Author Spotlight: Laura Renauld
We are excited to feature picture book author Laura Renauld her forthcoming picture book, FRED'S BIG FEELINGS: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF MISTER ROGERS, illustrated by Bridgette Barrager (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Jan. 14, 2020).
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Thank you so much for having me! KidLit411 has been my go-to resource for years and I’m honored to be here.
I have always been an avid reader, but it wasn’t until I taught elementary school that I dared to dream to be a writer. I loved reading aloud to my students and watching as a story captivated them, encouraged empathy, and inspired thoughtful conversations. Teaching Writer’s Workshop gave me a reason to start a writer’s notebook and listening to how kids talk to each other gave me a lot of ideas to jot down. When I stopped teaching and had my own children, I was immersed in picture books. And thanks to my kids’ questions and antics, I had plenty of in-house inspiration.
As a mom of young children, writing provided me with a creative outlet and a connection to other like-minded adults. When I finally started calling myself a writer and began treating my writing like a part-time job, I knew I had embarked on a new career.
Congrats on your forthcoming picture book, FRED'S BIG FEELINGS: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF MISTER ROGERS. Tell us about this story and what inspired you.
FRED’S BIG FEELINGS is a nonfiction picture book biography of the inimitable Mister Rogers. Fred Rogers felt things deeply from the time he was a boy and his strong emotions influenced his self-esteem, his relationships, and his career trajectory. As a pioneer in children’s television, Mister Rogers taught generations of children that feelings are normal and that they can be expressed in healthy ways.
As a child, I was one of Mister Rogers television neighbors. I especially enjoyed the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, which spoke to my love of story and imagination. But, to be honest, it had not occurred to me to write a biography of Fred Rogers. Who was I to tell the story of a beloved American icon? It wasn’t until my agent (thank you, Wendi!) suggested that I try my hand at it (she knew an editor looking for a Fred Rogers picture book biography) that I dove into researching his life. Once I started learning about Mister Rogers beyond his TV program, I was hooked and felt compelled to tell his story. Fred Rogers understood children and he always took their questions and emotions seriously, but kids today only know Mister Rogers from the animated PBS spinoff Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I wanted them to get to know the man whose quiet compassion affirmed the special worth of every child (and adult!) who watched his show.
|art © Bridgette Barrager|
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
Hmm. It certainly felt long and winding at times, but I think it was fairly average. Five years after I joined SCBWI, found a critique group, and dedicated consistent time to writing, I landed my first contract. At five and half years, I had an agent and, at six years, FRED’S BIG FEELINGS sold to Atheneum.
What projects are you working on now?
One thing I love about writing picture books is the ability to have multiple manuscripts at various stages of the writing process going at any given time. I’m currently working on two rhyming texts, one nonfiction animal book, and a couple of holiday-themed stories.
In the new year, I’ll be working with my editor at Beaming Books to finalize the text for my next picture book, BEAR’S BICYCLE, a companion to my first book, PORCUPINE’S PIE, which is set to release in Spring 2021.
In addition to books, I started a new online challenge in October called the Debut Review Challenge. It is meant to encourage readers of Kidlit debuts to leave online reviews to boost the readership and exposure of authors and illustrators who are emerging into the published marketplace. Another round just started and lasts through the end of February. Every time you complete five reviews, you can enter to win signed books, manuscript critiques, and other amazing prizes! For more information, go to my website at laurarenauld.com. I hope you join the reading and reviewing fun!
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
If you really want to be a writer, give yourself the gift of TIME. I heard Linda Urban’s keynote address at a Mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference a number of years ago and she encouraged us to make a commitment, even if it seemed small, to writing regularly. I started with 45 minutes/day, Monday-Friday. Sometimes I sat down for 45 minutes during naptime. On other days, I got my writing done in 15-minute increments. I even hung up a calendar and gave myself a sticker for every day that I met my goal. The realization that I could carve out time for writing (even with two preschoolers at home), and the visual of seeing my progress on the wall, were both game changers for me. Now that my kids are in elementary school, I can write for longer periods and with fewer interruptions, but the habit I formed when they were small still serves me well.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I have never liked potatoes in any form, not even as a baby. (Yes, that includes mashed potatoes, French fries, and potato chips.)
Where can people find you online?
You can sign up for my blog and newsletter, learn about my school programs, or find out more about the Debut Review Challenge, at my website:laurarenauld.com.
And come find me in-person at the Virginia Festival of the Bookin March 2020!a Rafflecopter giveaway