Category Archives: News

Create Great Characters with Me and Mr. Puffball Illustrator, Constance Lombardo!

Know any budding illustrators?  Check out this free, family-friendly art event with local author/illustrator of the Mr. Puffball books, Constance Lombardo and myself.  Get some tips on how to sketch a character to life, and then spend plenty of time drawing your own!

Hope to see you (and meet your newest character) at Firestorm Cafe in West Asheville on Sunday, November 6th at 11:00 a.m.

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Great Big Thank You

Book signingI just wanted to say an enormous THANK YOU to everyone who has shown up to my launch parties, spread the word about my book, cheered me on when I’ve felt insecure (it turns out that publication doesn’t make that go away, but sometimes affirming readers do!), and been otherwise supportive in so many ways since my book came out this spring… and long before!

It really struck me when I was heading to my hometown after writing a book about a guy returning to his hometown after writing a book.  Thomas Wolfe was met with death threats and boycotts of his book and went on to write You Can’t Go Home Again.  Well, I can.

I got to go home to a book signing overflowing with my family, childhood neighbors, grade school teachers, and old friends.  And that was after my current home, Asheville, surrounded me with friends and fellow writers, co-workers, students and their families at my book signings here.

I’m touched and so grateful for you!

Photo Booth 09  Photo Booth 26  Photo Booth 31.jpg

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Bring “Writing Home” Home!

Well, I suppose I ought to mention that my book got published!  It’s very exciting, by which I also mean sort of horrifying, especially that self-promotion piece.  Thanks for letting me practice it with you!

If you live in the area, I would love for you to come celebrate with me.  I am having a book launch at Firestorm Cafe & Books this Saturday, May 14th from 6:30 to 8:30pm.  There will be tasty treats and kid-friendly activities.  I will also be signing books at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial on Saturday, May 21st from 1:00 to 3:00pm.

Oh, and you can get a copy of Writing Home at Malaprop’s Bookstore, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial gift shop, the Rowman & Littlefield website, or Amazon.  Thanks for all the kindness and support!

And while I’m on a roll with this self-promotion bit, there is still some room in my summer camps!  If you know of any creative kids who enjoy writing, art, acting, or even mystery-solving, please spread the word.  You can find more info about these True Ink camps here.

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Thomas Wolfe is Law

As it turns out, Writing Home: The Story of Author Thomas Wolfe, my picture book coming out in May, is not the only Wolfian biography stepping onto the scene.   Probably inspired by my book and riding on the coattails of its success, a major film starring Jude Law, Colin Firth, and Nicole Kidman is debuting this summer depicting the fiery relationship between Wolfe and his publisher, Maxwell Perkins.

So basically, post-apocalyptic is out and Thomas Wolfe is in.  Get it while it’s hot.  Really though, the movie looks great.  Check out the trailer for Genius here:

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1953674521/imdb/embed?autoplay=false&width=640

 

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Cover Reveal! Pre-Order!

Have I mentioned that my picture book is now available to pre-order from Taylor Trade Publishing?  No, you won’t get it in time for Christmas, but it will be a nice surprise when you forget that you’ve ordered it and it arrives in the mail for you in May!

https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781630761332/Writing-Home-The-Story-of-Author-Thomas-Wolfe

Even if you’d rather wait until it hits the shelves of a local bookstore, you can still get a sneak peak of the cover… one of my very own illustrations!

 

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Mountain of Words to help kids climb

mountainofwordslogo (2)On November 14th and 15th I’m going to write as much as I can, not just because it will be great for my own writing, but because it will also give kids around Asheville a chance to experience the power and pleasure of creative writing.

It’s time for the 3rd annual Mountain of Words Write-a-thon to support Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community. Last year’s event helped to fund “Family Voices” at two schools, a program that is very close to my heart.  It places writers in classrooms to give students a chance to share their stories and to bring families together over dinner and creative writing.  Here are some lines of metaphor poems that students wrote with their families during my residency at Hall Fletcher last spring:

We are a neon sweatband because we are unique.

We are suspenders because we hold each other up.

We are like an old, shining piece of valuable jewelry because we have something to give.

Here are some different ways you can participate and support support our work:

  • You can sponsor me here!  Or any of our amazing featured writers participating this year, like Ron Rash, Lamar Giles, Constance Lombardo, Cindy McMahon, or Alexandra Duncan, to name a few.
  • You can join us at our write in at West End Bakery on Sunday, November 15 from 1-3pm.  You can write to fun and inspirational prompts or work on your personal writing in the company of local authors. It’s family- friendly and free to attend with favors and activities for kids.
  • Spread the word!  By reblogging, reposting, or telling your friends, you can make a big difference.

anthologiesI was lucky to be so encouraged with my creativity growing up, and I really believe that everyone should know how valuable their voice is.  Thank you for your support!

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Writing Diverse Children’s Books: the 2015 SCBWI-Carolinas Conference

I came away from yet another SCBWI conference with inspiration, helpful information, new writer friends and idols, and writing momentum, but without much time to process it or actually write.  But even though I’m late, I especially wanted to share what I learned this year since the conference’s “Your Story, Your World” theme is one that I feel a special passion for but don’t always know what I can do about: diversity in children’s books.

Check out the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign!

