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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Laura Roettiger

Debut author, Laura Roettiger, claims her "superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them." Which obviously worked, as her three children are all employed in STEM related professions. Her debut book Aliana Reaches for the Moon, releases tomorrow.

Thank you Laura for stopping by to talk with us.

ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? How did you get started? What is your favorite type of book to write?)

LAURA: Over the course of my adult life, I have worn many hats including: mother, banker, commissioner of AYSO soccer, proofreader and editor for court documents, director of religious education, elementary teacher, reading specialist, environmental educator, literacy education mentor, and of course writer. I wrote a lot for and with my students when I was teaching. This included students from kindergarten - eight grade so I have been writing for a variety of audiences for many years. My current passion is picture books.

Most of my writing happens in the “dining room” which is really my writing room with beautiful dining room furniture, great artwork, and excellent lighting both from windows and light fixtures. We have never eaten in this room since moving to Colorado in 2016.

Sounds like you scored a great space for writing. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

My goal upon college graduation was to write for soap operas, it was the 1980s and they were a big deal at the time. Does anyone else remember “Dallas” and the world wanting to know, “Who shot JR?” Although I was offered the dream job, I turned it down because I was in the midst of planning a wedding and was marrying someone who couldn’t relocate to LA.

Life does have a way of tossing us curve balls. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

My favorite books, sorry I can’t choose just one, were Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sydney Taylor’s All-Of-A-Kind Family.

When I was in second grade, my teacher Miss Keyser, read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a class read aloud. I would come home each night and try to recite the chapter to my family over the dinner table. I still remember odd details of that story. For example, one of the reason the Bucket family is so poor is that Charlie’s father lost his job at the local toothpaste factory screwing on the lids when a machine was built and his job disappeared.

All-Of-A-Kind Family is a lovely story about a Jewish family of immigrants with 5 girls. The book teaches Jewish customs and traditions which were something near and dear to my heart. The girls love the library, also near and dear to my heart. They also love the library lady [spoiler alert!] and they have a family friend named Charlie, a bachelor with no family of his own and he acts as a benevolent uncle to the girls. Charlie’s unrequited love turns out to be … the library lady and when the girls invite her over for dinner, the two are reunited.

I reread this book last summer and discovered it is likely why I chose the name Charlie for my beloved Goldendoodle puppy who will be turning one when Aliana Reaches For The Moon is released.

He was such a cute puppy! Your debut picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon releases TOMORROW. Where did the idea for this story come from?

There are a few different inspirations which coalesced into the book. When I moved to Colorado, July 2016, it was the first time I lived where the night sky was unaffected by light pollution. I was mesmerized by the brightness of the light coming in my window during the full moon. Additionally, before I moved to Colorado everyone wanted to know what I was going to do when I left Chicago and more specifically, teaching. I wasn’t technically retiring but people wanted a label to my new life. A friend came up with the title Princess which was ultimately changed to Mountain Princess by another friend. My city friends were fascinated with the idea of me moving to the forest and the mountains and we discussed the possibility of woodland creatures cleaning my house *think Cinderella* and other wonderful ideas that never came to fruition.

So the original manuscript was Mountain Princesses Don't Clean and focused on a messy girl who did wonderful experiments and spent time in the forest exploring and bringing the forest into the house, much to her parents’ chagrin. She also noticed the full moon and started working with light and reflection to create something magical. When you read the final book, you see some of the original ideas have been left on the cutting room floor.

Have to admit, though, that other title is intriguing. Maybe a second book? What was the most rewarding part of the publishing process for Aliana Reaches for the Moon?

There are many rewards and challenges in publishing, but the moment that comes to mind as one that really meant so much to me is the endorsements from astronomers which are on the back cover of the book. Two women who work in STEAM fields, who don’t know me or have any stake in my book, wrote beautiful descriptions of the book about how it will inspire the next generation of curious and creative minds.

What an exceptional gift from those two scientists! What's something you want your readers to know about Aliana Reaches for the Moon?

Text © Laura Roettiger, 2019. Image © Ariel Boroff, 2019.

I believe it is important for adults to encourage children’s curiosity, creativity, and kindness. Aliana possesses all of these attributes and her parents allow her to be messy as she pursues her experiments. Sometimes creativity can be messy.

I find the messy ones are my best moments of creativity. What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (either as a child or now as a writer.)

My greatest inspirations are children and nature.

Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I have a manuscript that I’m very excited about that was inspired by my puppy Charlie who joined our household in April. Everyone kept asking me if I had written a book about him but it took until fall for me to finally create the story arc with him as the main character. The story has gone through many revisions, been critiqued by both of my critique groups twice, and also been given feedback from other writers on the 12x12 forum. (Julie Hedlund's 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge)

Is there anything about getting an agent, writing, or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or maybe something you are glad you hadn’t known at the time?

I wish I had discovered SCBWI earlier and also joined Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 Picture Book Challenge. It is important to connect with other writers and these are two important elements. I have attended several conferences and that’s also been a valuable experience.

What is your favorite animal? Why?

I love animals so that’s a difficult question. I’m going to say cows because when we went on a car trip my mother gave me a notebook to record interesting things along the road. This was before all of the technology that the current generation of kids uses to amuse themselves in the car. I started recording every time I saw cows, so the notebook reads:

Cows 8:10

Cows 8:11

More Cows 8:15

Black and white Cows 8:17

You get the idea. Not my best writing, but we saved this notebook and I still have it.

That's funny. How wonderful that you still have the notebook and those family memories.

Thank you Laura for sharing a bit of yourself and your writing with us.

Maria, thank you so much for this opportunity to share my story and my book, Aliana Reaches For the Moon.

Be sure to stop by this Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Aliana Reaches For the Moon.

To find out more about Laura Roettiger, or get in touch with her:

Also check out Laura's interview on Susanna Hill's Tuesday Debut.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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