An avid reader from the moment Dick, Jane, and Spot entered her life, and a writer since age twelve, Lori Galaske writes for children from the picture book age to middle grade and teens. Her short stories and articles have been published in teen magazines and in anthologies, and she writes an inspirational blog for adults. Her first picture book, THE ALPHABET FOREST, was published by Guardian Angel Publishing in 2017. Please welcome Lori Galaske, our PAL author of the month!
Congratulations on the publication of THE ALPHABET FOREST, Lori! Please tell us what inspired you to write this book.
I used to look for inspiration in the nebulous “everywhere,” and I still do to some extent, but since becoming a grandmother in 2010, I find that my biggest source of inspiration is in the four little people who call me, “Grammy.” My oldest grandchild, who at two years-old was a voracious lover of books and learning, inspired me to write The Alphabet Forest.
Where do you get your ideas?
I pay attention to what interests my grandchildren. I listen to them and engage their imaginations. We tell stories together (they supply the basic characters. I weave the story). Some of these make it onto my computer. Some don’t. I look for stories when I’m on a walk or on a hike. I love to let my imagination out of its cage and see what it finds. I also like to go to the library and read picture books to see if another author’s imagination will awaken something in my own.
When you have an idea for a story or an article, how do you go about writing it? Do you use an outline?
It depends on the length of the piece. If it’s less than 1500 words, I typically keep the outline in my mind. If it’s anything longer than that, I put the outline down on paper. Whether or not I follow the outline isn’t important. It just helps me frame the story or article. It’s what I need if/when I get stuck.
What kind of networking do you do as an author?
Because I still work full-time outside of writing, as well as having a number of other volunteer commitments, I rarely get together with other writers in person. That’s why our annual conference is such a highlight for me! But I do belong to a number of on-line writers’ groups, which I find incredibly valuable.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Oh yes! I’ve been working on two different novels (one middle grade, one YA) on and off for quite a few years. I find these longer works are much more prone to writers’ block than any article, short story, or picture book manuscript that I’ve written. When I get stuck, I simply put it down and work on something shorter to get my creative juices flowing again.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Picture book stories are told through both words and pictures. To find the perfect balance between the two is a big challenge for me. I love words, but I also love the power of picture book illustrations. Where do I stop writing and let the illustrator take over?
What books were among your childhood favorites and why?
I’d have to say that Pippi Longstocking (Astid Lindgren) and Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene) were my two favorite series when I was young. I loved Pippi’s free spirit, her sense of adventure, her kind heart, and her silly wackiness. I was a rule-follower as a little girl, and I think I secretly longed to be Pippi (perhaps I still do!). Nancy Drew, on the other hand, planted in me my love of mystery and intrigue – still one of my favorite genres.
What are your favorite titles today and why?
Elizabeth George’s Thomas Lynley series is first on my list of favorites. I think George is an amazing author. Her books are well-researched and well-written. She fleshes out her characters superbly. I read her as much for the mystery as for the characters – actually, I care more about the characters than I do the mystery. The mystery is just a bonus! Other favorite authors include Neil Gaiman (his imagination!), Philippa Gregory (I also love historical fiction, and she does it so well), Kate Morton, Jodi Picoult, and Wally Lamb are just a few of my go-to authors. Favorite children’s authors include Roald Dahl, Cornelia Funke, Eoin Colfer, and…and…and…
Yes, choosing ‘favorites’ can be a challenge! What books are you reading now, Lori?
I’m currently reading Moon over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool. I met Claire at our KS/MO conference in November and she graciously autographed her book for me. I’m excited to finally be reading it! I also like to read a variety of nonfiction books. Right now I’m reading The Book of Forgiving by Desmond and Mpho Tutu, and The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge.
What do you love about being a writer?
I love that I have a valid reason to let my imagination go crazy – to trample down the brick and mortar enclosure of my 8:00 – 5:00 spreadsheets and regulations job, to break free of logic, and to tumble full-force into creativity!
Where and when do you write?
My 8:00 – 5:00 job requires a lot of my brain power. I’m on a computer most of the day, so it’s difficult to find the motivation to open up my laptop when I get home at night. I’ve tried a variety of days and times over the years, but what works for me right now is to set aside one weekend each month for a writing retreat. I don’t necessarily go anywhere, but I treat outside obligations as if I’m away for the weekend, so I can focus completely on writing. I don’t answer my phone, texts, or emails. Right now, this works for me.
Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
I am currently taking a drawing class. I practiced art in elementary and high school, but I didn’t pursue it beyond those years outside of sketching now and again. After writing and illustrating several books for my grandchildren (unpublished at this point), I found that illustrating is just plain fun! My ultimate goal is to be published both as an author and as an illustrator.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about writing?
