WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
Happy 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Walk, folks! Our special guest knows all about reaching for the moon…she’s the author of ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON.
One of my favorite things is to meet kidlit friends in person. Happily, that happened not too long ago with this wonderful lady. Laura and I had been Facebook friends. Then we found ourselves in the same debut picture book author group. And when we realized she was going to be passing near my house on her way to a writing retreat, we knew we had to make a get-together happen! We did…and it was wonderful!
Laura Roettiger is the author of Aliana Reaches for the Moon, a picture book that draws inspiration from the moon and the curiosity of children. She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL (where my son and his family live) before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado (where I lived for 18 years) where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for literacy at a STEM school. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. She has three children of her own (I have three children also…this is uncanny) whose curiosity and creativity led them into STEM related professions.
ME: I’m thrilled to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, Laura!
LAURA: Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, Vivian! I’m thrilled that we were able to meet in person in June and your contribution to the Kidlit community continues to amaze and impress me. So happy to have you as a friend.
ME: The feeling is mutual, Laura…that’s for sure! We talked about a lot of things when we meet, but here are some questions we didn’t cover. And I know everyone wants to hear your answers. Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
LAURA: I have so many happy memories reading as a child. I loved reading all the Ramona, Beezuz, and Henry books by Beverly Cleary. RAMONA THE PEST was my favorite of all because when she takes a bite from each apple in the bushel, I could imagine what that would feel like and how much trouble I would be in if I tried something like that. She was a very relatable character for me as a little sister.
My favorite book of childhood was ALL OF A KIND FAMILY, by Sydney Taylor because it had so many similarities to my family and made me feel even closer to my grandma.
I also have wonderful memories of reading AMELIA BEDELIA, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, and CHARLOTTE’S WEB at school.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
LAURA: I wish I had found SCBWI right away. I knew there must be a group for picture book writers, but it took me a year of writing to discover it. My local chapter is a strong group of amazing authors and illustrators who I have been fortunate to support and be supported by. Whenever anyone says, “I want to write a book” or “I have an idea for a children’s book,” I suggest they join SCBWI.
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
LAURA: I start writing by hand whether it’s a draft, research, or a brainstorm of words but then I switch to my laptop because it’s easier to organize and less likely to get buried in the archeological dig of paper on my desk.
I usually write in my dining room which is 99% my writing room and only called ‘the dining room’ because the furniture was originally purchased for that purpose. I have a desk that overlooks the forest, but I usually sit at the table which allows me views of a beautiful painting that belonged to my parents, the underside of a log staircase, and a floor to ceiling view of nature.
My creative work often happens when I am hiking or driving in the canyon. I use voice to text and text myself notes all the time. It’s fun to go back and look through my notes and hopefully remember what I was thinking. I’ve written poems, entire scenes, and thought of just the right word for revisions while I’m in nature.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
LAURA: I try to write in the morning, but never early and only after breakfast and coffee. I know there are plenty of people who get up at 5am and write for an hour while their house is quiet, but I am definitely not one of them. If I hike or workout in the morning, I’m also productive in the afternoon or right after dinner. Rarely do I write something late at night that looks great in the light of the following day. I don’t write every day, but I try to do something writing adjacent every day such as researching agents, reading writing craft books, blogs, or mentor texts, or critiquing. All of these things are part of the process.
ME: Why do you write for children?
LAURA: I have spent most of my adult life reading with children as a parent and a teacher. I love children’s literature and I love the way children view the world. When I was a reading specialist, I wrote stories for and with my students. I never wrote them with the expectation of publishing but I ALWAYS wanted to be a writer. Writing for children seems like a natural fit for me given my experience as a reading specialist.
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: Vivian, you and I kindred spirits in so many ways. We both put our hearts and souls into children at home and at work. We understand how important that work is and continue that through our writing for children. We also both know how important it is to share our knowledge with others and encourage fellow writers along the way.
My advice for writers, which I am sure you have also shared many times: Join SCBWI. Learn about craft whether that’s through online classes or groups (such as Julie Hedlund’s 12×12), attending conferences and workshops, listening to writing podcasts, and reading craft books. Find critique partners who will help your writing shine and don’t be afraid to revise. Read extensively in the genre you write in. The more you read, the better you understand the market and the better your writing will be.
My advice for parents and educators: Enjoy reading with your children. Let them see you read for pleasure and information. When I worked in an at-risk pre-K program, I was admonished for bringing the newspaper in to read while the children napped. I was right next to my napping charges and didn’t understand what harm would happen if they woke up and saw me reading! I was told I could only read when I was off the clock. Clearly the administration didn’t understand the value of modeling.
We all process information differently so don’t judge what children are reading; encourage them to love reading and they will read more. I always said I didn’t want to teach my students to read. I wanted to teach them to love reading.
My advice to anyone who wants to support authors: Buy books if you can, but also talk about books you love, ask your library to purchase them, write reviews on GoodReads and Amazon. Word of mouth and reviews are both very important ways to help books you love be recognized and loved by others.
ME: Laura, I love all of your advice. All. Of. It. And I thank you so very much for spending all of this time with us.
To find out more about Laura and her books:
Aliana Reaches for the Moon
Instagram @AlianaReachesfortheMoon or @ljrwritenow
ME: And here is an OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD sweet treat recipe – take it away, Laura!
LAURA: The pumpkin bread recipe is from a preschool cookbook we made for a fundraiser when my kids were little, so I’ve been making it for a long time. The original recipe calls for 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg, and 2/3 cup chopped nuts but I make it with fresh cranberries and chocolate chips and omitted those ingredients. I often include the spices and use only cranberries or chocolate chips and it always comes out delicious so feel free to experiment on those things.
Pumpkin Bread (makes 2 loaves)
2/3 cup butter softened
2 2/3 cup sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling
2/3 cup water
3 1/3 – 3 2/3 cups flour (it should be creamy but not watery)
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 12 ounce bag tollhouse semisweet chocolate chips (this is a guess because I never measure)
2/3 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries (I actually stock up on these around Thanksgiving and keep a bunch in my freezer)
Preheat oven to 350. Grease or use cooking spray on two loaf pans.
Using beaters, cream butter and sugar together. Mix in eggs. Add water and pumpkin and blend well. Add baking soda, salt, and baking powder and mix again. Add flour and mix well. If it looks to watery, add additional flour. Now, by hand mix in chocolate chips and cranberries. Pour into two pans and bake 70 minutes. I usually check the oven at 60 minutes and sometimes it even goes a bit longer than 70 minutes to make sure the center is completely cooked.
Thank you so much, Laura…this looks quite yummy. And thank you, everyone, for sticking around till the end. Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of Laura’s wonderful new book, ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON.
And please make sure to be back tomorrow for an ultra special Sunday post that includes an inside look at the journey of self-published author Carmen Gloria, whose lovely Kid’s Astronomy Series has a new book, just in time for this special celebration of space…plus a giveaway of Dear Pluto. And Carmen has a special gift for all of us: click on the link: https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Pluto-Kid-Astronomy-Book-ebook/dp/B07T68GC74/ and you can DOWNLOAD FOR FREE a Kindle ebook version of Dear Pluto…JUST FOR THIS SPECIAL MOON-LANDING WEEKEND!!!