In addition to her books for children, Laurel has written two books of poems, “Daphne & Jim: a choose-your-own-adventure biography in verse” (Burnside Review Press, 2005) and “The Myth of the Simple Machines” (No Tell Books, 2007). She also edited an anthology of nonfiction, “Half/Life: Jew-ish tales from Interfaith Homes” (Soft Skull Press, 2006) A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Michener-Engle Fellow, Laurel has published work in the Utne Reader, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Revealer, Salon, The Iowa Review, American Letters and Commentary, and elsewhere. She is an occasional commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, and she teaches in the MFAC program at Hamline University, but most of all, she is a mom.
For questions, complaints, and the occasional nicety:
For business matters:
The Short Cut: (for those in a hurry!)
I have written for a very long time. I have two amazing sons, Mose and Lewis. I hate fish, but sometimes I pretend to like it because I am a grownup now and that’s what grownups are supposed to do. Especially at dinner parties. I like black licorice a lot. I live in Atlanta, Georgia. I grew up in Baltimore, MD. I cry when I see the ocean. I am a terrible gardener. I am very very very very impatient. I talk too much. I believe in being truthful. I wish I could meet you. I’d talk too much and offer you licorice but then get impatient if you took too long getting it out of the bag. Honestly.
The Long Cut: (for those with time to kill)
When I was in elementary school in Baltimore, MD, I had a very best friend named Susan. Together, Susan and I did all kinds of things. We caught fireflies and went sledding. We watched old musicals and tried to follow along with the dance steps. We baked cookies and built forts. We did lots of fun things, but most of all, we played make-believe. Sometimes we wrote our make-believing down in our best handwriting and bound the stories in wallpaper or cardboard.
We called these “books” because that is what they were.
By the fourth grade, we had decided that someday, we should probably sell our books, and become rich and famous. Then we thought we could use our untold wealth to buy a big old mansion so that we could adopt every orphan and stray dog and cat in the city of Baltimore.
Which was a good plan.
But I have to tell you that writing books for children is not quite as lucrative as I thought it would be when I was in fourth grade. And at this point, I am nowhere near being able to buy a mansion (though I have adopted a number of dogs and cats despite being mansion-less). But although I am not a gajillionaire yet, I do feel astoundingly, amazing, incredibly lucky to be writing books for children. And if you are visiting this website, it is likely because you have read one of my books, or you plan to read one of my books, in which case I need to thank you.
And I mean that! Because without you, I would not be sitting here, right now, in my pajama pants, drinking my morning coffee at home. I would likely be at a desk somewhere, wearing an itchy suit, staring at a complicated thing called a spreadsheet, or an equally complicated thing called a database. Or maybe I’d be collecting garbage or frying eggs. But whatever I’d be doing, I wouldn’t be enjoying myself half so much as I am at this very minute.
I’m a very lucky girl.
Of course, between the fourth grade and now (I would be in the 28th grade today if I hadn’t quit school early) I’ve done a lot of things besides write books for children. Some of them were interesting and some of them were really dull. I traveled a lot, in Ireland and Israel and Italy. I got married to a very nice man. I took ballet classes. I learned to play guitar, but only a little bit. I waited tables in several very greasy spoons. I wrote a lot of poems and then went to school so I could write more poems, at a place called the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I made a lot of friends and had two babies and read tons of books and moved to Atlanta and cut my hair many many many times.
And now here I am, in my pajama pants, drinking coffee and writing this letter to you. And Iâ€™m not quite sure what else I should tell you about me, because although I want to tell you the important things, Iâ€™m not sure what they are.
Is it important that I used to teach at a college?
Is it important that I like folding laundry, but hate pairing socks?
Is it important that I enjoy old country songs?
Why don’t we do this: you can email me if you want to, and ask me an important question. And I promise to write back to you and answer your question. Because it’s important if you say it is.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Susan didn’t become a millionaire or buy a mansion either. She became a doctor instead. Which is a wonderful thing to be. Because doctors don’t have to wear suits either. And yes, she is still my very best friend.