“Butt in chair.” This piece of sage advice was given at my very first SCBWI retreat. It is the single piece of advice that I have returned to again and again. I find so very many things that MUST be done RIGHT NOW when I’ve planned time to write. That’s when I take this phrase and repeat it like a mantra. Once I get my ‘butt in the chair’ (and turn off my cell phone), everything else comes naturally.
Do you have any advice for beginning children’s writers?
Let your hunger to learn and to practice your craft be greater than your hunger to get published. Take it slow and steady. No shortcuts. Read. Learn. Network. Listen. Learn. And read some more. Remember to enjoy what you’re doing. When the desire to get published overtakes your soul, you lose yourself and your love of writing. Don’t let that happen. It’s not worth it.
Anything else you would like to add?
You are the only writer who can write your stories. Don’t compare yourself, your stories, or your accomplishments with others. Make a conscious decision to write because you love to write, to write because you have stories to tell, to write because that’s what gives life to your soul and NOT because you want to make money or be famous or win prizes or to prove something to someone. It took me years to come to this place, and now that I’m here, this is what I wish for every writer – to write for the joy of it. That is where we’ll find our best selves and write our best stories.
Thank you for your great advice, and for sharing your writing life with us here, Lori.
Lori lives in Columbia, MO with her husband. You can learn more about Lori and her book and her writing on her website at www.lorigalaske.com. Find her on facebook at www.facebook.com/kidlitlife/ and follow her on twitter at @lgalaske.
The Alphabet Forest (Guardian Angel Publishing 2017)
ISBN—Paperback: 9781616338664 1616338660
ISBN—eBook: 9781616338671 1616338679
FORMER Authors of the Month
Carol Murray writes poetry and non-fiction for young readers. Her books for children include Rookie Reader books and storybooks with stickers, as well as having her poetry published in Highlights magazine and in anthologies. Her newest book, CRICKET IN THE THICKET, was released in 2017. You can find out more about Carol and her work at www.carolmurray.net
Jonathan Schkade writes religious books for children, books with titles like Icky Sticky, Hairy Scary Bible Stories and Not-So-Nice Bible Stories: Master Criminals. He has published a dozen books for young readers in the religious market. He also writes picture books, MG, and YA for the general market. www.jonathanschkade.com
Nicki Jacobsmeyer’s stories have been published in Saturday Writers anthologies (Missouri Writer’s Guild), and her book, CHESTERFIELD was published by Arcadia Publishing. Her first children’s book, SURVIVING THE IDITAROD: An Interactive Extreme Sports Adventure, was released by Capstone Press in August. You can find out more about Nicki and her books on her website at https://www.nickijacobsmeyer.com/about.
Vicki Berger Erwin has worked as a children’s book buyer and a sales rep for Scholastic, and she and her husband owned the independent bookstore, Main Street Books, in St. Charles, MO for seven years. She is the author of many books for children, including SCOOBY DOO AND YOU, as well as some single Scooby Doo titles. She was also a ghostwriter for several popular girls’ book series. DIFFERENT DAYS, is historical fiction for middle grade readers, and was released this month by SkyPony Press. You can find out more about Vicki and her books on her website at www.vickibergererwin.comz
Laura S. Schmidt writes contemporary fiction and mysteries for young adults. Her first novel, SWEETER THAN LIFE, was published in 2015. Laura has worked as a community education coordinator, and has spent several years as a staff counselor at an agency that supports children and adults with developmental disabilities. You can find out more about Laura and her books on her website at www.laurastewartschmidt.com
Jessica Shaw writes for children from the picture book age through young adult, including poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been published in several magazines for children as well as doing work-for-hire projects. She received a Letter of Merit from the SCBWI 2016 Magazine Merit Award committee for her poem My Favorite Sounds, published in Ladybug, May 2015. You can find out more about Jessica and her books on her website at www.authorjessicashaw.comz
Patricia A. Miller writes picture books, including nonfiction, historical fiction, and fiction, and she has written several board book manuscripts as well. She has had two nonfiction magazine articles published in Highlights for Children magazine. Her latest article is “A Century of Blossoms,” which appears in the April 2017 issue of Highlights. You can find out more about Patricia and her writing on her website at www.patriciamillerbooks.com.
