Happy Monday, everyone!
Sorry for not posting this last Friday–life, work, kids and a cranky computer got in the way! But today we have author/illustrator extraordinaire David LaRochelle in the cyber cafe!
David is the author of several picture and young adult books, including THE BEST PET OF ALL:
… and the recently released 1+1=5: AND OTHER UNLIKELY ADDITIONS!
He is also our picture book track leader for the upcoming Staying On Track Conference in July and will be presenting two classes: The Building Blocks of a Picture Book and Revisions, Revisions, Revisions with editor Meredith Mundy! And while he’s getting cozy with his tall, icy glass of Pepsi . . .
… and a plate full of homemade chocolate chip cookies . . .
. . . let me share a brief reminder from our lovely illustrator coordinator, Susan Detwiler!
I want to make sure that illustrators know about the opportunities at the upcoming Staying On Track summer conference July 16 & 17. Illustrators will have their own track, but will join the Picture Book people for one of the track sessions. As illustrators, we’ll have a hands-on workshop with award-winning author and illustrator Lauren Stringer, whose wonderful interview with Laura Bowers was posted here in last Friday’s Author Focus. Also, new for this conference, there will be space provided to display your portfolio for all faculty and attendees to see and leave comments. You’ll get valuable feedback.
You can also sign up for a private portfolio critique with Lauren Stringer. I hope to see you at the conference!
Thanks, Susan! And now that David is ready, let’s get the show rolling! First off, David: When did you decide to be a writer?
When I was in elementary school I would make my own magazines for my best friend. I always loved to draw and write. Originally I wanted to be a cartoonist like Charles Schulz, then in college I decided I wanted to work for Hallmark cards. When Hallmark told me I couldn’t draw well enough, I went to plan B, which was to teach elementary school, which I did until I sold my first book in 1988.
Awesome! How long did your path to that first glorious book sale take, and what were your biggest hurdles?
I was very fortunate with my first book. A teaching colleague had read a story of mine and thought I should submit it to a publisher. When I balked, she called a publisher herself and read the story over the phone to an editor. That’s a surefire way to get rejected! However, the editor told my friend she’d like to see the story, and that became my first book. If only all my sales were so easy! Since then I’ve accumulated over 200 rejection letters on the road to getting thirty books published.
Seeing how hindsight is 20/20, what advice for beginners do you wish you would have followed?
After my first book was published I thought I was beyond taking writing classes. I had a book published; what more did I need to learn? That misguided superior attitude greatly slowed my career. Once I wised up years later and started taking writing classes, attending workshops and conferences, and joining a critique group, the quality and quantity of my writing made dramatic leaps forward.
I would also advise anyone to have a literary lawyer review your first book contract, something I did not do but wished I had.
Where’s your favorite place to work? And, if the paparazzi were taking pictures of odd things authors do while writing, what would be in yours, hmm?
I work in small studio in my apartment. I don’t do anything odd when I’m writing…other than finding ways to avoid working (checking my email, washing the dishes, clipping my toenails). You’ll be relieved to see that I am not clipping my toenails in the attached photo.
Whew! You had me worried there for a second. 😉 Great office, btw! How were you inspired to write your current or upcoming release?
My next book, THE HAUNTED HAMBURGER AND OTHER GHOSTLY STORIES, will be released in August. It’s about two little ghosts, Franny and Frankie, who won’t go to bed, so their father tells them “ghost” stories. When I was little I hated to go to bed, which I’m sure influenced the theme of this story.
Looks wonderful! And I love the cover. What is your favorite line from this book?
After hearing about their cousin’s encounter with the Haunted Hamburger, Franny and Frankie exclaim:
“And we thought hot dogs were scary!”
Are there any other genres that you’d like to tackle some day?
Most of my recent books have been picture books, with one young adult novel thrown into the mix. I’m currently working on a middle grade novel, which I hope someday to reach the end of my revisions.
What’s next on your agenda, any juicy projects you’d like to tell us about?
My summer project is working on the first book for which I get to be both author and illustrator (in the past I’ve been either one or the other). It is called ART ATTACK! and will be published by Sterling in 2013 (as long as I finish the illustrations in time!).
Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!
Do you . . .
Outline or wing it? No formal outline
Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped? Mum’s the word (mostly)
Sell by proposal or completed draft? Completed draft
Prefer writing rough drafts or editing? Exciting first rough drafts
Dread marketing/blogging or love it? Ugh!
Read Kindle or traditional books? Kindle? What’s that?
And finally, what’s your favorite:
Time to work? Though I’m a night person by nature, I need to write first thing in the day or it never gets done.
Music to listen to while writing? I can’t listen to anything while I’m writing or working on initial drawings. While I’m doing my final illustrations, I like to listen to jazz, oldies, and show tunes.
Writing tool? A BIC disposable mechanical pencil
Pair of shoes? My cowboy boots, for when I go country dancing
Guiltiest pleasure? Checking Amazon.com to see if anyone has left a new review of one of my books
Line from a picture book? “True story!” from DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS.
* BONUS QUESTIONS!! *
If iTunes asked you to submit a celebrity must-read-list, what books would make your top ten list?
Ask me on another day and my list would be different, but some of my all-time favorites include:
RATTLETRAP CAR by Phyllis Root and Jill Barton
THE MOUSE, THE RED RIPE STRAWBERRY AND THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR by Don and Audrey Wood
KING BIDGOOD’S IN THE BATHTUB by Don and Audrey Wood
SHEEP IN A JEEP by Nancy Shaw and Margot Apple
DEAR MR. HENSHAW by Beverly Cleary
THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary Schmidt
MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco X. Stork
THE MAN WHO FELL IN LOVE WITH THE MOON by Tom Spanbauer
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
What is your favorite writing how-to book?
DEAR GENIUS, THE LETTERS OF URSALA NORDSTOM. It’s not a how-to book, but it’s very inspirational and makes me want to sit down and write. Ursala Nordstrom is every children’s author dream editor.
Who is your author hero, someone you admire or aspire to be?
I once met Peggy Rathmann at an SCBWI conference shortly after she had won the Caldecott for OFFICER BUCKLE AND GLORIA, and apart from being an amazing author and illustrator, she was friendly, unpretentious, and very generous with her time and insights. She is a great role model of how an author should treat others.
What was your worst rejection and how did you bounce back?
I was once sent a form rejection letter that began “Dear Young Author, How very admirable it is of you to send your story to us. Although we cannot publish it, we suggest you send future stories to magazines that publish work by beginning authors your age.” I was 30 at the time.
I responded by laughing out loud because it was clear that they hadn’t even bothered to look at my cover letter.
Nice response! And thanks, David, for such a fun interview. Best of luck with all your writing and drawing and we’ll see you at the conference!
Have a great week, everyone! 🙂