One of the wonderful things about having this blog and following the numerous other awesome book bloggers out there is discovering new authors and great books. In addition, as my older daughter grows in her writing abilities, it is fascinating to learn more about the writing process.
For anyone who follows this blog, you can tell that I have often written about Jewish books. They are very important to helping my children understand aspects of our religion and I find them especially important as we do not live in a large Jewish community. That said, finding new and exciting books that focus on our culture is incredibly exiting.
After writing this year’s Hanukkah post, I was thrilled to get an email from author Laura Gehl letting me know about two of her newest books – Tortoise and Hare Race Across Israel and And Then Another Sheep Showed Up. She was kind enough to send me copies of these great books and we thought that it would be fun to also talk about her writing process.
How long have you been writing for kids and what is your favorite part?
I started writing my first children’s book about ten years ago, around the time I began writing for children’s magazines. But that first book, ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR, wasn’t actually published until last fall. I remember scribbling verses in the middle of the night while nursing my then-infant son. Now he is about to graduate from elementary school.
I have a lot of favorite parts about writing for kids. One of the best parts is when I read to a big group of kids and they all start laughing. At one recent school visit, a boy called out “Hey! This is a really funny book!” after just a few pages. Which, of course, made all the rest of the kids laugh even harder.
You’ve chosen animals as all of your characters, why?
There is a movement within the children’s book industry to make sure all kids can “see themselves” in books. This means, among other things, making sure books are produced with characters of all races. I agree 100% with the idea that every child should be able to see herself or himself in a book. And that’s why I love animal characters. My animal characters don’t have any specific race, so kids of every race can identify with those characters.
What are you currently working on?
I’m always working on lots of projects at once. Right now these include a middle grade novel about a seventh grade science genius (no animals in that one), a picture book series with a wacky duck main character, and a few humorous nonfiction science books.
How did you come up with the ideas for your books?
Sometimes a title just pops into my head and the story follows. That happened with both AND THEN ANOTHER SHEEP TURNED UP and ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR. As soon as the words “And then another sheep turned up” entered my brain, I knew I had the beginning of a great Passover book. Many Jewish families can identify with trying to squeeze in an extra chair or two at the seder table. Not to mention needing to pull out a beach chair from the garage when the regular chairs run out!
The idea for HARE AND TORTOISE RACE ACROSS ISRAEL came from my second son’s preschool class. They were reading HARE AND TORTOISE RACE TO THE MOON, and that story was still in the back of my mind when I started thinking about writing an Israel book.
How long does it typically take between coming up with the idea and publishing it?
I think three years might be about average for a picture book, at least for a professional author who has published other books in the past. That time estimate includes one year for writing and selling the book and two years for the publication process. For an author’s first book, the writing and selling part of the process often takes a lot longer, though.
For a review of Hare and Tortoise Race Across Israel, check out this post.
Bio: Laura Gehl is the author of One Big Pair of Underwear, a Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Title; Hare and Tortoise Race Across Israel; And Then Another Sheep Turned Up; and the Peep and Egg series (hatching spring 2016). Laura also writes about science for kids and adults. She lives in Maryland with her husband and four children. Visit Laura online at www.lauragehl.com and www.facebook.com/AuthorLauraGehl.