Clare Vanderpool writes adventure and historical fiction for middle grade readers. Her book Moon Over Manifest won the 2011 Newbery Award, and her newest book, Navigating Early, was a 2014 Michael L. Printz Honor Book. Visit her website to find out more about Clare and her books at www.clarevanderpool.com
Claire M. Caterer has been a freelance writer and editor for more than a dozen years. Her short fiction for adults has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Woman’s World. She lives in Shawnee, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Find more about Claire and her books on her website at http://www.clairecaterer.com/
Sue Lowell Gallion writes picture books, early readers and chapter books for children from her home in Leawood, Kansas. She is the former Regional Advisor for Kansas SCBWI, and is currently Co-Regional Advisor with Kim Piddington for Kansas/Missouri SCBWI. Sue has been published in children’s magazines and educational publishing. PUG MEETS PIG, released in September 2016 from Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), is her first picture book. You can find out more about Sue on her website at www.suegallion.com
Lisa Wade McCormick has written eighteen non-fiction books for children, and her stories have appeared in several children’s magazines. Besides being a children’s book author, Lisa is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than 20 years experience as a newspaper reporter and television producer. She is currently the investigative producer at WDAF-TV in Kansas City. You can find out more about Lisa and her books on her website at www.lisawademccormick.com
Rita Arens is the author of the contemporary realistic young adult novel, THE OBVIOUS GAME (InkSpell Publishing, 2013), a 2016 Library Journal Self-e Selection. Rita is also the editor of a parenting anthology, SLEEP IS FOR THE WEEK (Chicago Review Press), winner of a 2009 gold National Parenting Publications award (NAPPA) and winner of an honorable mention in the 2012 New York Book Festival. You can find our more about Rita and her books at www.ritaarens.com
Patricia J. Norton is the author of phonics-based beginning readers and narrative non-fiction for children. In 2006, she started a new publishing house, Short Vowel Phonics, to provide phonics-controlled short stories for beginning and struggling readers. You can find our more about Patricia and her books at http://shortvowelphonics.com/phonics/
Amy Houts, Maryville, MO, is a freelance writer and former instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature. She enjoys writing fiction and nonfiction books on assignment for educational publishers, as well as working on her own projects. She is the author of over 60 books, many for young children ages 3 to 7. You can find out more about Amy and her books on her website, www.amyhouts.com, or follow her blog at http://www.houtsandhome.com/amys-blog.
PEGGY ARCHER, O’Fallon, MO, loves to talk to students and adults about writing and her books. Readers can learn more about her author presentations on her website at www.peggyarcher.com. They can also check out her author blog, Peggy’s Pages, at http://www.peggyarcher.com/blog.htm. NAME THAT DOG! ( Dial Books for Young Readers, ISBN# 978-0-8037-3322-0) is also available through Scholastic Book Club and Scholastic Book Fairs.
JANIE CHEANEY is the author of novels for middle-grade readers. Her book, THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, was named a 2008 Kansas Notable Book by the Kansas State Library. Janie is also a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and co-publisher of RedeemedReader.com.
HOLLY SCHINDLER‘s first two published works, A Blue So Dark and Playing Hurt, were both YA novels. Her debut MG, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, released with Dial / Penguin on February 6, 2014, and her next YA, Feral, is forthcoming from HarperCollins. Find out more at hollyschindler.com
BRIDGET HEOS is the author of Mustache Baby (Houghton Mifflin, May 2013, ISBN-13: 978-0547773575) She lives in Kansas City with her husband and four children. Check out her Facebook page, Author Bridget Heos, or website www.authorbridgetheos.com for updates!
BONNIE HINMAN writes non-fiction books for children. She lives with her husband in Joplin, MO, close to their children and grandchildren. You can find out more about Bonnie and her books at http://www.bonniehinman.com.
SHANNON MOORE is the former Assistant Regional Advisor for Missouri SCBWI. You can find out more about Shannon on her blog, Great Books for Children, where she reviews children’s books. http://greatbooksforchildren.com/index.php/about/.
JODY FELDMAN lives in St. Louis where she writes middle-grade contemporary novels for young readers. The first book in her series, The Gollywhopper Games, was an ALA/YALSA Best Books for Young Adults nominee, and received the Midwest Bookseller’s Choice Award Honor Book for Children’s Literature. The second book in the series, The Gollywhopper Games: The New Champion, recently made the St. Louis Post Dispatch Best Sellers list for kids’ books. http://jodyfeldman.com
NANCY POLETTE of O’Fallon, MO is the author of picture books, fiction and non-fiction for middle grade readers, and has four easy readers coming out this year. Nancy is a former teacher of students in K through 8th grades, and is currently a professor of education at Lindenwood University where she teaches Children’s Literature.
