Author Bio: Laurie Carmody created “Lady Laurlox’s Lovely Library” in her Upstate NY home when she was ten, and after giving out her copies of Nancy Drew to the neighbors she decided that sharing and celebrating stories was her great passion. She now writes picture books with themes of finding inner strength, embracing uniqueness, and building empathy. She also loves a good pun and seeks to find humorous wordplay in many of her stories. Laurie lives in Maryland with her husband and two children. When she isn’t writing, she’s playing piano, daydreaming, or attempting to jog around her hilly neighborhood. She holds degrees from Ithaca College and Indiana University in Instructional Design.
Welcome back to the blog. It’s the first day of September 2023, and that means it’s time for another wonderful Feature Interview. This month I’m pleased to introduce you to our special guest, Laurie Carmody. Our topics today will include (but are not limited to): Beginning the writing journey, stepping into publishing, challenges and motivations, tips and secrets, books and where to find them, recommendations and words of wisdom, get-to-know-you questions, and finally, GIVEAWAY PRIZES and how to win them! So, make sure to read to the end. Without further ado- here we go!
Beginning the Writing Journey
How long have you been writing stories, and what kinds of genres/topics do you enjoy writing about? I wrote (and illustrated!) my first picture book, Andy the Armadillo when I was in 6th grade. I switched to fantasy and mystery stories through high school, then pivoted to technical writing and instructional design during and after college. I came full circle and began working on picture books again in 2019 when my children were young. I like writing humorous, heartfelt stories about connection. When did you first know that you wanted to become a children’s book author? For as long as I can remember, my dream has been to see my book in a library. I spent hours upon hours in my library as a child, perusing the stacks for a new story to take home and devour. As an adult, I realized that nothing could be better than seeing a child reach for my story on the library shelves. What events led you into the wonderful world of kidlit publishing? Justin Colon announced a mentorship opportunity on Twitter (#PBChat) in the summer of 2019. Looking back, I was 100% not ready for a mentorship. I didn’t know nearly enough about the industry or about crafting picture books. But that opportunity introduced me to a fabulous group of critique partners. We are still connected, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without that community of creators.
Stepping into Publishing
About how long did you query literary agents before finding your agent, Natascha Morris? And for our new writers, can you share a little bit about the process of querying agents and what that entails? I queried for two years before I signed with my agent (Fun fact: she rejected my work in summer 2020. I worked on craft, created a new set of stories, then submitted and signed one year later!) A little about the process - It is going to take time (like years), and it is going to involve a lot of rejections (like hundreds). So, take your time to create something that speaks to you, take your time to work with critique partners to make it sing, and then take your time to send that work to a curated, specific list of agents. And after all that? Take your time to process any rejections before starting all over again. After you signed with your agent, how long did it take for you to get your first book deal? I had an offer for Big Truck Playdate (Beaming Books) before I signed with Natascha. She immediately jumped into the contract negotiations. Can you tell us about the process of being on submission with editors and how it compares and differs from the querying agent's process? It is hard, and it is slow! No matter who you’re querying, there are rejections. The only difference is that my agent sends out the queries based on her extensive knowledge and networks. But I still see those rejections. And I still have to figure out a way to take care of and encourage the creator within me to keep going.
Challenges & Motivation
It’s a well-known fact among the writing community that publishing moves sloooowly. Can you tell us what helps you personally to deal with the slow-moving pace? It is indeed incredibly slowwwwww. I was upset about it after I first went on sub as an agented author. I guess I thought things would move quickly once I got through the “finding an agent” part. It definitely is not any quicker. What do I do to deal with that? 1) Read lots of picture books to keep my head in the industry. 2) Commiserate with my critique partner friends. If there’s one thing that readers take from this interview, it is to find writing buddies. They will keep you going. Honest. 3) I write more stories so I’m not fixating on a timeline that is out of my control. Were there any challenges you met/or continue to meet during the publishing process? If so, can you share what they were/are and how you dealt /deal with them? The biggest challenge in the publishing process has been the post-publication life! I have spent my life as a story consumer, and I have spent 4 years as a story creator. But I have only had a few months as a story “business owner”. Putting myself out there for storytime events, checking sales data, and figuring out my website… all of these things are new and challenging to navigate! Asking friends my questions, posting in 12x12, and taking a step back when I feel overwhelmed is always helpful. What motivates you to continue down the path of publishing? I sometimes imagine that my heart is lined with paper. I have always felt safe within books, and the quiet welcoming nature of libraries and bookstores is magical. Being part of that space as a creator makes me feel deeply fulfilled. I don’t think I could ever step away. That's such a beautiful way of thinking about this and expressing it. I firmly believe that writers are always writers in their hearts, whether they're published yet - or ever. It's something that's a part of you. And of course, getting to see your work published is incredibly fulfilling.
