CAROL GORDON EKSTER:
In this wonderful #kidlit world, Laura Sassi stood out as a kind, supportive, and talented author. She’s a frequent visitor here at Writers’ Rumpus and she has her own wonderful blog “celebrating writing, reading, and life.”
I am so pleased to highlight her here today.
Laura, what led you to become a writer for children?
LAURA SASSI: First of all, thank you so much for having me here today. I began my career as a teacher, but even that choice of profession was rooted in my deep love of the written word. In fact, ever since childhood, I’ve been an avid reader and writer – and my mother saved and sent me most of my childhood writings. Interestingly, many of them are written in rhyme – and not badly – which goes to show that I’ve loved rhyme (which is my favorite mode of storytelling) almost all my life! As a young 20’s-something, though, I never thought of pursuing a career in writing. Most of the creative types I’d encountered in college wrote dark, avant-garde works, very compelling, but I liked light-hearted humor and rhyme, and I especially liked children’s literature. It wasn’t until my children came along and I took time off from teaching to care for them, that it dawned on me that there was a place, and maybe even a need, for a writer like me. That’s when I took the plunge and began writing in earnest. And what did I like writing best? Humorous rhyming stories and poems!
CGE: Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a published children’s author?
LS: I began my journey by submitting poems and crafts to my favorite childhood magazine, Highlights for Children. After a string of fun acceptances there (mostly crafts at first), I expanded my magazine market to include the other popular children’s periodicals. After writing exclusively for the magazine market for several years (while my kids were little), and at the prompting of a dear friend who said she thought my work had “picture book potential”, I decided to explore the picture book market. I wrote my first picture book manuscript in 2007. That one never sold, and neither did the next few that I wrote. But I kept at it, and as soon as I had a nice portfolio of picture book manuscripts, I started querying agents. That, too, turned out to be a long process, so don’t give up if you are in the midst of that, because eventually I signed on at a wonderful agency- and that made all the difference! Indeed, shortly after signing on with my first agent, we sold my first picture book, GOODNIGHT, ARK, to Zonderkidz, a division of HarperCollins.
CGE: Can you tell us the story behind the story of your new book with Sterling, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE?
DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE was one of the ideas I jotted down when I participated in Tara Lazar’
s 2011 STORYSTORM
challenge, or PiBoIdMo as it was called then! It was prompted by paging through my writing notebook and looking at early notes for a completely different piece called “Mouse House”, a short rebus about a little mouse curling up in his house in the woods to sleep. Seeing those notes, prompted me to imagine where else a mouse might live – and that imagining led me to the opera house! And once I envisioned that opera house mouse it wasn’t long until Delores was there as well, snootily preparing for her opera debut.
CGE: Can you tell us about some of the lows and highs of your career?
LS: I guess the highs would be the acceptances I’ve gotten over the years and the sheer joy of seeing kids (and their parents) enjoy something I have worked so hard to create. But, the reality is, that for each acceptance I’ve received, I’ve had probably 10x the rejections. That’s just the way it is in this business. So, what I’ve had to learn is that to survive you need a thick skin. And to excel in this field, you have to be patient. You have to be willing to put in the time, to do the research, and to practice, practice, practice your craft. And you have to be disciplined enough not to send work out to publishers prematurely, but to wait until each piece has reached the level of polish and pizzazz necessary to even be considered by publishers. Furthermore, to survive in this business, you have to have the strength not to give up, even when rejections keep coming. Most of all, whether it’s one of those rare days when you do get an acceptance, or one of the more typical rejection-type days, you have to be open-hearted enough to find the joy and satisfaction in the day to day journey of being a writer.
CGE: What great advice, Laura! Do you have any other advice for new writers trying to get into the children’s publishing market?
LS: I have two bits of advice. First, writing is a long journey, with many opportunities for growth and improvement along the way. So, my first bit of advice, as I hinted to above, would be not to rush the process by sending manuscripts out to publishers prematurely. Rather, keep honing your craft, day by day. Enjoy the journey, rather than focusing too much on the final goal of publication. Second, for me at least, the long, hard journey to publication just wouldn’t be the same without a nice support system. For me this includes my family, my lovely agent, and the wonderful network of children’s writers I’ve connected with over the years, many of whom have become dear friends and trusted critique partners. So, my parting bit of advice today is to find a writing buddy or two to join you on the journey!
CGE: What does the future hold for Laura Sassi?
Good things, I hope! For starters, my fourth book releases this coming August 8th. It’s called LOVE IS KIND
and it will be published by Zonderkidz.
It’s about a little owl who wants to get his grammy something for her birthday, but different challenges keep thwarting his efforts. It was originally slated to release in December but the sales team loved the artwork by illustrator Lison Chaperon
so much that they requested that it be pushed up for a Fall release. That rarely happens and so I’m extra excited! I am also always working on new picture books and I have several at various stages of completion. I’ll leave the details up to your imagination, but let’s just say that some of my new characters include a mouse, a lamb, a pastry and a frog. Stay tuned for updates.
CGE: Thank you, Laura, and thank you, Sterling, for generously offering to do a giveaway. They will send a DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE to one lucky winner in the US or Canada. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here for a chance to win this gorgeous book.
BIO: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) and GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.
You can connect with Laura here: