Friday Author Focus: Coffee & Conversation with Lauren Stringer

Happy Friday, everyone!

In anticipation of our upcoming “Staying on Track” conference, today we have the lovely Lauren Stringer, our illustrator track leader, joining us in the cyber cafe!

And now that she’s settled with her soy cappuccino on the wet side . . .

And her favorite snack, apples with an occasional touch of peanut butter . . .

. . . let’s begin!

First off, when did you decide to be a writer, Lauren?

In 1996, after illustrating MUD, written by Mary Lyn Ray, my editor, Allyn Johnston, suggested I try writing my own stories as illustrators who write and illustrate are a perfect combination. I was a new mom and filled with love for my daughter and reading tons of books to her night and day, (she was not a napper nor a sleeper at night), so my first attempts were quite sentimental and filled with the awe of the world around us. These first stories never saw the light of day.

How long did your path to that first glorious book sale take, and what were your biggest hurdles?

My first picture book, WINTER IS THE WARMEST SEASON, written and illustrated by myself came out ten years later in 2006. It was written in flurry of three days and Allyn accepted it to publish within two days after that! My biggest hurdle was believing that I could be a writer. I had met the author Anne Ylvisaker in 2001 at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA. When she said she lived in Minneapolis too and was looking for a writer’s group, I said I was too! She had a friend who was interested in a writer’s group and eventually, the illustrator/author Jill McElmurry joined our group. After we met for the first time, I was so excited that I went home and went through a file of story ideas I had been keeping. I found a quote from my son that said he thought winter was the hottest season because we wear warm clothes, sit by hot fires, and drink hot chocolate. I played around with lists of warm things in winter, cold things in summer and before I knew it, I had a story. I had a book contract before our second writer’s group meeting! What a celebration we had!

Seeing how hindsight is 20/20, what advice for beginners do you wish you would have followed?

Believe in yourself. If you want to write, start writing and set aside all of the contingencies you set up for yourself. The dishes can wait, recycle the mailers, grab a cup of coffee or tea and begin filling the page.

Where’s your favorite place to work? 

My studio is both for painting and writing. There are windows all around and a large oak stands out front giving my space a tree-house feel. I surround my myself with pillows, dictionaries, thesauri, water and tea~ and any books that I have read or love the pictures in to inspire me.

How were you inspired to write your current or upcoming release?

I have a new picture book coming out written by Mem Fox and illustrated by me. The story is in the pictures~ Mem wrote a poignant, simple outline leaving the story to be filled in by the illustrator. It was an extremely challenging book to illustrate, but that is why I said yes to the project. The inspiration for the storyline in the illustrations came from memories of how my children dealt with a stormy day. I will bring slides to show, don’t worry.

 What is your favorite line(s) from this book?

My favorite image is Greedy Goose and her pink umbrella falling from a branch and suddenly able to fly, thanks to the umbrella, and thanks to the rain! (Again, you will see slides!) This image accompanies Mem’s line: “and the way…” ß Provocative, don’t you think?

Nice!  Now, are there any other genres that you’d like to tackle some day?

Middle grade novels. I read a lot of them and I feel a kinship to that age in myself. I have begun three middle grade novels and all three stories pull at me. Time to begin writing!

What’s next on your agenda, any juicy projects you’d like to tell us about?

I have two more books to illustrate on contract, DEER DANCER, written by Mary Lyn Ray and EVERYONE LOVES LEAVES, written by Cynthia Rylant. I also have two picture book manuscripts near completion of my own. One is pending acceptance by my editor.

 Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!

Do you . . .

Outline or wing it?   Sometimes outline, sometimes winging.

Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped?   Talk, then regret it.

(Ha, love that answer! :))

Sell by proposal or completed draft?   Completed draft.

Prefer writing rough drafts or editing?   Prefer the rough.

Dread marketing/blogging or love it?   A dread/love affair.

Read Kindle or traditional books?   Books!!! (However, I covet the iPad!)

And finally, what’s your favorite:

Time to work?   Morning

Music to listen to while writing?   Not while writing, but while painting I put my iPod on shuffle- mostly indie stuff and some classical.

Writing tool?   “Slicci” pens from Japan- size 0.25, black

Pair of shoes?   Bare feet

Guiltiest pleasure?    Warm ginger cookies just out of the oven


If iTunes asked you to submit a celebrity must-read-list, what books would make your top ten list?

  1. THE UNCOMMON READER, by Alan Bennett
  2. ELI THE GOOD, by Silas House
  3. THE FAR CRY, by Emma Smith
  4. SAPLINGS, by Noel Streatfield
  5. MOON OVER MANIFEST, by Clare Vanderpool
  6. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, by Sue Monk Kid
  7. TENDER AT THE BONE, by Ruth Reichl
  8. GONE WITH THE WIND, by Margaret Mitchell
  9. THE ARRIVAL, by Shaun Tan
  10. THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET,  by Brian Selznick

Great list!  Okay, Lauren, what’s your favorite writing how-to book?

Writing as a Way of Healing, How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives, by Louise DeSalvo

Who is your author hero, someone you admire or aspire to be?

Cynthia Rylant

What was your worse rejection and how did you bounce back?

My first dummy for SCARECROW was rejected thoroughly. I cried and wondered if I should return the advance on the contract. Then I found the courage to ask for another year and my amazing editor granted it to me!

Awesome, thanks, Lauren, for stopping by the cafe!  Best of luck with all your writing/illustrating, and we’re looking forward to seeing you at the conference!

And, illustrators, don’t miss an excellent opportunity for two “hands-on” workshops with Lauren in July!

Have a great weekend, everyone! 🙂

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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5 Responses to Friday Author Focus: Coffee & Conversation with Lauren Stringer

  1. Thanks for this wonderful interview, Laura and Lauren. I have long been a fan of Lauren’s work. Each year I look forward to reading aloud SCARECROW and SNOW to second graders. I love asking them if they noticed the cover of the book on the table in SNOW when the little girl comes inside from her walk. I love the endpapers. Oh, let’s face it. I love everything about that book.

    Happy to know there are more books coming. Can’t wait to see them!

  2. Laura Bowers says:

    Thanks, Sarah! 🙂

  3. I loved this interview! Lauren, you are an inspiration to me, and it is fun to find out how you work. I am looking forward to meeting you and hearing your presentations at the “Staying on Track” conference more than ever!

  4. Pam says:

    Great interview! So nice to get to know you, Lauren!

  5. Pingback: Monday Author Chat: Coffee & Conversation with David LaRochelle! « As the Eraser Burns

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