Sunday, February 3, 2013

From Mud to Martians and More...

Lynn Plourde

Lynn’s first ever published picture book, Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud, oozes with inspiration. Years ago when I read the story to my son, it was simply about getting farm animals out of the road. But now it holds a different significance: That sometimes you’ve just “gotta shoo” away all those road blocks to get to your destination, your goal.

And I’m encouraged by the fact that it was published after Lynn had been writing for thirteen years and after she had received hundreds of rejections. Sometimes success requires getting “muddy, head to toe.”

So glad that Lynn’s “road” intersected with mine. In November we both attended a Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance workshop with Jennifer Richard Jacobson (see January post).

Learn about Lynn, check out her sage advice and

watch for her new book coming out this summer!



What were you like as a kid?
As a kid I was a bookworm and a brown-nose in school. I LOVED school, often played it at home (of course, I had to be the teacher), and I bent over backwards to try to impress my teachers. School and learning and reading seemed to fill me up!

What's your favorite childhood memory?
Not sure I can pick just one. But I so loved when the grown-up relatives would get together and play cards. Of course, I wasn't allowed to play, but I'd sit quietly at the corner of the table and listen to their stories. I loved their laughter, sense of belonging, the way they tried to out-do each other with their stories. I think that's when the sense of story got under my skin.

How many books do you have published?
I've had 27 kids books published to date (# 28-You're Wearing THAT to School?! will be out this summer), 10 books for teachers that have listening and speaking activities for the classroom, plus a reference book A Celebration of Maine Children's Books.

 Do you remember how you felt when your first book was published?
It was a BIG DEAL when Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud was published in 1997—a dream come true! I had t-shirts for my family made up with the cover of the book. Plus I did my first book signing in my hometown of Skowhegan on March 1st, National Pig Day!

What's your favorite book of yours?
Oh, that's impossible to answer. I'd have to say "my next one"—always my next one. I'm excited about a new book that I can't wait to share with the world. From the time I learn one of my books will be published until it actually appears in the world is usually about a three year wait (the publisher has to find an illustrator, the illustrator has to do the illustrations, the editing, the printing, the marketing. etc.). So at that point, I'm champing at the bit to have it seen.

How did you go from speech therapist to teacher to writer? And has your previous work experience helped your writing career?
Actually I went from speech therapist to writer--I was NOT a teacher, although I consider myself a "teaching author."

As a speech therapist, I used picture books in therapy to help to develop students' vocabulary, concept development, sequencing skills, auditory memory, and so much more. I've been told that many of my picture books develop those same skills. For example, the repetitive chorus of "Oh no. Won't do. Gotta Shoo. But who?" in Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud ( encourages kids to join in the story and promotes their auditory memories. For the hidden moose in the illustrations of Moose, of Course! ( I encourage parents and teachers NOT to have kids point at the moose, but to answer questions or describe where the moose are hidden (i.e. on the right page, near the top of the page, looking in the window).

As a speech therapist I knew about sounds--sibilant sounds, plosive sounds, etc. and sounds can give text a different feel. I always read my picture books aloud to hear how they sound, and then I add another sentence, read aloud, add another, read aloud, etc. My books also have a lot of word play in them which is a combination of my speech therapy background, the picture books I read myself and that "call to me", plus my sense of humor.

Did you always want to write?
I always wanted to TEACH. I didn't know you could grow up to be an author for a job. But writing was something I always enjoyed doing and my teachers gave me positive feedback on my writing—so I felt encouraged.

What inspires you to write? How do you get your story ideas?
I have hundreds and hundreds of ideas—they are everywhere . . . what I see, snippets of conversation, photos, newspaper articles, songs, etc. I have an overflowing idea notebook and files on my computer with ideas. The challenge for me is not getting the ideas, but rather growing the ideas into stories. How can I tell something in a new, fresh way, with my own voice? I want a story idea that will excite me and in turn excite kids. I start many stories that I don't finish, but I still keep them in hopes that maybe someday I will find the perfect way to tell THAT story.

The picture book industry is changing. How do you perceive the changes? And how are you adjusting to them?
Two ways I've noticed the picture book business changing are that editors want picture book manuscripts to have LESS words and the transition to e-books.

I'm trying to adapt to "less words," but it's not easy—I tend to write longer stories and want to include word play. I also think kids deserve longer stories. Are we doing them a disservice by only giving them shorter texts? Are we reinforcing shorter attention spans with shorter texts? But there's a part of me that realizes we need to trust the ILLUSTRATIONS to tell more of the story—they need their space too.

Also, I'm working on a picture book that will have the conversation in speech bubbles so there's no need for the "he said" and "she said", which naturally shortens the text. So I'm still figuring this one out.

As for e-books, they are here to stay, but are evolving for picture books—publishers are still trying to figure out what e-picture books will look like (i.e. have a read-aloud, have activities/extras—but will those add to or detract from the story, what about the small screen of an e-reader for picture books, etc). The contracts I sign now all have e-book clauses, but it's still a "to be continued" story.

What do you like most about being an author?
I LOVE two parts of being an author—the creative, new story excitement and sharing with kids. When I write a new story, I'm always in awe. Where did that come from? It was an invisible idea that grew into a story that might be a book kids hold in their hands someday. Since I write for kids (not grown-ups), I get to do lots of school visits and share my stories with kids, act some out as a play, and most importantly teach kids how to write their own stories. I love the school connection! And so I did get to be a teacher of sorts, after all!

What are your plans for 2013/the future?
To keep writing! As I said, You're Wearing THAT to School?! will be out this summer so I'll be busy promoting that—it's a fun book about Penelope the hippo who's a bit over the top.

I have some other stories that I've had encouraging feedback on and I have some ideas for new stories. I'd love to write another non-fiction graphic novel (after having co-authored Lost Trail ( with Donn Fendler—a graphic novel version of his 1939 survival story. So I hope to clear time for research for that.

What are you currently working on?
The answer to that depends on the day! I'm revising a story for an editor called NO Monsters Allowed! which includes a monster talking in monster language—tee hee! I'm in the middle of a picture book Are We There Yet? about kids asking that familiar question on a car ride—except these kids are Martians and it's a really looooooong space ride for them. Plus I keep thinking about the nonfiction graphic novel.

 Any advice for writers?
I actually have a video blog called MAKE WRITING VISIBLE ( which is targeted toward teachers and students, but I've had a number of authors tell me that the information has been helpful to them too.

I encourage aspiring authors to write because you LOVE it, because you'd be crabby if you didn't write. Don't write because you love the idea of having written something or you think it would be impressive to be published.

Pay attention to what you READ—the kinds of books you most enjoy reading, might very well be the kinds of books you'd be best at writing.

Remember it's a process—no one tells a story perfectly the first try . . . you have to be willing to revise and rewrite over and over.

Go to workshops. Read books on writing. Join a writers’ group.

Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators ( if you write for kids, and join Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance ( if you write in Maine.

Finally, find your writing VOICE, your own special way of telling a story.

#Author #LynnPlourde #Book #Writer