Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

11/5/08

Today is November 5th, 2008 and with yesterday's election results I am finding it very hard to concentrate on anything but the celebration of hope for my children, the environment, education, and our relationship to the world. Last night's speech from Grant Park was brilliant! I have not felt this hopeful about America for many, many years. And thinking back many, many years to when I was young and in the schools, there was no such thing as "Visiting Authors". The school librarian I remember was more concerned with clean and careful hands touching her books than in revealing the human being behind the story to our young and impressionable minds. She was so strict, I became afraid of books. Afraid of leaving a mark that might incur her wrath! Thus...
  1.  I was all grown up when I met my first author, Debra Frasier. She had just sold her first manuscript. It would soon become a children's picture book called On the Day You Were Born. Since I was all grown up and a painter from New York, I thought it very quaint to make a children's book. But when I read Debra's manuscript, I was moved to tears by its powerful poetry and meaning.
  2. Debra Frasier took me to my first children's bookstore, The Red Balloon Bookshop. Since I was all grown up and read only adult books, I thought it was very quaint to have a bookstore only for children's books. But when I saw books like The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg and Swamp Angel, illustrated by Paul O'Zelinsky an entirely new world of artistic possibilities opened up.
  3. Working as an Artist in the Schools I was often asked to present at Young Writer's Conferences. At these events I met many authors of all kinds: poets, novelists, children's book writers. I met the author, David LaRochelle many years ago at a Young Writer's Conference and he recommended that I read a book called Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. I was all grown up and thought reading a book for young teens quaint. But then I read it and I have been reading almost exclusively YA literature since. 
  4. Several years ago, I was invited to go on a studio tour of four different children's book illustrators: Jill McElmurry, Derek Anderson, Mike Wohnoutka, and Rick Chrustowski. Visiting each of their studios gave me insight into their process that I will cherish forever. I was illustrating children's books of my own by then, but had not completely let go of my grown-up notions about art and children's books and these visits were pivotal in stepping deeper into my life as a picture book illustrator.
  5. As an illustrator I get to meet the authors of my books. I do not speak to them while I am illustrating their story, but afterwards we have much to share and talk about. What a gift!
  6. When I met the author, Anne Ylvisaker at an SCBWI conference in LA, we decided to start a writer's group when we returned to Minneapolis. 
  7. After the first meeting I went home and wrote Winter is the Warmest Season in five days. I loved the story so much that I sent it to my editor at Harcourt and she loved it so much that I had sold my first manuscript before the second meeting of my writer's group! 
  8. Because of children's books I have finally fully grown up and rediscovered my childhood. I lead a life that offers meetings with authors and illustrators in person on a regular basis. It is a far cry from the clean and careful hands that school librarian required.

6 comments:

Edie Hemingway said...

Lauren, how sad that your first introduction to a school librarian was so restricting, but what a wonderful, inspiring story your "grown up" journey into children's literature has become! Thanks for sharing!

Gottawrite Girl said...

I still own all my favorite children's books. They made an impact like nothing else ever has. So grateful my mom was a librarian.

Mark said...

I think that librarian's daughter or niece worked at a local school where I used to meet (in fear of her reprimands) with my student clients! A great ending for you, nevertheless. The story on your website of how you came to write Winter is also inspiring. My son, who is six, loved the book (our regional library has 8 copies!) though of your books his personal favorite is MUD. He's a boy, go figure!

David LaRochelle said...

Visiting YOUR artist's studio this week for the first time has been very inspiring for me, Lauren. Your studio, and entire house, overflows with creativity and joy and passion. I wish readers of this blog could get a virtual tour of your house; I think they would be as inspired as I was.

Lauren said...

It was great to have you over David. I wish I could have all of you over for a visit. Perhaps we can do a blog on our "creative spaces" and I could add some photos of home and studio.

And yes, edie, that first school librarian left a bad taste in my mouth, but I have met so many inspired and gifted librarians now that I am "all grown up".

I also have a few of my favorite children's books-- if only my mom had been a librarian, you are lucky, gottawrite girl!

Mark, so glad to hear you son loves WITWS! It was inspired initially by something my son said when he was six-- it is a great age!

john said...

Lauren,

I am lucky enough to live in the same town as you. I'll take you up on that studio invitation. Let's pick a time.