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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - LAURA PURDIE SALAS

I'm delighted to interview Laura Purdie Salas -- she provides a terrific behind-the-scenes peek at her writing process! This very prolific author is also a generous mentor and inspiration to the KidLit community. I've been following and interacting with Laura online for a while now, and I hope to meet her in person one day!

I know readers will be touched by Laura's inspiration for her new book, Meet My Family! Read on for Laura's thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection.

STORIES – Discuss what inspires your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

My newest book in the world, Meet My Family, came about because of shame and love. I was always ashamed as a kid because my family was so different from my friends’ families. We had all sorts of strict rules (5 hours of TV per week maximum, couldn’t spend the night at a friend’s house because then they would expect to be invited to sleep over at our house, etc.), and I also had a sister with a brain disorder (now known to be OCD, but washing your hands hundreds of times a day back then just got you labeled as crazy). Trying to pretend my family was “normal” took a lot of energy and secrecy. That’s the shame part.

And today, as a visiting author, I meet kids who are embarrassed about their own families—for all sorts of reasons. Who they are raised by, where they live, who lives with them…all of these offer the potential to make a kid feel “other,” somehow.

So I wanted to write about family in a way that would help kids see that we are all “other,” that there is no single definition of “normal.” I want kids to know that any family where the adults love and care for their kids is a very fine family indeed.

Enter animals. I love animals and love writing about them. I decided to write about all the different structures animal families have. I hope that kids will find parallels to their own families in the pages of this book.

Here are some early notes:

My process is messy. Here’s a pic I took a couple of months later in 2012 while eating a killer brownie at the local grocery store. I didn’t have my notebook with me, but I felt the urge to start working on a draft, so I wrote inside a catering catalog from their deli!

As I worked on drafts, the book wanted to rhyme, so I went with that. And these animal children wanted to speak for themselves, both in the main text and the prose sidebars. I thought it was important for kids to hear other “kids” talking in a matter-of-fact way about their own families. I was so glad my Millbrook editor, Carol Hinz, agreed with that after the book sold to Lerner/Millbrook!

Along the way I also decided to work in some family words in other languages—a language appropriate to an animal’s range. I wanted diversity in family structures, in habitats, and in languages, so the book became more complex (so many things packed into so few words!).

And then there was the backmatter, which I think took longer to do than the main text itself. Maps and ranges and language charts—whew!

It’s been 6 years from start to publication, and I’m so excited to start sharing this with kids!

CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

I knit…badly. This is not what this capelet is supposed to look like!

I do okay if I stick with scarves and hats, mostly!

I’ve also been recently playing with watercolors and poetry together.

These are not very good art, and the poems are sometimes very early drafts, too—hence #poemsketch. But they’re fun to do! Playing with different kinds of creativity feeds my brain and my heart.

CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

In my writing, I thinks about connecting with a kid who is like I was as a kid. Kind of an oddball. Maybe an outcast. Probably awkward. Probably more friends in nature or between book pages than in real life. I try to write my books in ways they will recognize themselves and their world, but I also try to show them new things about their world—stuff they might not have noticed. Books saved my life when I was a kid, and it’s an honor to write for kids today.

Connecting with readers and the kidlit community and industry is the hardest part of being a writer! As an introvert, I would really just write and not talk to people all that much, even though teachers and kidlit people are the best in the world. I mostly connect through social media, through school visits and teaching, and through attending a big conference or two (NCTE, ILA, ALA, etc.) every year. The connecting always ends up being fun, even though I have to recuperate from sensory overload for a week or two afterward!

Thanks for having me here and for celebrating Meet My Family with me, Melissa!


Laura Purdie Salas has written more than 125 books for kids, including Meet My Family!, If You Were the Moon, and Water Can Be…. Her books have earned the Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notables, starred reviews, and more. She offers writing resources at, including her newest book for writers, Making a Living Writing Books for Kids. Laura speaks at writing conferences around the country.


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