Hello readers and welcome back!
Once again, you are at KidLit Oasis ― the place to refresh your spirits, recharge your creativity, and get a literary mood boost!
Now, stretch your smiles wide and get comfy and cozy for a lovely chitchat because today we have another awesome creative on the Chitchat series... Children's author Laurel Neme is here to share some wisdom, insight, and inspiration with us! Plus, check out the DOUBLE giveaway at the end of this interview!
Welcome, Laurel! Thank you for joining us on the blog. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
A: It IS a journey—and a long one at that—which is why seeing THE ELEPHANT’S NEW SHOE in print is so exciting for me. I started writing this manuscript in 2014—three years after I first met Nick Marx, the rescuer in this story. After many revisions and critiques, in late 2016 my agent submitted it. While Scholastic was interested, the manuscript itself didn’t connect– probably because I had gotten so bogged down in the details.
Thankfully, the editor provided me with a few examples, and that felt like an “AHA” moment for me. I ended up completely rewriting it, and this time, it DID connect. By August 2017, we had a contract, with the wonderful Ariel Landy on board as illustrator. After that, there were some edits—first to expand the story, and later, after the illustrations came in, to fit it better on the page—which all helped to make it a better book. I’m thrilled with the final result and so happy with the folks at Scholastic, who have been a dream to work with.
Q: What do you find most challenging in this business, either on the creative or publishing side of things? What do you find most rewarding? What helps you stay motivated?
A: For me, the biggest challenges stem from the long time period that everything seems to take. It’s hard to wait six months or a year to get feedback on a manuscript. But any frustration or impatience disappears when a child reads my book and it connects. That’s the reward that keeps me motivated.
Q: Could you share any craft tools or techniques that you find most helpful to you when working on a project? What does your revision process look like?
A: When I’m writing, I find it helpful to page out the text. Some people do this by making dummy samples, but I tend to do it in the text itself. Basically, I start the story on pages 4-5 (page 1 is the title page and 2-3 are the copyright and dedication), and then write in two-page chunks. In this way, I can get an overview of the book. I can see and compare spreads, identify where there are too many or too few words on a page, check that there’s something different to illustrate, and ensure that the action flows. It is a technique I learned from Jane Yolen at her Picture Book Boot Camp that I’ve found enormously helpful.
As to my revision process, it’s always a long one. I often let a manuscript sit for a while and then go back to it with fresh eyes. I also always share it with several different critique groups before sending it to my agent. Then, from there, there are always more revisions!
Q: What's coming up for you next? Please tell us about any new releases, exciting news, upcoming events or anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
A: Virtual school visits! While we all prefer to be in person, I love sharing stories with kids and I’m planning to do a number of virtual visits with schools and individual classrooms. Thanks to some amazing help from Kate Messner and her intensive workshop on Reimagining Virtual Visits, I’ve been reworking how I approach school visits to adapt what I do to the virtual world—hopefully in ways that take advantage of the medium and allow me to share some things that I couldn’t if I was in person.
For instance, Chhouk the elephant in my book had to be trained to allow Nick to put on and take off his boot without any anesthesia. To illustrate that process, I’m planning to show kids how I trained my dog—a super smart German shepherd—using the same techniques. Our dog loves to clean up his toys and do laundry—so, who knows?!? Maybe he’ll inspire kids to do the same.
Thank you, Laurel! This was quite interesting and it was great to learn about your path to publication, writing process, and also get some tips and insight, too!
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Connect with Laurel Neme:
Laurel Neme always dreamed of helping animals. At first, she wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. Later she planned to be an animal scientist like Jane Goodall. Eventually, she decided to help animals in her own way—by telling their stories. She’s the author of ANIMAL INVESTIGATORS: How the World's First Wildlife Forensics Lab is Solving Crimes and Saving Endangered Species, ORANGUTAN HOUDINI, and THE ELEPHANT’S NEW SHOE, about an elephant with a prosthetic foot and the rescuer who saves him. She also contributes regularly to National Geographic and Mongabay.com.
D O U B L E G I V E A W A Y ! ! !
This time, we will have two winners!
Comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of
The Elephant's New Shoe (US only please) or a picture book critique! Please indicate your preference. Good luck!
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If you'd like to support my work, please consider
pre-ordering Sunday Rain
Thank you in advance for your support!
Pre-orders are very important for a successful book launch
and your help is greatly appreciated :)