Monday, March 24, 2014

How I Became a Teaching Author (+ Giveaway)

When I was a kid, I had no thought of being an author OR a teacher! As the youngest of four girls, I was always one of the students when we played school. As I think of my sisters, Miss Trunchbull comes to mind—ha! I never ever got to be the teacher! (On the plus side, this helped me become an early and voracious reader). And while I loved to read, it never occurred to me that real people wrote all those books I devoured.

With my big sisters, Janet (left), Gail (center),
and Patty (right). I'm the peanut in front.

When I started college, I planned to be a veterinarian. My first creative writing class killed that plan, and I knew I would do something with books, reading, and writing. That something turned out to be LOTS of things.

First, I became a magazine editor. When the publication was sold, I decided to try teaching (I was certified for Secondary English). I taught 8th-grade English for two years, and it was exhilarating, exhausting, and life-changing. I knew I did not have the stamina to stay in it for the long haul and try to be an amazing teacher while dealing with administration, assessment (even back then!), politics, and parents. But I loved my 8th graders and their wild creativity—and the books we were constantly reading.


Our two daughters, ca. 1998
A seed was planted. I wonder what it would be like to write kids’ books?

Then my husband and I moved to Minnesota. While doing freelance writing for grown-ups, I held part-time jobs over the years as a copyeditor, a personal care assistant for young adults with disabilities, a teacher in our school-age latchkey program, etc. When we had kids, the thousands of books we read with them nourished that seed and helped it grow: I want to write books for kids.

So, of course, I joined SCBWI and set to work learning how to do that. In October of 1999, I went to a local SCBWI conference, where two editors from educational publishers spoke. Because I was conference volunteer, I got to be one editor’s helper and I got a manuscript critique with the other. I ended up writing books for both companies.

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780547223001
BookSpeak! Poems About Books
(Clarion, 2011)
I had been submitting (bad) picture book manuscripts and magazine stories for a couple of years. I had a few children’s credits, but I really wanted to write a book. So when Jill Braithwaite (who was an editor at Lerner at that time) asked if I would be interested in writing an upper-elementary biography, I said, “Sure!”

Even though that was by far NOT my first choice.

And thus began my history of writing children’s books. To date, I have written about 110 nonfiction books for the educational market, 12 poetry collections, and two rhyming nonfiction books.  In fact, my newest book, Water Can Be..., comes out on April Fool's Day, and we're doing a giveaway of it here on TeachingAuthors.com! You can enter using the Rafflecopter widget at the end of the post. Enter through April 1, 2014, the pub date of Water Can Be...!


http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781467705912
Water Can Be... comes out on April 1!
One of my biggest surprises has been how much I get to still teach. I teach adult writers through conferences like SCBWI’s, the 21st-Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference, and the Loft Literary Center’s Children’s and Young Adult Literary Festival. I have taught in-person and online classes on writing for children, finding publishers to submit your work to, and more. A colleague, Lisa Bullard, and I also mentor children’s writers through Mentors for Rent, an hourly-based critique and coaching service for children’s writers.

At a school visit in 2013

I also get to present to educators and librarians, which I love! I’m usually spreading poetry joy—in fact, in a couple of weeks, I’m going to present at the UNLV conference. I can’t wait. Presenting through IRA, ALA, and NCTE have been highlights for me.

And I get to connect to kids, too, through elementary author visits and young authors conferences. I have a blast getting kids excited about reading, writing, and poetry. And I don’t have to assess them or do any of the other ongoing tasks teachers have to keep up with.



http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780761362036
A Leaf Can Be... (Millbrook, 2012)
Don’t get me wrong, teaching is still hard work! But it’s immensely satisfying, too. I look at how much public speaking I do now and think, Wow. Not bad for someone who was so terrified of public speaking I put it off until I was a senior in college! (Though I was not quite as bad as my best friend, who had to calm her nerves with a glass of wine before our 8 a.m. speech class on presentation days.)

My work as a teacher and an author are entwined in my mind. I can’t imagine one part of my career without the other. If I weren’t a writer, I obviously wouldn’t be invited to speak to teachers and writers and students. But if I didn’t do the teaching, I do think my writing would suffer. Getting out there and being in schools, with kids, helps me stay in touch with kids’ real lives today, especially now that my own two are officially adults—gulp.

And…that’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about my writing journey!

--Laura Purdie Salas

a Rafflecopter giveaway

37 comments:

Tina Cho said...

Great interview, Laura. I enjoyed reading about how you got started. Congrats again on all your successes!

laurasalas said...

Thanks, Tina! (You must be getting awfully sick of reading about me, me, me. I feel like I'm everywhere these days!)

Renee LaTulippe said...

So fun to see all the twist and turns that brought you to where you are. It boggles my mind that you've writting over 100 books. Congrats on WATER CAN BE, and here's to 100 more!

Renee LaTulippe said...

OK, what gives - all those typos were NOT in the comment box. SIGH. Let's try again in actual English:

So fun to see all the twists and turns that brought you to where you are. It boggles my mind that you've written over 100 books. Congrats on WATER CAN BE, and here's to 100 more!

laurasalas said...

Ha! I hate it when I notice typos after I Comment. Thanks, Renee--coming from someone who accomplishes as much as you do, that means a lot. And congratulations on your directorial debut! Woot!