ANN INGALLS was born in Cleveland, grew up in Detroit, and now lives with her husband and three children in Kansas City. You can find out more about her and her books, including J is for Jazz, on her website at: http://anningallswrites.com/ann-ingalls/
CYNTHIA COLLINS, from Jefferson City, enjoys writing for the teen and young adult audience. Her debut novel for teens, THE UNICORN TREE, was released by Mockingbird Lane Press in 2012. Two of her short stories published in the quarterly writers’ journal, The Storyteller, received a People’s Choice Award for 1st Place in Fiction. You can find out more about Cynthia and her writing on her website at www.cynthia-collins.com, and you can contact her at email@example.com
KRISTIN BAIRD RATTINI, Foristell, Missouri, is a freelance writer who has written for children’s magazines for 17 years, Kristin has enjoyed the challenge of introducing young readers to a wide range of topics and the thrill of hooking their attention with writing that’s both educational and entertaining. You can find out more about Kristin and her books at: Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/kristin-rattini/5/900/33a and MediaBistro: http://www.mediabistro.com/fm/PD.asp?user_id=6628
MARGO L. DILL, of St. Louis, Missouri, is the SCBWI Missouri webmaster and a children’s and YA author. She currently has three books out: Maggie Mae, Detective Extrordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies (picture book), Finding My Place (middle grade), and Caught Between Two Curses (young adult). She is also a freelance editor and writing teacher. Find out more at http://www.margodill.com
SUE BRADFORD EDWARDS writes from her home in Florissant, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and son. You can find out more about Sue and her work on her website at www.suebradfordedwards.com, and on her blog, https://suebe.wordpress.com/
VEDA BOYD JONES is the author of 47 books and over 500 articles and short stories. She writes children’s picture books and middle grade novels, fiction and non-fiction, and has been published in children’s magazines. She also writes romance novels for adults. Find out more about Veda and her books on her website at www.vedaboydjones.com
CYNTHIA REEG writes picture books and middle grade novels. Her writing includes fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetry. Her books have been published by Guardian Angel Publishing, and her work has been published in anthologies, magazines and newspapers. Her newest book, BUNNY BUSINESS, was released from Guardian Angel Publishing in September 2014. http://www.cynthiareeg.com/index.html
STEPHANIE BEARCE is the author of non-fiction for children and she also writes middle grade fiction. She is a past SCBWI Regional Advisor and is a full member of the Missouri Writers Guild and American Christian Fiction Writers. Find out more at www.stephaniebearce.com
BARBARA STUBER, from Kansas City, brings visual art and writing together as she weaves artwork into her stories for young adults. Her latest book, Girl in Reverse, was an NPR (National Public Radio) pick for the Best Books of 2014 in five categories. Her earlier book, Crossing the Tracks, was an ALA Wm. C. Morris Award Finalist in 2010. Find out more at http://www.barbarastuber.com
JEANIE FRANZ RANSOM, from O’Fallon, Missouri, sold her first story to Seventeen magazine when she was a teen, and has been writing ever since. She is an award-winning author of children’s picture books, and her books have received starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly. She is also a former elementary school counselor. Find out more at www.jeanieransom.com
JODY JENSEN SHAFFER is the author of 26 fiction and nonfiction books, which include titles like NINJA WARRIORS, INSIDE MY MUSCLES, BLACK-FOOTED FERRETS, and FREDERICK DOUGLASS. Her debut picture book, ROCKY, releases in 2017 from Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. Find out more at: http://jodyjensenshaffer.blogspot.com/
ANOLA PICKET is a former teacher and school librarian and writes historical novels for middle grade readers. She is also the author of an I-Can-Read book for younger readers, and co-author of a book for teachers and parents, Multiple Intelligences and Positive Life Habits. Anola lives in Kansas City but loves to travel and finds ideas and inspiration in her travels. You can find out more about Anola and her books at www.anolapickett.com, or meet her on Twitter at anolamarie.
AMY SKLANSKY, University City, is a former editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, Amy writes picture books and board books, and is the author of children’s fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her books have received many awards including the Bankstreet College of Education Best Books of the Year, Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers Association and Children’s Book Council, and have appeared on the St. Louis Independent Bestsellers list. You can read more about Amy at: www.amysklansky.com.
CATHY GILMORE, St. Louis, is a picture book author, and freelance editor. Her goal is to help children discover the joy of God’s love through her books. A Certified Catechist of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, she creates stories that bring the gospel to life for children. Her newest book, LITTLE LAMB FINDS CHRISTMAS, won the 2015 USA Best Books Award in the Children’s Religious books category. Read more about Cathy and her books on her website at www.catherinecgilmore.com.