey along in the outside world for that’s where you will find your inspiration!

Bury your eggs for awhile before letting them go. I’ve learned over time, that my best stories and poems are the ones I let sit for a while, so I can re-examine and improve them before sending them out for consideration to editors. My ideas, at least, improve with age.

Don’t expect every egg to be viable.  Not every idea is a winner and that’s okay. The important thing is to keep producing eggs, er stories, for in every batch there will surely be a few good eggs, or maybe more than a few.

Happy writing, all!


SCHOOL VISIT: Children’s Author Christine Pakkala Visits Third Grade!

IMG_2915Last week the third graders at my daughter’s school were treated to a delightful assembly and writing workshop with Christine Pakkala, author of Last-But-Not-Least Lola (Boyds Mills Press, 2013). Christine opened the assembly by asking her eager young listeners where they get their ideas, then described how she got the idea for her book and what the process from idea to publication was like. It took seven years and lots of revision until she finally got to see Last-But-Not-Least Lola in print. Her kid-friendly take-away? You, too, can your turn your ideas into stories.  Just keep writing and revising and reading all kinds of literature!

The students were brimming with thoughtful questions. As a writer I was particularly interested in this one. Is it easier to write a single book or a series?  Christine paused for a moment, before concluding that, for her, writing a series is easier because you have a list of characters you get to know, almost as if they are real friends, and you build your stories based on different things they do together. This answer pleased the the kids, especially when she revealed that Lola is the star of… a series! The second book, Last-But-Not-Least Lola and the Wild Chicken will be published in Fall 2014 and a third book is in the works.

IMG_2923After snack-time, it was time for writing workshop. The assignment was to write a story beginning with this sentence: “I only had 10 seconds before the alarm went off.”  With imaginations in high gear, the kids got busy, filling the cafeteria with the sounds of pencils scratching on paper.  At the end, students from each table shared their stories-in-progress.  Each was unique and wonderful, which just proves that even with the same prompt, no two stories are exactly alike! That’s the wonder and joy of using our imaginations.

IMG_2920Something that made this particular school visit extra special was that Christine’s editor, Rebecca Davis, was in the room as well!  It turns out that in addition to being a terrific editor, she’s also a mom with two kids at my daughter’s school. Here’s a lovely snapshot of Christine Pakkala and Rebecca Davis, Senior Editor for Boyds Mills Press.

IMG_2914Before leaving, students who had pre-ordered them, received their signed copies of Last-But-Not-Least Lola. My daughter proudly brought hers home and we’ve been enjoying reading it together every night.

For more information about Christine Pakkala visit her website.  She’s also active on Facebook and Twitter.  You can purchase her books online or at your favorite bookstore.

FIELD TRIP: THE LITTLE PRINCE Visits the Morgan Library

IMG_2890As you can tell by the above snapshot, I love THE LITTLE PRINCE.  I read it first as a child living in Paris.  Antoine de St. Exupery’s story of a little lost prince searching for what matters in life resonated with me. Like the Little Prince, I too, felt far from home and longed for a good friend, my own rose, or fox, or sheep. Imagine my delight, then, to discover that the Morgan Library in New York City has put together a delightful exhibit of original manuscript pages, watercolor sketches, and correspondence to celebrate the 70th anniversary of this classic book.  Last week I spent a delightful morning with fellow picture book writer, Robin Newman, enjoying every nook and cranny of the exhibit.

Now, having savored the experience, I’d like to share with you three writerly principles I took away from the exhibit.

1. Write from the heart.  Now a classic, THE LITTLE PRINCE had a slow start because the publisher wasn’t sure whether to promote it for children or for adults. Thank goodness Antoine de St. Exupery didn’t worry about how to categorize it.  He just wrote the story he wanted to tell. And, as it turns out, it was the very story readers of all ages (and cultures) wanted to hear. Indeed, as I learned at the exhibit, THE LITTLE PRINCE  has been translated into more languages than any other work of fiction. So, take heart and write from the heart!

1. Revise, revise, revise!  The early manuscript of THE LITTLE PRINCE on display is more than twice as long as the final published version. The framed pages are lightly scrawled in pencil and/or ink and show clear signs of intense revision – not only at the sentence level, but at the story level too.  Big cross outs show where entire sections were deleted.  Simple lines through phrases and words show how the author’s wording evolved.  Revising can be long and painstaking, but also rewarding as you see the story emerge and transform on the page. So take out that pen and let the words overflow.  Then, like Antoine de St. Exupery revise your text to perfection.

3. Save your doodles. Antoine de St. Exupery was a doodler and for years sketched a little “bonhomme” in the margins of his notebooks. Something about that doodle, in particular, captivated his imagination and ultimately gave birth to the little fellow readers now know and love as the Little Prince.  I, too, am a doodler, but my doodles take the form of words and phrases – little bursts of inspiration.  Some of those word-doodles go nowhere, but like that little “bonhomme” some keep reappearing in my pages.  I’ve even developed some of the peskiest ones into stories and poems.  So save your doodles, for they might be just the spark you need to write your next piece.

The Morgan Library and Museum Exhibition: “The Little Prince: A New York Story” runs through April 27th, 2014. I highly recommend it, if you happen to be traveling in these parts. For more details check here.

INTERVIEW: Robin Newman Chats about her Journey into Picture Book Writing

Image 1Join me in welcoming picture book author Robin Newman. I’ve gotten to know Robin through the blogosphere and Twitter.  In addition to loving writing, I recently discovered we share something else in common.  We both spent several of our childhood years in Paris!  Today we’ll be chatting about her journey as a picture book author.

First off, congratulations! You’re really making a splash in the Kidlit world with not one, but two, debut books coming out in 2015.  Can you tell us a little bit about each book?  

Thank you!  2013 was an over-the-top, you-have-to-wake-me-from-this-dream kind of amazing year!

I have two books coming out with Creston Books.  Woo-hoo!  The first is a picture book, Hildie Bitterpickles Needs her Sleep, illustrated by Chris Ewald (spring 2015), about a crabby witch whose quiet neighborhood has been turned upside down with the arrival of noisy, inconsiderate neighbors.  So Hildie hires a real estate agent to find her a new home.  But soon enough, Hildie realizes that living with blind mice and snoring baa, baa black sheep is another kind of nightmare, and that the real home of her dreams was the one she had left.

The second is an early chapter book, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (fall 2015), about two hard-nosed mouse detectives who are MFIs, Missing Food Investigators.  In their seminal case, they’re on the hunt for Miss Rabbit’s missing carrot cake.  (Please note the names of the animals have been changed to protect the innocent.)  Whatever the food, whatever the crime, MFIs make the bad guys do the time.

Creston Books is an exciting newer press with a wonderful list of recently released and upcoming titles.  Can you tell us little about Creston Books’ philosophy and what it’s like to work with them?

Creston Books’ mission is to make quality books.  Above all else, they value strong writing and illustration, and that special “magic that happens when a parent reads a picture book to a child.”  They are a small press that takes an old-fashioned, hands-on approach to nurturing and promoting all of their writers and illustrators, not just their moneymakers—something often missed at big publishing houses.  Lastly, all of their printing is done in the United States on sustainably-sourced paper.

ImageThey have wonderful list of titles coming out in spring 2014, including Mini and Moo: Hooves of Fire by Denys Cazet, Don’t Turn the Page by Rachelle Burk and illustrated by Julie Downing, Cock-a-Doodle Oops! by Lori Degman and illustrated by Deborah Zemke, and Blood Diaries, Tales of a 6th-Grade Vampire by Marissa Moss.

And in fall 2014 Wheels of Change, by my friend Darlene Beck-Jacobson and illustrated by the amazing Marissa Moss, will be hitting the bookstores.  (I cannot wait to get my signed copies!!!)

Check out the cover for Wheels of Change.  Isn’t it awesome?


Over the moon ecstatic does not even begin to describe how fortunate I am to be working with Marissa Moss.  I am thrilled beyond words to be starting my publishing career at Creston.  I look forward to working with Chris Ewald and Deborah Zemke.  I cannot wait to see their first sketches.

One of the fascinating things about children’s writers is that they come from a wide range of occupational backgrounds.  Off the top of my head, I can think of current authors who were previously dancers, skaters, and teachers.  I haven’t, however, met many kidlit writers who were previously, or are still currently, lawyers.  Tell us a little bit about your journey from the legal profession to the world of children’s literature.

I went to law school to do pro bono work.  Unfortunately when I graduated, these jobs were few and far between and I ended up in private practice doing Workers’ Compensation cases.  Saying I was beyond miserable is not an exaggeration.  Some attorneys thrive in a litigious environment, doing hearings all the time.  I was not one of them.  I was more interested in research and writing.  When a job opened up at a legal publisher editing energy and environmental titles, I jumped at the opportunity.  Subsequently, I moved onto another legal publisher as a senior developmental editor and when I got pregnant I decided to go freelance.

As an editor, I always loved the creative work, writing the blurbs and marketing materials.  But it wasn’t until I was pregnant that I truly got the writing bug.

At some point, my sister suggested I enter Symphony Space’s Stella Kupferberg’s Memorial Short Story Prize Contest. (Here’s the link, in case anyone is interested in entering:  I lost.  Each and every year.  Again and again.  Oh!  And again!  But it got me writing.  For the holidays, I wrote stories for my nieces and nephew.  After my son was born, my husband encouraged me to take a writing class.  I signed up for a Children’s Fiction Writing Workshop at Gotham.  I was completely hooked, and I guess the rest is writing history.

What’s your writing process like?  How long does it take you to go from a writing spark to a story that’s ready to submit?

I don’t really have a process.  I wish I were that organized.  But I keep my notepad handy at all times and am constantly jotting down ideas that may or may not blossom into something.  When I think I have a strong enough idea for a story, I try sketching it out and writing the story beginning to end—or at least as much as possible.  The key is just getting it down on paper or on my laptop.  For me, this is the easy part.  Then I take it to my amazing critique group, led by the incredible Jill Davis, and the hard part begins:  rewriting.  Sometimes I get lucky and a manuscript only needs about 10 or so rewrites, but most of the time I end up rewriting everything for what feels like a gazillion times.  When Jill gives me the thumbs up, I send it out.

My Amazing Critique Group (left to right – Me, Jill Davis, Jacki Morris, Joanne French

My Amazing Critique Group (left to right – Me, Jill Davis, Jacki Morris, Joanne French

Finally, what advice would you give other aspiring lawyers, skiers, chefs, etc. who want to journey into the field of writing for kids? 

For anyone brave enough to put pen to paper, I recommend the following:

1.  Join the SCBWI.

2.  Take a writing class and/or find a critique group.

3.  Write, rewrite, and read everything and anything.

4.  Follow your dreams and never ever give up.

5.  Rinse and repeat as necessary.

Laura, Thanks so much for inviting me to do this interview.  All the very best and much success with Goodnight, Ark and Goodnight, Manger.

And thank YOU for stopping by to chat.  Click here to find out more about Robin Newman and Creston Books. Happy writing and reading all!