Describe your latest project.
Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains began very casually as a bedtime story — Once upon a time — but then I couldn't stop. It's about a snarky milkmaid named Lucy and her best friend Wynston, who happens to be a prince, though that isn't his fault. When Wynston's father forces him to begin the process of "Queening" and Lucy is deemed an "unsuitable" mate (because she's a commoner), she runs off to search for her mother, who's been missing most of her life. The supporting cast includes a sniffly prairie dog and a defiant cow. There are also lots of silly little songs, and some amazing illustrations by Greg Call. But when people ask me what the book is "really about," I tell them it's about good government, and how to bend rules.
Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
"[A] delightfully droll fairy tale..." Kirkus Reviews
"This fairy tale...has appealing characters who grow and develop; clear, accessible language; lively dialogue; and a light humorous tone." School Library Journal
"Humor, adventure, and a healthy boy-girl attraction fuel the fire of this introductory novel." Children's Literature
James Thurber's The 13 Clocks. It's pretty much my favorite book of all time, and I'm always shocked at how many people haven't read it. A lot of authors describe themselves as "quirky," and that's fine, but Thurber was a master of quirk. A true inventor. I spent a lot of years threatening to slit my brother from his "guggle" to his "zatch."
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
L'Engle said, "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."
I don't know if difficult is the word I would have chosen, but I do think that a child's mind is more open, more expansive and willing to follow. My background is in poetry, and I was never able to write fiction until I began to write for kids, because I felt restricted by silly things like reality. But writing Scratchy Mountains felt unfettered. I wanted Lucy to knit the roof of a forest, and so she pulled out her knitting needles. I wanted the river to flow up the mountain, and it defied gravity.
What do you do for relaxation?
Ha! I have two kids under the age of three, so I don't relax often. But when I do manage to slip away, I like to lie. I'll go sit in a bar, order a drink (I like old fashioneds), and just lie to whoever happens to be sitting next to me. I find that lying to strangers is much easier than lying to people I know. So now Atlanta is chock full of people who went home from the bar one night and told a roommate, "Dude, I met the weirdest lady!"
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My plan, from fourth grade on, was to become rich and famous writing books and plays for children, and then to adopt all the stray dogs and cats and orphans in the city of Baltimore, and live with them in a mansion. No kidding. I've done all I can to achieve this goal, but I have yet to see fame and riches, so the orphans are still waiting. Before the fourth grade, I wanted to be a ballerina or a landscape architect.
Why do you write books for kids?
Because it is the single most fun thing I can imagine doing, besides being a mom, or maybe a bird. I spent a lot of years pretending I wanted to be an academic poet. I did an MFA at Iowa, and I had a great time there, but one day I woke up and realized that while I'd always write poetry, I didn't actually want to study poetry. At that time, in grad school, I was already writing picture books on the sly. Just for fun. Then it turned out that the stuff I'd been writing for fun was actually publishable. I couldn't believe it. It was like being offered a job eating ice cream.
Tell us about your pets.
I have a very surly cat named Hassle who will only drink from the faucet. I also have a gigantic yellow lab mutt named Dave, who now lives in Iowa with my in-laws, because he did not — ahem — get along with my son. But I will always love Dave. I think perhaps he's the only dog in history who ever bit a kid and really did get sent to "live in the country."
If you could pick anyone to illustrate one of your books, who would it be and why?
That's an easy one. Hilary Knight! He has this amazing sense of humor, and everything he draws looks a little off-kilter. I have written a stalker-ish amount of fan mail to the man, begging him to illustrate my books but he has never responded. Ooh, maybe he'll read this and finally write back to me! Hilary? Hilary, are you out there?
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You have not read Laurel Snyder's first book, The Very Naughty Unicorn, because it was hand-written and ripped to shreds by a boy named Henry when Laurel was only eight. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she and her family live in Atlanta, Georgia, in a little brick house with a pale green door. Visit her online at www.laurelsnyder.com.