What is your earliest memory of a book?
Well, I remember the first moment I ever read a book. It was a little fairy book that my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Reinhardt, had given me. I have no idea what it was called, but I loved it immensely. The pictures showed little fairies who lived in flowers and had tea parties, and I positively wanted to crawl inside and live there. (Let’s be honest, part of me would still do it in a heartbeat!)
Because I had it memorized, I had been fooling people for a few days that I already knew how to read, and then I had this moment, where the words suddenly came into focus, and I knew what they said. I was so excited to really be reading that I shouted out “I can read!” Sadly for me, everyone around me was like, “Yeah, we already know you can read.”
Anyway, every once in a while, I get that feeling again in dreams, where the words are appearing as I’m reading them, and it is incredibly exciting - very much like doing magic. Very early on I equated reading books with magical abilities.
Books are pretty magical, when you think about it. Tell us, how did you go from being a book lover to a book maker?
Immediately I went back to school and got a Certificate in Fine Furniture, which means I can now build anything from a Queen Anne highboy to a Shaker dining table. I spent a few years doing custom woodworking and teaching woodworking classes, which was pretty fun. Slowly, though, I started creeping further away from practical things, and more into making whirligigs, sculptures, wooden books, and toys. I learned then that I would never be happy unless I was making things that communicated my own unique vision.
When first my son, and then my daughter, were born, it became increasingly difficult to get out to the woodshop. I had never stopped drawing, painting, writing, and making pottery, and I clung to those things like a life raft for a few years. I truly am one of those people who become a miserable bear if I’m not making something!
When my Grandmother died, I suddenly realized that I should stop messing around, and do the thing I loved the most. And that thing was writing and illustrating books for children.
I had been scared to do it before - it just felt like one of those jobs that is unattainable (let’s be honest, it still feels that way sometimes!) but it also feels like everything up to now has been leading to this.
What is your writing and drawing process?
Every story is different. I write and draw every day, so sometimes there is something in my sketchbook that begs to be explored, and other times it’s something that I read or see that inspires me. Once I have an idea, I usually start by thumb nailing a few layouts that I know will be in there somewhere, and slowly flesh it out. Debbie Ridpath Ohi has some great free templates on her site Inkygirl that I use quite a bit.
I do lots of character studies, and exploration, really trying to distill the feel of the book. Hopefully each story will be a complete and unique experience!
Lately, I am trying to work on simplifying each image down to it’s essence. I find if I get too precious with an image (like, nervous about putting that next line on, in case it ruins everything), it seems to kill it dead, so simple and loose are my keywords these days.
I work with paint, paper, scissors, glue, and pencil crayons, so I’m basically taking it back to kindergarten.
The actual words are usually the hardest part for me, because I tend to know the story so well by the time I get to the words, that it can be hard to notice if I miss conveying something. I’m working on it!
What does it look like to watch you work in your studio?
I work anywhere and everywhere - I literally have notebooks in almost every room of my house. I’m forever jotting things down - between stirring dinner on the stove, every time I sneak off to the bathroom, sometimes even when talking to my Mom on the phone (she’s used to it by now!) My husband, with the patience of a saint, often has to put up with me scribbling down notes in the middle of the night.
Tell us a little bit about your current project.
I have a bunch of things on the go at the moment. I just finished a dummy for a picture book, and am working on two others.
Oh, and I should probably mention about winning the spot in Writing with the Stars, too - I just found out at the beginning of February. I will be mentoring with the fabulous Lori Richmond. She's going to help me get all my ducks in a row!
I absolutely love little Matilda! I cannot wait until I get to celebrate her book birthday with you. Speaking of which, what is the best advice that anyone has given you as as you work toward becoming published?
Hmmm… that’s a tough one. There are so many people in this industry who are so helpful. I think maybe the most encouraging thing that I’ve heard, over and over, is that the writers who get published are the ones who never give up.
Advice that I would give to anyone in the kid lit community is to join SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). I am the Nova Scotia co-ordinator for SCBWI Canada East. The SCBWI co-ordinator is a new position for me - it just means that I am co-ordinating regional meetings - of which there were none, until I started. Our first one ever is actually this weekend (Feb.19th)
I joined SCBWI a few years ago, but, being in such a remote part of the World, I haven't really felt like I could take advantage of most of it. It seemed like a good idea to see if I could change that, at least a little. Plus, they posted in the newsletter that the were looking for a Nova Scotia volunteer!
If there was a book written about your life, what would the title be?
Haha, I think my answer probably depends on the day. Some days it would be Oh, the Thinks you Can Think and some days it would be Step by Step: a Beginner’s Guide and occasionally there are days when it would be Go the F**k to Sleep.
Thank you Lauren for taking the time to talk with us and share some of your work.
If you would like to contact with Lauren to discuss a writing and/or illustration project, or to see more of her work, go to: Lauren's Website , Lauren's Instagram. Lauren can be found on Twitter @lauren_soloy
**All images are the property of Lauren Soloy** **All rights reserved**