Author Spotlight: Laura Perdew

Feb. 23, 2018

Today we have the pleasure of featuring picture book author Laura Perdew and her new book, EXTINCTION: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DINOSAURS, MASTODONS, AND DODO BIRDS?, illustrated by Tom Casteel (Nomad Press, 2017). 

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Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.

I am a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher turned author. I’ve loved writing my whole life, but it wasn’t until I modeled the writing process for my students that I rediscovered that passion. I also discovered a passion for getting kids engaged in reading. Once my twins came along and I was no longer teaching, writing became a natural choice, and I never considered writing for any audience other than children. 

Congrats on your recent book, EXTINCTION: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DINOSAURS, MASTODONS, AND DODO BIRDS? What inspired you to write it and what was your main avenue/source of research?

The extinction project was actually offered to me by Nomad Press. They developed the idea for the book in-house and then sought an author. At first, I was hesitant to take on such a project, but after more thought I agreed. I’m so glad I did! The more I learned the more interested I became. I was especially interested in the current sixth mass extinction and how individuals can make small changes in their daily lives that can have a big impact on species at risk. 

When I began research on extinction, like for any new topic I take on, I spent the first few days getting my head around the subject and learning what resources are out there. I started in the library, looking at books about extinction in both the children’s section and the adult section. Then I turned to the internet. During that time, I don’t write much, or take many notes, but I do begin to formulate an outline. 

Once the outline is solidified and approved, I begin the in-depth research. That includes books, but also reliable internet sources and documentaries. In addition, I reach out to experts on a subject to see if they would agree to an interview, either online or in person. People love to talk about the subjects they are passionate about! Those interviews frequently bring new ideas to light and always help to bring a subject alive for me.

At the ALA Midwinter Conference 2018

How did you start writing nonfiction for children?

When I first rediscovered my love of writing as an adult, and my interest in writing for children, I began with fiction. Then I learned about the opportunities to write for children in the education market. So, I sent out letters and writing samples to educational publishers hoping to get an assignment. It took some perseverance, but I was eventually contacted about a project on animal rights. Of course I said yes! 

To date, I have over 20 published books on subjects ranging from pirates to toilets to politicians to internet addiction. I never know what fun topic a new assignment will bring. This has also led me to develop some projects on my own, the first of which will be published in the fall of 2019.

What projects are you working on now?

I just picked up a new contract with Nomad Press to write a book on biodiversity. I’m in the beginning stages of the project but am super excited about this one. Biodiversity and environmental science are subjects I’m deeply, personally interested in. I want kids to understand what an amazing world we live in and to empower them to help preserve biodiversity. 

What are the top 2-3 pieces of advice you'd give to aspiring authors trying to break into children's nonfiction?

First and foremost, I’d say that perseverance is important. I sent out over 20 letters to publishers seeking work-for-hire assignments, and only 3 ever got back to me. I also encourage follow-up letters – my first assignment was from a company I'd just sent a status inquiry to.

In the meantime, authors should keep writing! 

Finally, authors at any stage of their writing career need to continually educate themselves about the craft of writing. That includes reading in the genre for which you want to write, attending conferences and workshops, finding reliable internet sources (of which there are many) that keep you informed about the kid lit market, and having a writing group. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is also a phenomenal group that supports and educates writers at all stages of their writing career.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

One of the top five experiences in my life was to snorkel among sea turtles. And while I am a mountain girl and would never move away from the Rockies, I do love the ocean!

Where can people find you online?

All over the place! To start, I have my own website, I can also be found on Twitter (@lmperdew), Facebook, and I have an Amazon author page 

Laura Perdew is an author, writing consultant, and former middle school teacher. She writes nonfiction for children, including over 20 titles for the education market. She is also the author of Kids on the Move! Colorado, a guide to traveling through Colorado with children. Laura lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and twin boys.
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  1. My daughter would LOVE this book! Thanks for the interview

  2. This looks like a beautifully-produced fun, interesting book!

  3. Your approach to research is very similar to mine. I find the researching part the most fun, then the writing is like putting together a puzzle. It took me about a year after sending out queries and resumes to land educational publishing jobs, and I've enjoyed the range of topics I've been given. Your book on extinction will be one I'm checking out.

  4. Loved hearing about your process! Research is so engrossing that it’s hard to know when to stop.


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