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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - LAUREN KERSTEIN

I'm delighted to feature my #2020BOOKLOOK writing pal Lauren Kerstein on the blog today. You can read my interview with Lauren from May 2019 here. Since last year, Lauren has been busy with many projects, including her new picture book, ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOODNIGHT, which released on September 1st! I love Lauren's idea template (linked below), and how she captures the inspiration behind her books. Read on for Lauren's thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection. Welcome, Lauren!

STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

Thank you for having me on your blog! I’ve loved being in a 2020 debut group with you!


Inspiration sometimes zooms in and tickles my ear until I listen.

Sometimes it jolts me out of the shower or bed and sends me searching for a sheet of paper.

Sometimes it’s a quiet whisper begging to be heard.

The moment inspiration strikes, I yank out my phone or grab paper and write down EVERYTHING.

- The idea itself.

- Where I was.

- What sparked it.

- What I was doing when it sparked.

- The heart.

- The characters.

- A what if question.

Then, I open the Storystorm template I created (you can find this at and try to flesh the idea out even further. If I don’t capture the heart of the idea immediately, it is generally very challenging to recreate.

I must admit, I often wish I had Scarlet’s magic paintbrush in order to turn that idea from a spark into a manuscript. Although there are periodically unicorns—moments when drafts flow out of me as if I DO have a magic paintbrush, they are few and far between! [Thank you, Lauren, for mentioning Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush!]

ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT actually began as a “how to” book and was about putting your mommy to bed. I thought it would be hilarious if the tables were turned and a child had to tackle the bedtime bumps we tackle as parents. With fabulous feedback from critique partners, Rate Your Story, my agent, and my editor, this book evolved into the character-focused series it is today.

There were five things that really made Rosie and Charlie happen:

  1. Writing challenges. I love participating in (and running) writing challenges. They truly spark my creativity. Rosie and Charlie were born in 2016 during NAPIBOWRIWEE and only because I had read a fabulous post about structure by Tammi Sauer during ReFoReMo and only because I had created a Storystorm template to catch my ideas. Writing challenges are the BEST!

  2. Authentic Voice: I let my Jersey-girl humor fly free with Rosie and Charlie and that made all the difference.

  3. Listening to Feedback: My brilliant agent’s suggestion to include actual tips and skills helped me find my therapist voice.

  4. Remaining Open and Flexible: My talented editor’s suggestion to make it more character focused brought Rosie and Charlie to life.

  5. Holding onto the Heart: And the fact that I had truly wrapped my brain around both of these characters,and the heart of the story, helped me hold onto the integrity of the manuscript throughout.

What's Next?

HOME FOR A WHILE (Magination Press/Illustrated by Natalia Moore) will move into bookshelves February 2, 2021. This book is straight out of my therapist’s heart. I am also working on transitioning a YA manuscript into an adult novel. (The characters requested a new genre.:)) I’m about to tackle revisions on a MG. Finally, I always have a few picture books in varying stages of revision or submission. I love having multiple projects in a few genres in progress.

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

I think creativity is the engine that supports all of my pursuits.

It fuels me.

It propels me forward.

It enriches my life.

From making up songs about unrequited love at age 5 to writing poetry in the Quad at Washington University in St. Louis to inventing games and strategies as a therapist, my creative side is always there. I’d like to think creativity helps me as a mom as well, especially a mom of teenagers!

My most satisfying moments as a writer are moments when I truly let my creative side fly free. I love brainstorming funny expressions my character might say, ways my character might express emotion, and unexpected plot twists. I love letting my subversive and sarcastic sense of humor run wild. I love shushing my inner critic and playing with the most outrageous ideas to see what might happen.

There are certainly days when my inner critic tries to squash my creativity—LOTS of days. I just have to keep shushing that darn critic, and cling to my creativity instead.

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

One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been that I’ve been able to virtually connect with children all over the country by participating in “calls” for storytime or author visits. My goal as a clinician and as an author has always been to help one child smile that day who may not have otherwise smiled. Providing virtual author visits has allowed me to do just that. It has brought me such joy to see children’s faces, share Rosie and Charlie, and smile together for a moment. These connections are priceless, and remind me why I write!

I stay connected with the wonderful KidLit community through SCBWI, 12x12, writing challenges, Twitter and #PBChat. As a judge with Rate Your Story, I’m able to connect with KidLit authors. I also love connecting through my critique business. I am incredibly lucky to be a member of numerous critique groups. My critique partners have enhanced my life in immeasurable ways. We support each other, celebrate successes, and push each other to be the absolute best we can be. I am beyond grateful to each and every one of them. Staying connected with the KidLit community drives me forward! It bolsters me. And it shines a light on this challenging, wonderful, and difficult writing journey.

Thank you again for hosting me on your blog. May we all continue to create with wild abandon as if we are wielding Scarlet’s magic paintbrush! [Cheers to that!]


Lauren Kerstein is an author and psychotherapist. She is a Jersey girl at heart who currently lives in Colorado with her husband, their two, daughters, and their rescue dogs. Lauren's debut: ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES (Illustrated by Nate Wragg/Two Lions) splashed into bookstores in 2019. The companion volume, ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT (Illustrated by Nate Wragg/Two Lions), snuggled into bookshelves September 1, 2020. HOME FOR A WHILE (Illustrated by Natalia Moore/Magination Press) is moving into bookshelves February 2, 2021. Lauren is one of the founders of #ReVISIONweek, a judge with Rate Your Story, runs a critique business, and is a long-time member of 12x12 and SCBWI. Lauren also writes books in the mental health field. She is the author of A Week of Switching, Shifting, and Stretching, and My Sensory Book. Her writing goals are simple. Read voraciously. Embrace feedback. Grow each day. Work hard. Be passionate. Write courageously. Touch children’s hearts.



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