Hello Readers, and welcome to Kid Lit Village blog. This week, we feature board book, City Baby by Laurie Elmquist and illustrated by Ashley Barron, published by Orca Book Publishers 2021. CITY BABY is part of a board book series, which also includes BEACH BABY by Laurie Elmquist, illustrated by Elly McKay and FOREST BABY by Laurie Elmquist, illustrated by Shantala Robinson. It is a pleasure to interview Laurie, particularly because she is a member of my local SCBWI group on Vancouver Island!
Bustling streets, lively squares and busy restaurants are baby’s playground when they are in the big city. So much to see and do as baby’s stroller navigates the crowded avenues or baby takes a break in a quiet park to blow bubbles and chase pigeons. Ashley Barron’s paper-collage illustrations are a joy to behold, bringing energy and life to this delightful board book. Rhyming verse from Laurie Elmquist takes the reader on a journey through a festive big city.
Welcome, Laurie to the Kid Lit Village blog. Laurie and I connected recently through Storyteller’s Academy, where we are both members, so we are connected both locally and virtually. Congratulations on the publication of CITY BABY earlier this year!
Q. What are the characteristics of a board book?
A. Board books are written for the earliest readers, ages 0-3. They are made of hard paper stock that is durable and are mostly presented in a square format. There are many board books that are celebratory in nature, especially celebrating the love that parents have for their babies. Some books are story-driven and feature compelling characters such as a little girl who is not afraid of monsters. Some books are activity-based and invite a baby to play peek-a-boo or blow bubbles.
Q. What are some of the key components you keep in mind when writing a board book?
A. Keep in mind that you have about 11 pages of text, and the text must be very short. It’s usually about 4 or 5 words on the page. I like to write beautiful words that work on a figurative level. “The dolphins hear music.” Who knows what it means? That’s the fun of writing a sentence like that, and the fun of reading it over and over.
For those looking for instruction on writing board books, have a look at Laurie’s video Use Master Studies of Mentor Texts to Write Better Board Books.
Q. Tell us about the inspiration for your book series.
A. I didn’t set out to write a series, and that’s probably a good thing. It was much more fluid. I wrote a board book called Beach Baby. I loved the experience of having my words illustrated. I had never done anything like that before. I wrote another book, this time about hiking with a baby. I initially called it Backpacking Baby, but Liz Kemp my editor at Orca Book Publishers, proposed Forest Baby because she had a vision of a set of three books, each one in a different location. The most recent one is City Baby. They are all inspired by places I’ve visited and the sweet babies in my life.
These books sound like they would make a lovely gift at a baby shower!
Q. What part of writing do you love the most?
A. I love the first draft. I write in a notebook. I usually set a timer for 30 minutes and write what comes to mind without editing. I always tell myself that it doesn’t matter what I write because it may go in the story, or it may not. It’s a bit of trick to take the pressure off. Once the 30 minutes are up, I set my timer again. I keep going in 30-minute leaps until I must do something else, or my brain gets tired. The first draft that is written in the notebook is surprisingly good writing. Never over-written. It is often quite funny.
Oh, I love first drafts too! Even though it may need work; the first draft gives you a starting point.
Q. Share a piece of advice for children’s writers.
A. Be open to learning. I am still learning new tools and tricks for my writing. I recently took a course from Storyteller Academy that helped me write a middle-grade novel. I had never heard of a plot wall, let alone made one before. Now, I have this strip of paper that goes floor to ceiling in my study, and I tape up all my index cards for each character so I can see their storyline. It’s very helpful when I am working on a story that is longer than a board book. And finally, I’d like to say that I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends through writing.
Oh, that Storyteller Academy course sounds interesting, Laurie. I have started on a middle-grade novel as well and the plot wall sounds like something I might want to try (and know more about!) Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.
Twitter Account: @laurieelmquist
Did you know, I’ve written a couple of books too?
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Feel free to stop by anytime. There’s a new interview coming up every Monday!