Coffee and Conversation with Kara Laughlin

March has arrived and we are less than three weeks away from Team SCBWI! Can’t believe it’s just around the corner. I hope to see many (hey, why not all?) of you at the lovely Bishop Claggett Center in Buckeystown, MD.

Today we continue our series of interviews with some of our amazing conference faculty members. Kara Laughlin has attended just about every one of our conferences for the last several years. I remember her first one and I’m so thrilled to have her here in the Cyber Café!


Kara is an artist and writer living in Virginia. She is the author of two dozen nonfiction books for kids, including Paper Artist Creations Kids Can Fold, Tear, Wear, and Share, and a six-book series on service dogs from The Child’s World. Her latest project, Sparkle and Shine!: Glam Earrings, Necklaces, and Hair Accessories for All Occasions, is due out in Fall of 2016 from Capstone.



Welcome Kara! Let’s get started. First off, what’s your favorite coffeehouse beverage?

I often write in coffee shops, so this is a strategic answer. My go-to order is a nonfat decaf latte, and then, if the writing is going well, I switch to decaf coffee and keep ordering and tipping to bribe them into tolerating my presence for a little longer.

And your favorite snack?

Warm olives. Or shortbread. But usually not both together.

What was your favorite book as a child?

My mom claims it was The Little Engine That Could, which seems an appropriate favorite book for a writer. I mean, all of the best things that have happened in my writing life started with “I think I can.”Unknown

UnknownBut I remember loving Corduroy best. I thought Lisa had such a fancy life, living in an apartment in the city, to say nothing of taking care of talking bears.

And now, what’s your favorite book as an adult? 

There are three books that I find myself rereading every couple of years: Huckleberry Finn, Pride and Prejudice, and Walking on Water, by Madeline L’Engle. But they appeal to such different parts of me, I can’t pick one of them over another.

You magically find a $100.00 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it? (Key word: Frivolous!)

I would cash it in for one hundred $1 coins. I’d go to a town center where adults and children come by and I’d hide them in 100 different places. (I’d have to go under the cover of night, I suppose, so that people couldn’t see what I was doing.) Then I’d find an inconspicuous place with a good view and watch. I’d imagine there would be a fun moment when one or two astute people went from thinking they’d found a random coin to realizing they’d discovered a treasure hunt. That would be fun to see.

I totally want to go do this now. Maybe I will, and I’ll report back at the conference.

Too fun!! Can I tag along, please? 

You’ve been locked in a bank vault Twilight Zone style, so you finally have time to read!  Your glasses are fine (whew!) so what’s the first book you crack open?  

How To Stop Worrying About Being Locked in a Bank Vault and Just Enjoy Your Reading Time, by Rod Serling.

Ding-ding. Winner of the most unique (and funniest) answer to that question! Onto the next! If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now?  

I actually have a letter from my high school self to my future self—11th grade time capsule project—in which I ask, “Are you a famous writer?… Just think, if you are, then you would be my idol if I were a teenager in the year 2006, which means I would be my own idol.”

So there you have it, from a primary source: I’m living the dream. Unless you want to quibble about the famous part, but I think High School Me would cut me some slack on that score.

For one day, time travel is a reality and you can visit any famous deceased author you want.  Who do you pick?

I think Mark Twain would be a fun dinner companion—as long as he didn’t resent the time away from his desk.



What’s your favorite motivational quote?

“Finish. The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don’t talk about doing it. Do it. Finish.” –E.L. Konigsburg

Yep, just do it. If you could sum up your best marketing advice for new writers or illustrators in only four words, what would it be?

“Start with a gift.”

This is advice a salesperson once gave my husband—if you start off by having something of value that you can give away, you can prove to people that you have something they want, and they’re more likely to buy what you’re selling. In my case, I’ve had many opportunities come up from donating my books to my local library. I’ll talk more about that in my talk at the conference. (See what I did there?)

Awesome advice and perfect segue! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Speaking of Kara’s talk at the conference, she will be presenting Write to Inspire: Work for Hire. Kara will discuss the pros and cons of writing-for-hire, how to break in to the industry, and leveraging work-for-hire titles into school and library visits. Participants will have an opportunity to develop a plan for approaching educational publishers, and spend a little time brainstorming unique book-based programs that are attractive to schools and libraries.

Happy writing and illustrating!


About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
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2 Responses to Coffee and Conversation with Kara Laughlin

  1. Pingback: Coffee and Conversation with Betsy Bird | As the Eraser Burns

  2. Pingback: Team SCBWI: Tips, Info, and All Things Conference! | As the Eraser Burns

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