An incredible faculty of Pat Cummings, Lamar Giles, Minju Chang, Daniel Nayeri, Kelly Starling Lyons, Monika Schroeder, Alan Gratz, and many others shared how important it is for all children to be able to see themselves in the heroes of children’s books.  Not only that, but books should show children that are already well represented the diverse world they live in. As this article in The Guardian explains, reading helps people to develop empathy, and so diverse books can also help children empathize with those who are different than themselves.

So, as a white, middle class, able-bodied, heterosexual writer that believes children should have access to books with diverse characters, what can I do?

This is the insight I gained from this year’s conference:

  • Keep a broad definition of “diversity.”  Think in terms of race, religion, gender, geography, sexuality, class, physical and mental abilities, and age.
  • Write stories with diverse characters.  While this seems like the simplest solution, it is actually the most difficult and comes with a lot of disclaimers.  If you write about a culture (use a broad definition when considering culture, too!) other than your own, write from the heart and not because it is a market trend.  Make sure to empower children through your characters rather than victimize them, and be cautious of stereotypes.

Be aware that it may be uncomfortable and you may be accused of “voice appropriation.”  Monika Schroeder’s response to this is that no one owns a culture, but that if you are going to write about a culture other than your own, get it right.  Do your research, including making authentic connections with people from that culture.  Immerse yourself in it if you can!

Also be aware that some publishers have limited spots for these diverse books and that your story about another culture could crowd out someone from that culture’s stories.

  • Biographies are a great way to depict diverse heroes.  Because they fit in with the common core curriculum, this is also a great way to get diverse books into classrooms.  But, as mentioned above, write them from the heart about people whose stories you connect with, research to portray the culture and perspective authentically, and don’t write them just because they are trendy.
  • Bring existing stories from other cultures to your own.  Research international stories and folklore.  Explore diverse storytelling and illustrating styles.  If you have translation skills, use them to bring in international perspectives.  Very few children’s books are translated into English from other languages.
  • Explore your own diversity.  What part of your own story is under represented?  Although my own race, class, and geography may be well represented, I come from a family of Italian immigrants and we carry on their traditions.  My own family is non-standard, with half-siblings on both sides who are much older than me.  I have a Brazilian exchange student “sister.”  What part of you is not often reflected in children’s books?
  • Illustrate or make illustration notes for pictures with diverse characters.  
  • Buy, read, and tell booksellers about books by and about people from other cultures.  There is not only a need for more diverse children’s book characters, but also for people from diverse cultures to be creating these books.  So what can you do if you are from an over represented culture like me?

As Kelly Starling Lyons eloquently put it, “Lift people up as you climb.”

 

 

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Order a Laura for your School!

Now, in addition to classroom or community organization writing residencies with Asheville Writers in the Schools & Community and TAPAS, I am also available for private school or library visits.  Check out my page for more details!

Bonus:

Look at this beautiful pendant that my mom gave me for my birthday to commemorate my dad, made by my talented friend Emily of Rings N Things.  Anyone recognize the characters?

bfg 1

BFG 2

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Great, BIG, Thomas-Wolfe-Sized News!

I’m just going to blurt it out.

I SIGNED MY FIRST PICTURE BOOK CONTRACT!

I have spent the last four summers leading creative writing camps amid the contagious inspiration of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, watching kids bubble with questions about the exotic 1900s kitchen appliances, their faces pale standing beside the bed where Tom’s brother died, and then their pencils race with creative fuel.

Wolfe Shoes

Writing about this author, I’ve got some big shoes to fill!

Now, I am so grateful that I get to work with Taylor Trade Publishing to spread the story of Thomas Wolfe’s growing up in Asheville – a story that will also hopefully get kids bubbling with questions, their faces paling, and their pencils racing.

Not only that, but they have asked me to illustrate the book as well, a totally new endeavor for me that has me both thrilled and occasionally in fights with my watercolor paints.

And we’ll just say that those watercolor fights are the source of this wet spot on my pants, and not the fact that I am so excited I can’t contain myself…

Stay posted!

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Mountain of Words Write-a-thon: Just in time for NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo!

Satuday, I’ll be participating in Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community’s second annual “Write-a-thon,” and it’s just what it sounds like.  We’ll be writing for miles.

Metaphorically speaking, that is.  You’re invited to join me in committing to log some serious “butt in chair” time and write as much as you can on November 8.  If you live around Asheville, you can join us for a write-in and celebration at West End Bakery (find out more about the event here), or you can write from the chair, sofa, bed, or porch swing of your choosing.

You can also sponsor me by finding my face here!

We SO appreciate any support you are able to give!

Mountains of Words

 

Asheville Writers in the School and Community is a non-profit organization that places writers like me in residencies in classrooms and the community to empower people to share their stories and ideas through creative writing.  Last spring, I got to facilitate Family Voices, a family literacy program at Hall Fletcher Elementary School.  I visited third grade classrooms and helped the students write creatively about themselves, their families, and their communities, and then I got to facilitate those families coming together to eat and share stories and create poetry at our bilingual Family Nights.

Here is a line from a collaborative poem that one of the classes wrote:

“A community is being loved, called beautiful, and most of all do not stop dreaming and do not give up.  Keep on hoping.”

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