Author Spotlight: Shauna LaVoy Reynolds
Mar. 8, 2019
We are pleased to feature picture book author Shauna LaVoy Reynolds and her new book, POETREE, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani (Dial Books for Young Readers, Mar. 19, 2019). Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I’ve always been a big reader — I can’t remember life before I could decode the words on a page. (Or a sign, or a cereal box. I was *that* kind of reader.) I was drawn back to children’s books working as a bookseller and in libraries before I even had children, but when I became a mama and started reading with my kids I took an even greater interest in picture books. I’ve always had a heart full of stories, but that’s when I realized picture books might be the best way to share them.
Congrats on your debut picture book, POETREE. Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
Thank you! POETREE is about Sylvia, a little poet who is inspired by the arrival of springtime. She reads a poem to a squirrel at the park and then ties it to a tree. The next day on her way to school she thinks she sees her poem fluttering in the breeze, but soon realizes it isn’t her poem at all. Sylvia comes to the kid-logical conclusion that the tree has written back.
Sylvia hopes her poetry will “(make) the world more splendid,” and of course it does. But it also helps her connect with a friend she may have never found otherwise.
My inspiration was similar to Sylvia’s — the beauty of nature and my love of language. Plus a kinship with all the shy daydreamers and capricious tree huggers out there.
Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?
It was all of the above! I wrote a few wrong books (or at least wrong for the moment books) before POETREE. Then I made that magical connection of getting the right story to the right people at the right time.
After I signed with Adriana Dominguez at Full Circle Literary, she guided me through a few changes before going on submission. The submission process seemed very long and drawn out as it happened, but looking back it actually went as well as one could hope. After the manuscript sold to Dial there was a waiting period while the illustrator, Shahrzad Maydani, worked her magic with the story. I saw character sketches and color studies and a fabulous sketch dummy while I waited, plus the occasional sneak peek on Shaz’s Instagram. That made the wait a little bit sweeter.
What projects are you working on now?
I’ve gone from writing POETREE to writing poetry! I’ve also been making notes and outlining what I hope could be the first book in a chapter book series. And I’m always juggling a few picture book manuscripts. That’s really where my heart is.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
If you want to be a writer, just write. Don’t wait until you have a solid two hours to draft. Don’t wait until you have the ideal workspace. Don’t even wait until you know exactly what your perfect first sentence will be. Write. If it’s terrible (it probably won’t be terrible, but it definitely won’t be perfect) you can fix it later.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I like doing crafts and working with my hands, but I’m a total dabbler and never stick with anything for too long. I’ve knitted, sewed, and made jewelry (both beading and metal stamping!) I’ve made soap and candles and decorated cakes. Most recently I’ve made collages from books I’ve found at thrift stores. I’ve enjoyed it all, gotten kind of good at it, spent too much on supplies, and moved on. Someday I’l settle on a hobby.
Where can people find you online?
I’m @slrbooks on Instagram and @slr on Twitter. (I looooove Twitter.) My website is shaunalavoyreynolds.com, my debut group’s website is notable19.weebly.com, and I don’t believe in Facebook.
Shauna LaVoy Reynolds is an author, storyteller, and word nerd. She lives and writes in a house full of books outside of Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, two kids, and an elderly poodle. Shauna is trying to make the world a lovelier place by writing uncommon stories for uncommon children.
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