Today I have writer Laura Clement interviewing with me. Laura and I met at an SCBWI conference a few years ago and have stayed in touch through facebook, of all places. SCBWI is a great place to meet new friends and learn more about writing and illustrating for children. I’m very excited to have Laura with us today.
Hi Laura, Thanks for joining me! Can you tell me about the path you followed to become a children’s books writer?
Through my process of writing, something I have been doing since grade school, starting with poetry, I struggled with the lines that are drawn between children’s literature and adult literature. When I have a chance to talk to other writers, some who have published over 300 books (children’s) and a few novels, I hear the same thing over and over again — Just write. One writer told me, “I never change my writing for kids. They are smart and love a challenge.”
I think for me the major difference is subject matter and the depth to which you might take it. One of my books for kids might be about depression, but I won’t tackle it in the same way I do in my novel. But they both have the same heavy topic. I think it is harder to write for kids. The book has to seem so simple and flow with effortless grace, this is HARD work. A great kids’ book is something everyone will enjoy, kids to adults.
That’s so true. You write picture books and middle-grade novels, is that right?
I love writing picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels. I love to try anything. I still visit poetry from time to time. I let the characters find me, and once they start chatting in my head, or images of them fill my unconscious dream world and dance into day, they get placed to the page. I like adventure stories where the reader has to set outside their world.
Do your books have a message for kids?
Yes. Martin the Mouse (working title) is about finding your inner strength, exploring the world beyond your own eyes and taking chances. Sky and Sparrow (working title) is about the adventure between two characters and the fun they can have in the moment of a day. My polka dot adventure is about seeing the world from a different perspective and maybe incorporating it into your life.
You fence and teach kids fencing. Have you used your fencing knowledge in your books?
|Laura fencing with her husband, Martin
I have! I am currently rewriting a middle grade novel about a fabulous little mouse and her sister who learn to fence. What can I say, one night I was sitting in the salle (club), and I watched a mouse run across the floor. That got me to thinking about how mice see us and what they do when we are not there.
In between work and fencing, how do you find time to write?
I have been really lucky. Until recently I was able to work from home, set up a schedule and pound out ideas and edit… edit…edit. This summer has been very difficult. Between working all day teaching kids, and then family being in town, I haven’t had any time to write. Though I have some fabulous new ideas and new approaches for old projects spinning around in my head for when September rolls around and I can get back to a schedule. A writer needs a schedule. Even if it is only one hour a week, if that time is the same every week, you can totally get work done.
I’ve heard other writers recommend that before. You’ve been on the track to finding a home for your books for some time now sending queries. How do you handle the inevitable rejection letter?
I have all of my rejections filed away, mostly electronically, date stamped in a spreadsheet with any comments listed at the end. I am at the point where I am frustrated by rejection letters that don’t say anything useful. But for the most part I just turn my focus back to a current project and try to keep rolling. Sometimes if I get it late in the day I let myself have a nice cocktail or something sweet (hello cupcakes).
That’s fabulous! Which books do you remember the most when growing up?
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, The Fledgling, Lord of the Rings (my godfather read that to me), Anne of Green Gables, The Eyes of the Amaryllis…. The list could go on… Oh! Wait, The White Dragon (well all of the books from Anne McCaffery), and of course A Wrinkle in Time.
Which author do you think influenced you most into becoming a writer?
All of them- Any writer or book that took me places.
Do you have advice to other writers?
Advice… Write for you, for your characters, for the laughs you get when one of them says something funny. Write for your friends or family who love to read your adventures. The rest is major work and just needs to be done (research of agents/publishers). Make sure you write more than you do the “work” or as I discovered, you burn out. Keep your love of writing alive and for goodness sake, find a really good critique group (easier said than done I know).
We love your comments! Please feel free to ask Laura (or me) any questions. If you too are a pre-published writer and would like to be interviewed on my blog, please mention it in the comments or send me an email to stzoore (at) yahoo (dot) com.