Freaky Friday-Interview with aspiring children’s author Laurie Krauss Kiernan

Filed under: Freaky Friday

If you’ve seen the movie Freaky Friday, you know that its premise is about change and growth through role reversal. For my Friday Blog entry I thought it would be interesting to interview aspiring writers; the same writers who spend lots of time reading the interviews of published authors and dreaming of the day when they might get their book on the shelves…
Today’s Freaky Friday interview is with Laurie Krauss Kiernan. I had the good fortune of meeting Laurie at the 2009 Rutgers One-on-One Conference.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started as a writer?

I had a fabulous boss and eight year career with (RESS) Remediation and Educational Support Systems, securing government funding and implementing programs in several states, before stepping down to devote more time to my children. I had five unforgettable years as a stay-at-home mom before my youngest started first grade. Then I decided it was time for me to go back to work. Unfortunately, RESS had folded, but my former boss was principal at a local school district, so I started working for him as a substitute teacher. At the same time, I went back to school to earn a Master’s Degree.
I hated substitute teaching and I sat in evening graduate classes, listening to fulltime teachers complaining about their jobs and students. The only enthusiastic person was my children’s literature teacher. His passion for books was infectious. I decided that I wanted to write the stories that would instill that kind of passion in readers. I also decided that I didn’t want to teach, but I had to earn money, so I thought about a brainless job that I could do, while I pursued a writing career. I started an in-home pet care service and have never once looked back. I love doing my brainless work. I get some of my best writing ideas while walking dogs.
From the look on your face in the picture it appears that your job is full of heart. I also have to say that it takes a smart woman to know what you love and how to be happy.

On your journey as a writer, you’ve had the opportunity to be an SCBWI RA. Can you tell us a little bit about the experience?

It’s really kind of funny. It begins in that children’s literature class. One of the assignments was to read and critique 40 children’s books. I read a lot of picture books and thought I could write those. No problem. I pounded out two in one night. Simple. HA! Another assignment was to read Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, because Laurie was going to visit the class. I remember standing in line with my copy of Speak to be signed by Laurie. I was so excited, I was shaking. When I made it to the front of the line, I fell into babble mode, telling Laurie how I wanted to write books and how I wrote 2 picture books in a few hours and asked her how I could get them published….quickly….like by Christmas. Laurie was very kind. She didn’t tell me that I was an annoying newbie with unrealistic expectations. Instead, she suggested that I join the SCBWI. She also mentioned that the Eastern PA Chapter of the SCBWI held an annual fall conference at this university.
Another reason to LOVE Laurie Halse Anderson :o)

I went home, looked into the SCBWI and signed up for the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter’s Pocono Retreat. That event just made me more enthusiastic. But then the sad announcement came: There would be no annual Fall Philly Conference unless volunteers came forward. Well, I couldn’t let them cancel the conference that Laurie told me to go to, so I put my name on the list of volunteers. The other two people that wrote their names down didn’t want to direct the conference, so I agreed to plan and implement a conference that I had never attended for an organization that I had just joined. Yes, I’m insane! And I should probably mention that I had only a month to get the program together and mail out the brochure. Somehow, I managed to pull it off and over 100 people registered. Travel, hotel, venue, etc. were all in line. Then four days before the event was to happen, terrorists attacked our country. That’s when I realized what a great organization SCBWI was. Volunteers came forward to help me piece this program together and Jerry and Eileen Spinelli agreed to fill in for two scheduled speakers who couldn’t get out of airports as planned. A handful of people didn’t show and asked that their tuition money be donated to the Red Cross. The day was full of hugs, warmth, and a shared determination to show the terrorists that they could not stop us from doing what we had planned.
I’ve never heard that story, but it only verifies what I already know…you guys throw a fantastic conference and Children’s Writers are some of the BEST people in the world.

A few months after that infamous 2001 Fall Philly Conference, I reluctantly agreed to take LauraLee Wren’s place heading the Eastern PA Chapter of the SCBWI.
WOW! I must ask, even though I’m now sitting here with goose bumps on my arm…was there a downside to being RA? Do you have any regrets?
I won’t say that I regret my time as a RA, but I will say that I wish I had time to be just a member of SCBWI before taking on that role. I never had an opportunity to develop my craft before becoming consumed by the responsibilities of running events and a chapter of the SCBWI. I loved organizing, but it took me away from my original goal. I found that I wasn’t writing at all. I was putting every spare moment into running the chapter.
After two years of looking for somebody to replace me as RA, I became very ill with a crippling case of Lyme Disease. I could barely walk, form a full sentence, or make it through the day with less than 16 hours of sleep. I had no other choice than to announce that I would fold the chapter if no one came forward to take my place. I am so grateful that Marilyn Hershey stepped forward and she’ doing a great job.
I attended my first Eastern PA Poconos Conference with Marilyn last April. She had big shoes to fill, but she did an amazing job. I’ll be back this year for sure!

I know you just got back from the Rutgers One-on-One Conference. What’s currently on your agenda?

I’m still on the mend. After months of unsuccessful oral antibiotic therapy for the Lyme, my doctors had to get aggressive. They inserted a PICC line into my arm and taught me how to give myself a daily antibiotic IV drip. With the help of some awesome visiting nurses, I did that for a month and now am beginning to remember what life was like before Lyme. My friends and family helped me to keep my business alive when I was sick. Now I’m back to running the business and writing. And I’m loving life!
Yay! Before you go, can you give us your top 5 books and how they’ve influenced you?

My five favorite books :
Richard Peck’s A Long Way from Chicago. I love Grandma Dowdel! To my family’s dismay, I want to be just like her!
Joyce Moyer Hostetter’s Blue. Fabulous writing and I learned a lot too ☺
Jordan Sonnenblick’s Notes from the Midnight Driver. Sol is so real! Reminds me of my dad.
John Grogan’s Marley & Me. I still don’t know who the three anonymous people were that put that book in my mailbox, but I laughed and I cried and it helped me to get through making the difficult decision to euthanize my 16 year old yellow lab.
And my favorite picture book is Eileen Spinelli’s Sophie’s Masterpiece. Eileen just has a way of telling beautiful stories that make me say, “Awwwwwwwwwwwww”.
Thank you so much for stopping by and being freaky :o) Don’t forget to check in with Laurie Krauss Kiernan about her writing, SCBWI, Dogs or Lyme. Thanks Lauire-I’ll see you in April…watch out Poconos…here we come!


No Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

Leave a Reply

By submitting this comment you consent to your contact details being stored in accordance with this website's Privacy Policy.

  1. Now Available

    Touching the Surface
  1. Follow Kimberly


  1. Archives



    agent Anica Rissi Apocalypsies blogging Bookanistas Book Review Class of 2k12 Conferences Contest Dad drafting Ellen Hopkins giveaway Jane Yolen Jodi Moore John Green Kimberly Sabatini Kimmiepoppins Kim Sabatini LA11SCBWI laurie halse anderson Lin Oliver Michelle Wolfson NaNoWriMo Oblong Books reading revision running SCBWI Simon and Schuster Simon Pulse The Class of 2k12 The Opposite of Gravity Touching the Surface WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN by Jodi Moore Wolf Pack Wolfson Literary writing writing style YA Author YA Book YA Books YA Novel YA Outside the Lines YA Writer
  1. Links

  1. The Apocalypsies
    The Class of 2K12