Tips & Secrets
What are three things you can think of that were most beneficial in helping your writing career? 1) Critique partners - they are my confidants, cheerleaders, and friends. 2) Libraries - I check out around 30 books per week to study and inform my knowledge of both industry and craft. I type out my favorites to get a look at pacing, language, etc. 3) Contests - those fun challenges that you see on social media are a great way to create drafts, learn from others, and meet awesome people. Are there any writing tips or secrets that you’ve discovered that you wish you had known sooner? If so, what were they? 1) Type out your favorite picture books to study. 2) Ask questions! Find a trusted community (mine is 12x12, and my critique partners.) 3) Give yourself challenges (Example: Last summer I wrote one new draft per week to jump start my creative mind). 4) If you feel burned out, that’s ok and normal! Take a break (I like to read novels and/or do a ton of critiquing). Looking back, is there anything that you wish you had done a little differently? If so, what would it be, and how would you change it? I wish I had done more reviews and library requests from the beginning. It is so incredibly helpful to support authors in that way. Do you have any words of encouragement to share with a writer or illustrator who’s just starting out? "You are in the arena," as Teddy Roosevelt said. And that is a big deal. You are going to be upset. You are going to feel defeated. You are going to feel like you want to quit. But guess what? Your stories are worthy, needed, and important. Keep going, and if you need someone to cheer for you, message me. What’s your all-time favorite part of writing books for kids? My #1 reason for doing this is because I want children to love reading, to feel connected with the world, and to feel safe and loved. My favorite part of the craft of writing, though? Picture books are a true collaboration of art and words. It is a beautiful puzzle for my mind, and I adore thinking about how pacing, language, concept, and art come together. Speaking of writing books for kids…
Books! And Where to Find Them
We've arrived at my FAVORITE part of the interview… the part where we talk about books! In particular, YOUR books. Can you share a little bit about your new book, Big Truck Playdate? What's your story about? In Big Truck Playdate, a boy who is passionate about trucks has trouble connecting with his classmates. When a big truck comes to school and is swarmed by kids, he has to figure out how to advocate for himself in his own unique way before missing a chance to touch the truck. What was your inspiration for writing it? Corey is neurodiverse and is inspired mostly by my sister-in-law, Ashley, who has autism. She is passionate about stuffed bears in the same way that Corey loves trucks. And I love how my kids and I connect with her through her bears. Our worlds come together at that intersection. What do you hope it will do for children/families? I want children to have exposure to two things: 1) That there are different ways to play, and 2) there are different friendships. Kids can take a risk, put themselves out there, and share their passions with the world. Was there anything during the illustration process that surprised you? I was expecting not to hear a lot or see a lot during the process. It’s important to give the illustrator the space and time to create. With that said, I think what surprised me the most was how wonderful it felt to give up that space and time. This story may have started out in my head, but the illustration process transformed that idea into something shared. And that is bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. Can you tell us a little about your illustrator and what the working experience was like? Jennica Lounsbury is a Canadian illustrator. Although we’ve never met and we never discussed the book during the publication process, I feel this very cool connection built on mutual support and respect. Do you have a favorite illustration/spread in the book? If so, which one and why? I’ve always adored the illustration where Corey is sharing the open road with his classmates. It elevates the text and shows such a deep understanding of friendship, play, and individuality. Where can we find your book? Big Truck Playdate is available wherever books are sold. You can check out the links on my website, too! Favorite Bookstore? The Curious Iguana in Frederick, Maryland!
Get to Know You
Favorite color? Blue Favorite smell? A campsite Favorite animal? Barn Owls Top three guilty pleasure movies? Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth miniseries!), Overboard, and The Count of Monte Cristo Top three guilty pleasure songs? Boys of Summer by Don Henley, September by Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Move by Saint Motel Share a cheesy joke! Q: What did one cow say to the other cow? A: Nice calves! Tell us something unusual/surprising about yourself that most people don’t know. I can write anything in cursive mirror image. It’s my parlor trick! For some reason, my brain just works that way.
Recommendations and Words of Wisdom
What are three authors/books that you’d recommend everyone read at least once? Oh jeez, this is hard! I am going to keep it broad: 1. Read a banned book. 2. Read a book where the main character is not like you. (I’ve heard this referred to as a “window book” because it gives you a look into another experience.) 3. Read a book where the main character is like you. (I’ve heard this referred to as a “mirror book” because it helps the reader reflect and learn.) Laurie, I love, love, LOVE these recommendations. Such great words of wisdom here! Any last words of wisdom for our readers? Read widely, and read diverse books. There are so many life experiences to grow our compassion and understanding of the world. Also, picture books are for everyone. You can learn so much about the world - physically and emotionally- by reading them. Thanks so much, Laurie, for taking the time to be here today. Now it's time for the moment you've all been waiting for...
For the month of September, Laurie Carmody is offering ONE of these options to our prize winner:
A signed book.
A manuscript critique of a picture book less than 1000 words (no rhyming, please).
A 30-minute AMA Zoom call.
A 30-minute virtual classroom visit.
HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:
LIKE this Feature Interview during the month of September 2023.
SUBSCRIBE to the blog (already subscribed? You’re one step closer!)
COMMENT below this Feature Interview, letting us know which prize you’d like!
Did you enjoy this interview? Support this author by purchasing her book below! Using this direct purchase link also supports this blog.
Purchase link for Big Truck Playdate