Saturday, April 6, 2019

Q&A with Laura Gehl

Laura Gehl is the author of the new children's books Baby Astronaut, Baby Oceanographer, Except When They Don't, and Dibs!. She is based in the Washington, D.C., area.

Q: You have four new children's books coming out this spring. How many books do you work on at once, and how do you stay so prolific?

A: I work on a minimum of two new books at once, often three or four.

As far as staying prolific, I think it helps that “start something new” is my go-to plan in almost every situation. Waiting to hear from an editor? Start something new. Get a rejection? Start something new. Make a sale? Start something new.

Not all of those first drafts even make it as far as my critique partners, let alone to my agent. But by starting many projects, the chances are good that at least a few of them will eventually grow into beautiful books.

Q: Two of the books are part of a board book series, "Baby Scientist." How was that series developed, and will you be focusing on other types of scientists?

A: The series started with the goal of highlighting different scientific careers, and making them accessible to very young kids, who are natural scientists themselves.

I wanted kids to read these books and grow up thinking, “What kind of scientist would I like to be?” rather than wondering if they could become scientists or—worse—assuming they couldn’t.

The next two books in the series will be Baby Botanist and Baby Paleontologist.

Q: You also have a new picture book, Except When They Don't, that focuses on gender issues. What do you hope kids take away from that story?

A: I hope kids leave the book inspired to follow their hearts, and pursue their passions, without worrying about—or even thinking about—gender as part of the equation.

Q: Dibs! looks at a sibling relationship. What was the inspiration for that book?

A: I’ve written a lot of books that feature sibling relationships. I think it’s because I have four kids, which means I am constantly observing a bunch of different interactions between siblings of different ages.

In the case of Dibs, the book was inspired by my son Nathan, who called dibs on everything for a few years. He didn’t call dibs on NASA, like Clancy does in the book…but he might have, if he had thought of it (Nathan went to Space Camp last year, and is headed to astronomy camp this summer).

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am working on all kinds of projects—rhyming picture books, prose picture books, board books, and even a graphic novel. Fiction and nonfiction. Funny and serious. I don’t know which of these books will end up being published, but I am enjoying working on each and every one. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Yes! I have two more books releasing in the fall, both starring smart, strong female characters.

Juniper Kai: Super Spy is about a little girl who has a mystery to solve in her own house.

Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer is my first-ever nonfiction picture book biography, about a little girl who grew up to be the first chief of astronomy at NASA and the “mother” of the Hubble Space Telescope.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Laura Gehl.

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