An Interview With Laurel Snyder

Did anyone truly think that Laurel Snyder could be contained within a single month? If you did, you were mistaken because now it is Laurel
Snyder September…in October! At the beginning of the year, when I started this journey through some of Ms. Snyder’s books, I told my students about her Skype visit (which is swiftly approaching!) and I book-chatted her books. Not too long afterward, the shelf seen in the picture at the right quickly emptied and has remained barren for the past month.

For my final post of Laurel Snyder September,  Ms. Snyder was gracious enough to answer some questions I had for her regarding her books, her writing process, and her enjoyment of black licorice.

Mr. Jensen (that’s me!): Your books can be enjoyed by children and adults alike due to the endearing characters and strong storytelling, but is there a reason that you write for children rather than for adults?

Laurel Snyder: Actually, I do also write for grownups. In fact, for many years I focused on adult poetry (I’ll tell you more about this in person). But my favorite books, and my powerful reading experiences, happened to me when I was a kid. I think this is true for a lot of people — that the books that affected them most strongly were books they encountered very young. Also, I think there’s freedom in children’s literature, a willingness to explore. For me, it’s just a natural fit!

Mr. Jensen: In each of your four novels, the protagonists have moments where they break the rules because what they are feeling seems like the right thing to do at the time. Why do you find it important to include this attribute in your stories? What are your thoughts on children having the freedom to live their lives and to make their own important choices?

Laurel Snyder: This is such a tricky issue! But I do believe strongly that childhood has to prepare kids for adulthood, and that one big aspect of that is learning to make their own decisions. We can’t teach them to think for themselves by simply making rules. Rules are important, but life is full of moments that defy them. I think kids need to learn to be respectful of rules, but also they need to think for themselves, and pay attention to the effect they’re having on the world.

Mr. Jensen: Your novels clearly feature the idea of dealing with what happens when people make wishes that do not turn out as expected. Does this stem from something in your background?

Laurel Snyder: Well, most of the books I loved best as a kid were “magic” books like this. E. Nesbit and Edward Eager were favorites, Roald Dahl and PL Travers, too. So I think that’s where all of that come from.

Mr. Jensen: You have written both picture books and novels, with many of your novels including illustrations in them as well. What kind of collaboration is there between you and the remarkable illustrators of your books?

Laurel Snyder: One of the most amazing things is when I get to see the art coming in. But by and large there’s not much collaboration. In general, authors and illustrators are kept pretty separate.  I suspect this is because if we got our heads together, projects might take even longer! I can tell you guys more about this if you like…

Mr. Jensen: Recently I discovered there may be a prequel coming out for Bigger Than a Bread Box. What additional information can you relay about this novel?

Laurel Snyder: I’m just finishing it now! It’s about Annie, Rebecca’s mom. In the new book, Seven Stories Up, Annie is 12, and she has her own magical adventure, and travels back in time.

Mr. Jensen: I love the honesty and humor of your recent blog post that shows you in full revision mode. Do you have any tips for student authors when it comes to revising their writing?

Laurel Snyder: Oh, gosh. Revision is HARD. The biggest thing to remember is that the book you want to write is not the book you started out to write, but the BEST book possible. You really have to let go of things, get out of the way of the book. The best way to do this is by listening to other people, finding out how they’re reading your draft, and not resist.

Mr. Jensen: As an author, you have most likely read many wonderful books in your life. Are there any novels or authors which stand out in your mind that you would recommend children read for themselves?

Laurel Snyder: The book I’m most amazed to discover kids haven’t read is The Thirteen Clocks, by James Thurber.  I love it so much! I have a huge list of books I love and recommend. 

Mr. Jensen: Here is your opportunity: convince the world of the superiority of black licorice.

Laurel Snyder: This I cannot do. I know I’m in the minority, and that most kids (mine included) don’t like the stuff. MORE FOR ME!

Once again, a HUGE thank you to Laurel for all of this wonderful information and insight. Make sure to send Ms. Snyder especially good vibes this month as she continues her work revising her current book. Please see my September blog posts for more information about five of Laurel’s great books that you should explore for yourself!

Happy reading everyone!