Laura Gehl is back for her second year as a Writing with the Stars mentor. I cannot thank Laura enough for her generosity, especially as she has THREE books launching during the contest. MY PILLOW KEEPS MOVING, illustrated by Christopher Weyant, debuts January 16, 2018; PEEP AND EGG-I’M NOT USING THE POTTY, illustrated by Joyce Wan, debuts February 13, 2018; and I GOT A CHICKEN FOR MY BIRTHDAY, illustrated by Sara Horne, debuts March 1, 2018.
Is this the last adventure for PEEP AND EGG? Did you have all the stories figured out when you sold the series or did you create as you went?
I don’t know yet whether there will be more Peep and Egg adventures, but I would certainly welcome the opportunity. We originally sold the first two books together. After receiving a very positive response to PEEP AND EGG: I’M NOT HATCHING, Macmillan wanted two additional books. I’M NOT TAKING A BATH was one of those two from the beginning. The fourth book was scheduled to be I’M NOT EATING THAT, but then our editor Janine O’Malley had the brilliant idea to do I’M NOT USING THE POTTY. I’ve already heard lots of excitement from both parents and kids about that title.
Your new book, MY PILLOW KEEPS MOVING, is about an older man whose pillow keeps moving because it is not a pillow at all, but a dog. I am very curious about how you came up with the idea for this delightfully wacky concept.
I used to play a silly game with my kids at bedtime. I would pretend to fall asleep—with lots of loud snores, of course—using one of them as a pillow. Of course, the “pillow” kept wiggling and giggling and I would say, “My pillow keeps moving! I need to return this pillow to the pillow store!” That bedtime game grew into this sweet, wacky book, which is dedicated to my oldest son.
Can you give us a synopsis of I GOT A CHICKEN for MY BIRTHDAY? The title is hilarious.
Ana begs Aubela Lola for tickets to the amusement park for her birthday. But Abuela Lola gives Ana…a chicken. Fortunately, the chicken turns out to be no ordinary chicken. After recruiting Ana’s pets and giving Ana a loooong list of supplies to gather, the chicken builds something in the backyard that turns out to be THE BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT EVER.
Do you have any creative ways of idea generation (besides having four kids)?
I am one of the people who believe ideas are EVERYWHERE. A comment you overhear at the grocery store. A funny rhyme popping into your head in the shower. A headline you read in the newspaper. So I keep post-it notes in every possible location, from the bathroom to the nightstand to the kitchen to my purse. Any time even the slightest sliver of an idea presents itself, I scribble it down. Later, I email myself all the scribbled thoughts, and I keep them in a file on my computer titled “Picture Book Ideas.” Usually these ideas are just a silly phrase or an interesting play on words when they go into my file. But later, I can think of a story to fill out the idea, or combine a few of the ideas into a full-fledged story.
Is there something you know now as a published author that you wish you had known when starting out?
The job never gets easier. Every multi-published author I know is working very hard all the time. This might initially sound discouraging to someone starting out…but I actually think the underlying message is ENCOURAGING. For the most part, authors are not getting contract after contract by connections or luck. They are getting those contracts from consistent hard work. Which means anyone willing to put in a huge amount of consistent hard work has a real shot in this business.
I know you are a serious chocoholic. How does chocolate figure into your writing? Do you eat it when things are hard? Or when celebrating? Both?
I like to eat small amounts of chocolate before I start writing. It gets my brain buzzing. I try to save milkshakes for big rewards, because they are just too unhealthy to eat regularly. I actually attempt (not always successfully) to avoid eating chocolate when frustrated. Because I feel better for about five minutes post-chocolate and then slump back into frustration again.
What are you working on next?
I have lots of projects at various stages in the pipeline. One book I am very excited about, which will be published by Albert Whitman, is called DELIVERY BEAR. It is about a bear whose dream is to deliver cookies for the Fluffy Tail Cookies company…only to discover that they only hire bunnies. The story depends in part upon songs, which satisfied my love of writing in rhyme. It also carries messages of both inclusion and playing to your own unique strengths. Paco Sordo is currently doing the illustrations, and I can’t wait to see them!
Thank you, Laura! Please remember to support these authors by buying their books, asking for them at your library and leaving reviews.