Jane Heitman Healy said...

Thanks for sharing your journey, Laura. You are so inspiring! Congratulations on the new book, and here's to many more!

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater said...

I so enjoyed reading about this journey, how the author I know as Laura began! Congratulations on your beautiful new book - you can fill a whole bookshelf with your titles! Lucky us! xo, a.

Kirsten Larson said...

Laura, you are such a great addition to the Teaching Authors team. I know I have learned so much through your "Writing for the Education Market" book. It helped me land my first two book contracts. I recommend it over and over again. I have LEAF on my shelf and will soon be adding WATER. Congrats.

laurasalas said...

Jane, thank you! And I just Commented on my FB Page to you, but I couldn't link it. Love Rhymes and Reasons!

Thanks, Amy. This was actually the first time I've kind of thought about my journey as a teacher and what role that has played in my writing.

And Kirsten, thank you! It's fun to be here. You are an action-taker, and I so look forward to all your books to come--and thanks for recommending my ed wtg book:>)

Linda said...

I really enjoyed learning about your journey, Laura. I admire you for so many reasons, and I'm honored to have had you as an online friend for several years! I pre-order Water... and can't wait to get my copy!

Joy said...

Laura,
You really are a poetry princess. Great interview. I'm looking forward to reading Water Can Be.

Joy said...

Fun interview. I loved seeing your sisters. I look forward to reading Water Can Be.

laurasalas said...

Thank you, Linda and Joy! Linda, it was so fun to finally meet you in person! Joy, I hope you like the book:>)

skmatson said...

As a former teacher myself, I enjoyed hearing your story. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on your successes!

Carmela Martino said...

So great to know more about how you got here, Laura. Congrats on your new book. It looks beautiful!
BTW: your family photo reminds me of one of our "PJs in front of the Christmas tree" photos from long ago, even though I had only 2 siblings, and one was a boy. :-)

Rosi said...

Very interesting journey. I loved A Leaf Can Be and am looking forward to reading Water Can Be. Thanks for the chance to win.

Cindyb said...

Enjoyed reading about your writing journey! Your book total is quite impressive. Represents a lot of hard work on your part.

Jill said...

Beautiful cover, Laura. Can't wait to see this one, since I adore A Leaf Can Be...

Buffy Silverman said...

So interesting to read your writing/teaching/care-giving/speaking journey, Laura. And I love the photo of you with your older sisters--(I think I had the same robe as your oldest sister!)

Bridget Magee said...

I love reading about the paths people take in their lives. Your career is amazing and so are your books, Laura. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life with us all. :o)

Cathy Ballou Mealey said...

Yes - teaching and writing seem to be as entwined and connected as leaves and water. Hence, your third book in the series will be about...light?

Margaret Simon said...

I love hearing about your writer's journey. You are so dedicated! I'd love to attend a workshop with you someday.

Carl Scott said...

Thanks for the post Laura. I especially enjoyed the photos of you and your sisters, and the kids too. Congratulations on your journey and on the new book.

Life's a poem said...

I love how your passion has transferred into all your career paths and one does have to be passionate to write. Well done.

LorraineM

Ann Eisenstein said...

I really enjoyed reading about your journey - writing and teaching - my passions also!

LInda Baie said...

Late seeing this, Laura, but I loved reading all about the early work and how you came to know that you wanted to write for children. Water Can Be is on its way, I guess it's a week from today (Tuesday) right? Enjoy all the celebrations for it!

Always Be Dancing said...

I love the idea of your new book (I too am a teaching artist but I teach flamenco and yoga). Most recently I have been developing yoga programs to connect to science and LL curriculums. I think your new book would be a great addition to these connections as my latest creation is using yoga (a body based method) to teach about liquids, solids and gases!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

It's a treat to learn about the twists and turns of your life and how they've brought you to where you are today. You have a lot to be proud of Laura Purdie Salas! I'm especially impressed how you've been able to combine all of your talents in one glowing career!

Charles Waters said...

I loved reading about your journey to get WATER CAN BE up and running!

Charles Waters said...

SALAS POWER!

Patricia Toht said...

I'm so glad you've joined Teaching Authors. Some of my favorite people are here!

laurasalas said...

Oh, gosh, I just checked back and read all the additional lovely comments that y'all have posted this week. First, thank you for all the cheers--I really appreciate them. And second, thank you for sharing bits of yourself--whether it's a funny bathrobe comment or a very cool way you're combining your own talents on your own career path. I love learning about you, so thank you for the gift of connection! Laura

Resh said...

This was such a great read! Congrats on the new book. I must say that the cover art is lovely! I already put "A leaf can be" on my holdshelf :) Thanks for sharing on the Carnival.
-Reshama @ Stackingbooks

laurasalas said...

Thanks, Reshama. The art is just stunning. Much better in person than on the screen, too. I am so grateful for Violeta's gorgeous work! I hope you enjoy LEAF.

Heidi Bee Roemer said...

Congratulations, Laura! It's sure to be another winner, just like YOU!!!

Cat Ami said...

Inspiring to hear that your journey wasn't what you expected, Laura. Fabulous post!

laurasalas said...

Thank you, Heidi and Cat, for your nice comments:>)