We are delighted to have Laurenne Sala participate in our Five Questions interview series. Laurenne is a Long Beach, CA based writer and is the author of We Hope You Remember. Her penchant for the written word extends beyond children's picture books and into poetry, essays and comedy. Laurenne has a unique perspective on writing and its ability to serve as a vehicle for healing, regardless of an individual's skill level or background. Enjoy the interview!
1. In your own words, describe yourself and what led you down the path of becoming a children’s book author.
I have been a writer forever-- I even won a prize for my student picture book in 4th grade (It was a futuristic tale about what school would be like in 2010!). After college at USC, I went to Miami Ad School, a grad school for creative copywriting and began to write commercials. While I wrote 2 novels after hours during those first jobs, I didn’t get my first book deal until a commercial I wrote made so many moms cry. Harper Collins called and wanted to turn that into You Made Me a Mother. It was a wonderful day! Since then I’ve been making more books and loving it.
My newest, Mi Casa Is My Home will be out next year. I just got the sketches back, and they are so cute. I love the process of making the books.
Other than that, I’m a mom to Lucia and wife to Sam. We live in a 100-yr-old house in Long Beach, and I’m in the middle of restoring it. It’s another rewarding project I love.
2. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received and what would you share with aspiring writers?
I probably didn’t listen to any advice, which is why it took me longer to become a published author than I’d hoped! My best advice to give is to listen and learn as much as you can. People usually come to me and ask for feedback on an idea they have. They wrote one draft and they want to sell it now and BAM done! But it takes a LOT of refining and reworking. If you want to sell a children's book, you have to learn what’s selling, what’s working, what rules there are and what rules you can break. There’s a lot of process and formula to learn. And then patience. Everything takes so much longer than you think. So I would say: soak it all up. Be a newbie and learn for as long as you can. Revise a ton. And then don’t give up when it doesn’t happen on your timeline. I need to take this advice right now too!
3. Parenting is a common theme across your published works, including We Hope You Remember. Why is parenting important to you and how can other parents benefit from you work?
I wrote my first two books about parenting (You Made Me a Mother and You Made Me a Dad) before I was a parent! I interviewed a lot of parents in order to make those happen. And I closed my eyes to remember what it was like to be a kid. The success of those books taught me that anyone can write from any voice with enough research and imagination. Now that I have a daughter, parenting is my favorite thing. I wish I’d started earlier so I could have 10 kids! I wrote We Hope You Remember right as my daughter was turning 1, so those memories and ideas are straight from my own experience as a new mom. There were so many great moments we were having, and I found it sad that my baby wouldn’t ever remember them! Hopefully that book helps her and other kids remember how great the first part of their lives were.
4. You host Story Circles in your local community. Tell us more about Story Circles and the impact they’ve had on you.
I went through some trauma as a young kid, and I never talked about it. I felt so much shame around it, so I was a pretty closed person-- didn’t want anyone to really get to know me. But when I discovered the power of writing out shame, I realized how freeing it could be. Letting it all out onto paper unlocked my heart and opened it to a whole new world. I want to share that experience with others, so I run Story Circles. It’s a group of open-minded people who come together to write. No experience necessary! I use specific prompts to get the juiciest, most shameful parts of us onto paper. It’s so freeing and everyone leaves with a lighter heart and brand new friends.
5. Across all of your writing experience, whether published, not published, picture books, essays, skits, commercials or any other form of writing, what is your favorite written piece and why?
Oh, that is impossible to answer. I get so excited about ideas that I fall in love with a different one each day. I love this poem I wrote about my body after having a baby. I love this new story I’m working on about the strange hobbies in Ancient Rome. This piece about my father was quite meaningful to me. Tomorrow I’ll love a brand new thing!