Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Meet Laura Crawford!

Today's guest is Laura Crawford, author of several children's books. Her picture book In Arctic Waters (2007) was published by Sylvan Dell Publishing, which also published my recently released picture book One Wolf Howls.

I am interviewing Laura because of her book Postcards from Chicago (Raven Tree Press / 2008). Written for ages 6-12, Postcards from Chicago takes us on a tour of Chicago with a girl named Anna, who shares her travels through a series of postcards. Each page includes additional facts about the places Anna visits in the Windy City.

Q: How old were you when you first realized that you wanted to be a writer?

Laura: I was about 30 years old when I decided to become a writer!! That surprises some people. As a child, I liked math and science. As an adult, I like to write about social studies. I’ve changed direction over the years! I was inspired to write children’s books when I was getting my Master’s Degree in Reading at NIU.

Q: Whose encouragement made a significant difference as you developed into a writer?

Laura: Three Illinois authors have made a significant difference in my career as an author. The first is Steve Layne, a professor I had when I attended NIU. He was so excited about the book he had written and recently had published. Something in my head said ‘If he can do it, so can I’. It took a few years, but I enrolled in writing classes with Carmela Martino and Heidi Roemer. Both are very talented and patient teachers. Their guidance and support have made my books possible.

Q: Describe one of your earliest works. Who or what inspired you to write it?

Laura: The first book I wrote was Postcards From Washington, DC. I wrote it when I was taking a class at a local community college. At that time, I was a second grade teacher. I had been looking for a book to use in my classroom to teach young students about the interesting places in our capital. I could not find one, so I wrote one. After a long time of submitting, I finally got a call from Raven Tree Press saying they would like to publish my book….and would I like to do two more? Of course I would! I was ecstatic.

Another one of my early works turned into In Arctic Waters from Sylvan Dell. This book was inspired by a trip to the Shedd Aquarium with my Dad. The beluga whales were hilarious- they swam up, squeaked and splashed us. At that time I was teaching a unit on the Arctic animals, so I came home and wrote a book starring a beluga whale. That book went through many, many revisions and rejections before being picked up by Sylvan Dell.

Q: Obviously you have written a book about Chicago. What other ties to Chicago do you have?

Laura: Not too many! I live in the suburbs of Chicago and don’t go downtown very often. As I started researching, I learned so much—there are so many fun and historical things to do. I realized that I should be taking advantage of all of the fascinating sights since I am only an hour away!

Q: What was easy about writing Postcards from Chicago? What was difficult?

Laura: One of the hardest parts of doing the Postcard series is coming up with 14 places for the main character to visit. For Chicago, it was not as hard since I had been to so many of these places. The list for New York, on the other hand, was quite difficult!

Q: Of the places mentioned in Postcards from Chicago, what is one of your favorites?

Laura: Well that is a funny story. In the original version of Postcards From Chicago, I had included a page about Wrigley Field and the ‘curse of the goat’. I am a huge Cubs fan, so that was the first page I wrote. As the book progressed, the editor said they could not find pictures of Wrigley Field that they could use, so I had to take it out. I offered to take the pictures myself or have my photographer friend take them, but they said no. Unfortunately, they wanted a postcard about Soldier Field instead. I hate football!! So….to answer the question of what is my favorite (instead of what would have been my favorite) I will say the Shedd Aquarium. I love those belugas!

Q: Did you take the photographs used in Postcards from Chicago or are they actual postcards or photos taken by someone else for the book?

Laura: Everyone asks me that, and the answer is no. I always say that it took 4 people to make this book. I wrote it, Bonnie Adamson illustrated it, someone took the pictures, and someone translated the sidebars into Spanish. One of the unique things about Raven Tree Press is that they always incorporate Spanish into their books. It was a group effort. And if I had been in charge of the pictures, page one would have been Wrigley Field!

Q: Anything else you'd like to share?

Laura: Yes, this book holds a special place in my heart because I dedicated it to a coworker, Kim Corcoran. We taught third grade together in Sleepy Hollow, Illinois. She died unexpectedly and never got to see this book. We were planning on going down town to do research at the time of her death. Also, her favorite animal was the polar bear, which is pictured on the page for the Lincoln Park Zoo. Since that was unplanned, it is kind of a cool little tribute to her!

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