WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
I love it when I get to feature kid-lit friends I’ve met in person. Last November, I had lunch with Laura Gehl at the NCTE – we had a ball chatting. And so, when I heard that she just launched a book that is perfect for the upcoming holiday season, I asked her if she’d like to Write for Cookies…and lucky for us, she said YES!
Laura Gehl is the author of twenty picture books, board books, and early readers, including One Big Pair of Underwear, the Peep and Egg series, and the Baby Scientist series. Laura’s 2020 releases include Baby Paleontologist, May Saves The Day, Judge Juliette, Cat Has a Plan, The Ninja Club Sleepover, and Happy Lllamakkah. She loves hiking, reading, travel, and dark chocolate, preferably combined. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband and four children who are (at the moment) ALWAYS HOME. Visit her online at www.lauragehl.com, or connect with her on Twitter or Instagram @AuthorLauraGehl.
ME: Welcome, Laura! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat. Your new book, is so much fun! And thank you for offering a giveaway! I know everyone is curious to find out more about you and about your newest book that just launched – so let’s get started.
ME: Did you like to write when you were a child?
LAURA: Yes! I remember writing a book with a friend in third grade called “The Magic Sofa,” and I recently found a copy of a book I wrote in fifth grade called “The Diving Contest.” I have been showing that book to kids at my virtual school visits this fall—it even has glitter on the cover! (Author bucket list item: to have a published book with glitter on the cover! Although Happy Llamakkah has shiny blue foil on the cover, which is also pretty great.) Even as a kid I liked playing around with rhymes, so it isn’t surprising that a number of my published books are written in rhyme—including Happy Lllmakkah!
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
LAURA: Writing, and the process of navigating the publishing industry, never gets easier! I’ve now published twenty books and have sold more than thirty…but it is still just as hard as when I first started. I don’t say that to discourage anyone, though. Because on the flip side, writing never stops being fun either! I still write with a huge smile on my face, filled with the pure joy of playing with words and figuring out how to make a story work. And getting to connect with young readers through books is an honor that is worth any amount of hard work.
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
LAURA: It’s funny to answer this question again, five years after you first asked me and in the midst of a pandemic. I used to like writing in my living room. Now my only chance at writing is in my bedroom with the door closed, since my husband works from home and my four kids are all engaged in virtual learning. I don’t have a desk, so I write in my bed. We have an electric blanket, which means at least it’s always cozy!
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
LAURA: I looked back at how I answered this question five years ago, and here’s what I said:
“I am most productive in the morning, definitely. Not early morning…but after my kids are all at school and the house is beautifully empty and perfectly quiet.”
When I re-read this, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, since my house is NEVER empty these days and NEVER quiet! Not surprisingly, I’m finding it much harder to write this fall, in the morning or anytime at all. I can still get certain types of revisions done, and critiques, but the type of writing I love the most—either diving into a new project or tackling a revision that requires a huge overhaul—eludes me most of the time. For that type of writing, I not only need quiet, I need the guarantee of a few hours of uninterrupted time. And that is something extremely rare these days.
ME: Why do you write for children?
LAURA: Writing for kids is an incredible privilege. For me, as an author of board books and picture books, being part of the time that children spend with the adults who love them is a huge responsibility, and one that I cherish. Knowing that my words spark ideas, questions, conversations…even art projects…fills me with awe and gratitude. I still can’t believe I get to do this job!
ME: Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear. 🙂
LAURA: Remember that your non-writing time is just as valuable to your stories as your writing time. The “aha” moments for two of my recent picture books came when I was on vacation. And I regularly get story ideas when I am walking in the woods, or chatting with my kids, or reading a novel. Since many of us are having trouble writing as much as usual (or at all) during this pandemic year, it is important to keep in mind that the time isn’t lost. All the experiences we’re having will shape and inspire future stories, even if we can’t write them right now.
Also, I want everyone to know that Happy Llamakkah isn’t just for Jewish families. There is a note at the end explaining the history of the holiday and all of the traditions that the Llama family takes part in during the story.
ME: Do you have a Hanukkah treat to share with us?
LAURA: Yes! In Happy Llamakkah, the llama family enjoys two holiday treats, gelt (chocolate coins) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts). I have never tried to make gelt. In addition to the inexpensive grocery store gelt that kids love, you can buy amazing “grown-up” gelt these days from places like Lake Champlain Chocolates and Veruca Chocolates. However, my son has enjoyed making sufganiyot. Here is a recipe if you want to give it a try: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/strawberry-sufganiyot. As a confirmed chocoholic, I advise adding a dark chocolate drizzle or dipping sauce! You can also substitute a chocolate filling for the traditional strawberry.
LAURA: The last thing I want to mention is that if you order a copy of Happy Llamakkah from an independent bookstore before November 23, I will send your child(ren) a personalized Hanukkah card with llama and Hanukkah stickers and a personalized bookplate! Just send me an email at AuthorLauraGehl@gmail.com.
OH MY GOODNESS! That is fabulous, Laura. What a very special gift that will be for any child! Thank you so much for doing that.
Dear friends…I know we are all clapping in thanks to Laura…for the wonderful insights she shared, for the amazing recipe, and for the generous giveaway. Make sure you leave a comment for a chance to win…maybe you can tell us what your favorite holiday treat is! And if you share the post on social media, you get extra tickets in the giveaway hat!
Please don’t forget the the best way to thank an author for writing a book that you love is to buy it if you can, review it, tell friends about it, and ask your local library to purchase copies of it for their collection.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Covid numbers are on the rise…please stay safe and stay well.