Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. I’m particularly excited for this Q & A, because I get to introduce an author who is not only a mentor to me, but who’s also one of the nicest and most approachable people on the planet: Laura Purdie Salas. For years, I have read her nonfiction books, and now she’s releasing a brand new fiction picture book, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten! published by Two Lions. Check out Laura’s journey below.
BUT FIRST- yay, a giveaway: Laura is generously giving away a SIGNED copy of her book to one lucky winner. Simply comment on this blog, contest ends July 24, 2020 (US only).
Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
I listened to the All the Wonders podcast where Matthew Winner interviewed Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant about their book, I Am (Not) Scared, back in 2017. They talked about writing about a common fear. Afterward, I asked myself, “What would be the most Uncommon fear a kid could have?” The answer that popped into my head was “a pile of puppies!” Here’s what I wrote in my Ideas file.
3/23/17: Not Puppy Kindergarten! A puppy is terrified of starting kindergarten and has all sorts of fears. What if everyone laughs at my spots? What if the other kids bite me? What if the snack is liver? What if I do everything wrong? This could be really funny, I think, and a good analogy to kids starting school. And what if everything bad really happened? Hmmm…While listening to All the Wonders episode with Anna Kang and her husband.
I started playing with that, and the puppies morphed into kitties, and in just 10 or so drafts and with help from my Wordsmiths critique group, I created a manuscript I felt good about submitting. Over a few months, I sent it to four editors. Meanwhile Marilyn Brigham at Two Lions rejected a different picture book manuscript I had sent her. In her kind rejection note, she described the kind of manuscript she was looking for. I felt like Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten fit the bill, so I sent it in. She asked for a couple of revisions before acquiring it, but then everything moved forward quickly, with Hiroe Nakata coming on board to do the fabulous illustrations. And I realized somewhere during the acquisition process that Two Lions was the publisher who did I Am (Not) Scared! What a lovely feeling of coming full circle.
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Oh. This would be the point where I say to myself, “I should have read all the questions first!” Hehe.
I will share that the inspiration for the sets of three rhyming lines appearing occasionally throughout the prose story came from Tammi Sauer’s text for Mr. Duck Means Business (Paula Wiseman Books, 2011). I loved the effect and set out to use it from the start. It disappeared from some versions as I tried different approaches, but it kept popping back up. Mentor texts, often for structure or voice or some specific technique like this, often play a role in my writing.
What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
It does vary, but a few things hold true 99% of the time.
- An idea percolates in my heads for weeks or even months before I start writing.
- I write a LOT of drafts circling around the topic or character, getting (hopefullyl) closer and closer as I try different things.
- In many drafts, I focus on one or two things, e.g., Make all of Clover’s reactions more over the top in this draft or Use more cat-related wordplay in this draft.
- The ending doesn’t usually fall into place until…the end. I struggle with endings, and it’s almost always the hardest part of the book for me to write.
What are the key differences in writing fiction vs nonfiction? Can authors write both?
Yes, authors can write both! Many of my favorite authors, like Joyce Sidman, Kate Messner, and Nikki Grimes, write in multiple genres! It might require different writing processes for each genre/form, but you learn as you go. For me, the way I figure out the structure is the biggest difference between writing nonfiction and writing fiction. In nonfiction, I spend more pre-writing time percolating. I play with ideas for different structures. I often even sketch or storyboard them out and discard most before ever writing an actual draft. But in fiction, I just have to dive in to actual full drafts, because I can’t figure out the pacing and narrative structure of the story until I actually start trying to write the scenes.
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Clover could not wait for nap time.
But nap time was a disaster. Ms. Snappytail’s purrrrrfume stank like licorice.
“Sweet dreams, Clover,” said Oliver.
“Share my rug!”
“Rock-a-bye, kitty, in the treetop…”
A treetop! Clover’s belly swayed, and she couldn’t sleep on her scratchy mat. She tried. She sighed. Clover Kitty quietly cried.
School felt nine lives long.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
These are tough times for book creators, especially if you’re not a big name. I hope to continue working on picture books of all kinds—fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. And I love easy readers, too! I also have a Patreon group where I share information with children’s writers. I’d like to grow that enough to make it sustainable, as I love to share information and inspiration with writers. We’ll see what happens
My books coming out in the next few years include:
If You Want to Knit Some Mittens (illus. by Angela Matteson, Boyds Mills Kane, 2021)
We Belong (illus. by M Kawashima, Carolrhoda, 2022)
Zap! Clap! Boom! (illus. by Elly McKay, Bloomsbury, 2022)
Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
Does Dav Pilkey’s God Bless the Gargoyles (Voyager Books, 1999) count as a classic? This haunting, rich, rhyming picture book was one of the first that made me think, I want to create books like this. I thought of this book while writing We Belong for Carolrhoda (coming in 2022). Mr. Duck Means Business, by Tammi Sauer and Jeff Mack (Paula Wiseman Books, 2011), inspired me with its wry humor and the way so much is left unsaid, but a lot happens. This was definitely a mentor text for me for Clover Kitty. So many poetry and nonfiction picture books have been mentor texts for me, but this might be the first time I’ve acknowledged these two publicly!
What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Writing a picture book draft is like taking one step up Mt. Everest. That step might not place you at the summit, but it gets you to the next step, which gets you to step after that. And you can’t summit without all those steps. Also, donuts. They make every kind of climbing more fun.
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Caramel Caribou: toffee ice cream, caramel-filled chocolate cups, and swirls of caramel. Because I think life is short and you should make yours a celebration. This ice cream says celebration to me
Former teacher Laura Purdie Salas believes reading small picture books and poems can have a huge impact on your life. She has written more than 130 books for kids, including Lion of the Sky (Kirkus Best Books and Parents Magazine Best Books of the Year), the Can Be… series (Bank Street Best Books, IRA Teachers’ Choice), and BookSpeak! (Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notable). Visit Laura at laurasalas.com.
• site: www.laurasalas.com
• Clover Kitty page with lots of downloadables: laurasalas.com/clover
• order personalized copies of the book through Red Balloon: laurasalas.com/clover
• blog: laurasalas.com/blog
• Twitter: @LauraPSalas
• Instagram: LauraPSalas
• E-letter for educators: tinyurl.com/p5q54g8
• Patreon: patreon.com/LauraPurdieSalas
Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten is an Amazon First Reads pick, which means it’s at a huge discount for July only. Anybody can get the Kindle edition for $4.99 or the hardcover edition for $6.99. (And Prime members can get the Kindle edition free.) That link is https://amzn.to/31QKWMz
AND, through the end of July, there’s a Goodreads Giveaway! Hardcovers will be sent to 20 winners. That link is https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/309060-clover-kitty-goes-to-kittygarten
With both of these, the idea is to get Clover Kitty into more hands and hopefully get lots of honest reviews. I’m extra grateful to folks like you who help spotlight books in a big way, but I also really appreciate anyone who reviews the book on their platform of choice. Finding our way to readers is an extra challenge right now!
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