BHPL: Welcome to the Berkeley Heights Public Library blog. We are excited about your story time visit coming up next week. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your connection to New Jersey.
LS: Thanks for having me. I am looking forward to story time too. I am former teacher who is now lucky enough to be able to spend my days writing and being mom to our two kids. When my kids were little, I wrote while they napped. Those stories, crafts, and poems can now be found in various children’s publications including Highlights for Children, Spider, Ladybug, and Clubhouse Jr.
Over the years, I discovered that I had a special passion for rhyme and telling humorous stories in rhyme, so when my kids started school, I added rhyming picture books to my daily writing schedule. Goodnight, Ark, published by Zonderkidz and beautifully illustrated by Jane Chapman, is the first official fruit of all those years of writing and honing my craft. My second picture book, Goodnight, Manger, also illustrated by Jane Chapman, released last year and I have two more picture books in the pipeline for publication in 2017 -2018.
Laura Sassi on her porch
As for my New Jersey connection, I am a transplant. I moved around a lot as a child and have lived in places as far flung as Mexico, France, Minnesota, California and New Hampshire. I was born in Spain. But, I met and married a Jersey boy and have now lived in the Garden State longer than I have lived anywhere else! I guess that makes me almost an official Jersey girl, right?!
BHPL: Yes, I think we can officially call you a New Jersey girl now! Our readers are interested in your process for writing. Please share a little about that.
LS: I am a percolator. That is, I like to reflect on new stories and poems, sometimes for weeks or months, before writing a first draft. When “percolating” I always keep a pen and notebook handy so I can jot down ideas. I make lists, play with possible plot twists, settings, points-of view etc. I think I have a whole notebook’s worth of pages in which I played around with Goodnight, Ark before I actually sat down and wrote the story. Once I was ready to write, I wrote the entire (early version) in one sitting. But the story, at that point, was far from publishable. Indeed, in addition to ample percolating, I would say the use of a time filter is a key part of my writing process. Once I have a draft I’m happy with, I set it aside for several days, or weeks, before taking a re-look. This way I approach each revision with fresh eyes. I repeat this process again and again until every word and moment pushes the story forward in a fun, meaningful way.
BHPL: I like your description of yourself as a percolator! Also your habit of using a notebook to keep your ideas is useful and letting a little time elapse between revisions, what you call a time filter. Do you write at a certain time of day or in a special place?
LS: I try to set aside two good hours per day to write and reflect and be creative. I have a laptop, so my work station is 100% portable and my favorite strategy to keep from getting stiff and to keep things fresh is to move around as I write. Early on summer mornings, I like to take my laptop or notebook and a cup of tea and sit outside on the front porch. Later in the day, I often set up shop at the dining room table. And if I’m really engrossed in a story and the thoughts are spilling out, I’ve been known to write at the kitchen counter while cooking. My favorite spot is at the little writing table nestled by the fireplace in a cozy corner of my living room. I also like taking my laptop “on the road” so I can write outside in a local park or at the pool.
BHPL: What is it like to work with an illustrator?
LS: I was thrilled when I learned that Zonderkidz had selected Jane Chapman to illustrate Goodnight, Ark. I was familiar with Jane’s work from Karma Wilson’s Bear Snores On series. Your readers might be surprised to learn, however, that there was no interaction between author and artist during the illustration process. The first glimpse I had of Jane’s work for Goodnight, Ark was when I got an advanced peek at the cover. A few months later I received the folded galleys and saw for the first time Jane’s wonderful lantern-lit depictions of tigers and sheep, boars and quail all scurrying up to Noah’s bed. But, even though no direct collaboration was involved, her illustrations demonstrate that a lot of thought went into transforming my words into pictures and extending the story with little bits of added humor throughout. For example, I’ll never forget my daughter giggling the first time we read Goodnight, Ark and she noticed polka-dotted boxers hanging to dry on a clothesline and a toothbrush in a cup on the sill.
BHPL: The story of the animals having trouble sleeping during a stormy night on Noah's Ark is really cute in your book Goodnight, Ark. Everyone with kids knows getting them to sleep can be a project. Did this story start with getting your child to sleep? Did it work?
LS: Yes, the inspiration behind this story is personal experience. As anyone living in New Jersey knows all too well, we’ve had some fierce storms around here in the past few years including two hurricanes and many blustery snow and rain storms. When my children were little, both they and the dog would get scared during nighttime storms and come bounding into our room and our bed! Getting them back to their own beds, in the midst of howling winds and pounding rain, was often challenging, especially when my daughter was younger. So the mother in me thought it might be helpful and fun to write a story that would address some of those fears in a humorous, yet soothing way. And, just like the animals in this story, I found that often all my kids needed was a little extra TLC - maybe a soothing song or a quiet story - to re-settle them cozily back in their own beds.
BHPL: I know parents are always eager to read a new bedtime story to create that calming effect you describe. Thanks for stopping by our blog and I will see you next week at story time!
Cover illustration of 'Goodnight, Ark'
Related links for more information on author Laura Sassi:
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRsc-pKmKwM