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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - LAURA SASSI

Congratulations to Laura Sassi - her newly-released picture book, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, is already capturing hearts and imaginations! I'm so happy to be part of Laura's blog tour! Read on for Laura's thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection!

STORIES: Discuss what inspires your ideas and and share the process about your latest stories.

Life! One of the best things about being a writer is that I get to spend my days seeing the world through writer’s glasses. Oh, they may look like ordinary glasses, but they most certainly are not. It’s through these glasses that over the years I’ve transformed seemingly ordinary moments/observations into engaging poems, stories and picture books.

My newest picture, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, was prompted by observations of a little rodent scurrying about in the nearby woods. He was so tiny, determined and cute that I immediately started imagining what his life might be like, where he might live, etc. The first result of those observations was a rhyming rebus called “Mouse House” (Highlights for Children, May 2013) where I imagined what it might be like to fall asleep in a mouse house in the woods, with bedtime stories, a firefly reading light, and cozy leaf blanket. Months later, I was paging through my notebook looking for inspiration for Tara Lazar’s wonderful Picture Book Idea Month writing challenge (now called STORYSTORM) and I came across that mouse again! Only this time, I imagined where else a mouse might live - and that imagining led me to the opera house! And once I had that mouse (who I later named Fernando) in the opera house, it wasn’t long until Delores was there as well, snootily preparing for her opera debut.

Well, the first step in my creative process is to write down snippets of inspiration just as fast as I can on whatever is handy. Lately, the “notes” feature on my iPhone has come in especially handy, but I’ve also used old receipts, cocktail napkins, newspaper tear-offs and more. Once collected, I let ideas stew or percolate, as I prefer to call it, for a while. My ideas, I have found over the years, get richer when I allow them to percolate first. And once I do start writing, I continue with a pattern of writing a draft then setting it aside to percolate for days or weeks so that when I return to it, it’s with fresh writing glasses, so to speak. I’ve used this pattern of writing, resting, revisiting, repeating for each and every one of my pieces and the time a story or poem takes to get to that “just right” stage varies. For GOODNIGHT, ARK, my debut picture book, the process took two years. My second book, GOODNIGHT, MANGER took six months and DIVA DELORES? Well, she was a bit fussbudget so her story and the story of her darling companion, Fernando took FIVE years from from the time I jotted that first idea until it was ready to sub to publishers!

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

My favorite way to showcase my creative side is by writing. In addition to poems, stories and picture books, I write weekly posts for my blog which celebrate reading, writing and life. Over the years, my favorite posts have been the ones in which I make creative analogies between writing and life. I find these connections in the oddest places - such as in a bed of crocuses or in the little antique iron that sits atop my desk.

I also like cooking, sewing and drawing. I’m currently homeschooling our daughter and these three creative outlets have become our favorite “break” from the more academic studies. Together, we’ve made two colonial dresses to wear at the 1740’s museum where we volunteer. We’ve also designed and sewn patchwork pillows for our porch. We also both have sketch books and are enjoying exploring color in those with some special watercolor crayons. And right now, I’m knitting a gorgeous soft turquoise hat which may or may not be finished before spring. I love how all these outlets contribute to a happy, balanced life. Hooray for creativity - in all shapes and forms!

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

I have found that of the best ways to connect is by writing a story that resonates with kids and their grown up readers (since many of my young readers aren’t yet reading on their own). So, even though on the surface DIVA DELORES is about a seal and a mouse at the opera house, it’s really about friendship - what it means to have a friend and what it means to be a good friend. It’s also about standing up for yourself, forgiving others and starting over. These are universal themes that connect the story to the soul in all of us that longs for special friendships.

I also enjoy connecting with readers at events such as library story times, book store readings, school visits and even virtual visits (such as I have done for World Read Aloud Day). For each visit, I bring along several book-themed puppets to help with the story telling and the children, puppets, and I enjoy very interactive readings of the stories. I’ve always loved writing and I’ve always loved interacting with kids (I was formerly a grade school teacher) and now I’m getting to do both.

Finally, I have found the kidlit community to be a wonderfully embracing, supportive one. I have learned so much from connecting with others in this field through interaction on blogs, discussion boards, social media, at conferences, and, most especially, through the various critique groups I have been a part of over the years. I would not be the writer I am today without their support and and encouragement and critiques. So, if you are new to this community, or if you are just shy and maybe haven’t taken that first step towards connecting with other writers or illustrators in the field, I encourage you to do that. For me, it has made all the difference.

Thanks so much for having me, Melissa!

BIO: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) and GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.


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