Loretta is a former teacher and a graduate of Hamline University in the MFA Program in Writing for Children. She is the author of four young adult novels: THE SHROUDING WOMAN, a BBCB Choice and Rebecca Caudill Nominee; IN SEARCH OF MOCKINGBIRD, a Teen’s Top Ten nominee, ALA and IRA Notable, winner of the Midwest Bookseller’s Choice Honor Award for Children’s Literature, and named to the New York Library List of Teenage Books; IN A HEARTBEAT, a Midwest Connection’s Pick and a ALAN Pick, and UNFORGETTABLE, which received that elusive Kirkus star and was a Kirkus Critic’s Pick as well the winner of the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award in Children’s Literature. She has appeared at numerous book festivals across the nation and teaches writing to young people as well as those not so young. For more info, visit her website.
If you could make something in life go away, what would it be?
What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?
I was zoned out and forgot to go through the grocery store drive-through to pick up the groceries I bought. I’ve done this often, in fact.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
My earliest memory is hiding with the neighbor boy under his front porch during a passing storm. My mother was angry because she’d been looking for me, but I was too scared to try to make it home because of the lightning. I was three.
What food item would you remove from the market altogether?
A student once asked if I was related to JK Rowling because he thought I looked like her. I told him she was my sister.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I read a lot and I belong to a supportive writing community where I am encouraged and challenged to do my best.
If you had to start over, would you choose a different path in your career?
I always wanted to be a writer but didn’t do anything about it until I was thirty years-old, and didn’t work seriously at it until I was forty. I wish I’d taken that plunge earlier, but I know how hard it was to make time to write as a working mom, and I have great respect for those who manage to carve out the time for writing while juggling so many other obligations.
Has rejection ever affected your desire to continue writing?
Every rejection hurts and it’s hard not to take it personally. It doesn’t affect my desire to continue writing, but it does affect which manuscripts I decide to work on.
What kind of jobs did you have before your career took off?
In college I had twelve W-2 forms in one year. I did everything, from giving tours at the John Deere Engine manufacturing plant to working at a golf course. After college, I taught middle school and high school Spanish for many years before my career took off, and now I visit schools to teach writing workshops.
What was the biggest opposing force that you encountered on your writing journey?
My own fears about myself and my writing.
If you could interview any author (past or present), who would you choose?
I’m reading Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal, written when she was a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and I have several questions I wish I could ask her.
Do you ever create hidden meanings or messages in your work?
I always try to work my maiden name (Mennen) into my books to see if family members can find it.
Have you ever felt enlightened by an event in the past that has given you a new perspective on life?
I randomly chose the setting for my first book, which takes place in the 1870’s in southeastern Minnesota. It was only after the book was accepted and I was doing revisions that my aunt gave me a copy of my great, great, grandmother’s journal. I had no idea that she’d lived in that community during that same time and is buried there. I used her journal in my revisions to help describe the landscape, and my aunt told me I didn’t choose the place, that it had chosen me. It made me more aware of connections that might seem random but perhaps really aren’t.
How has personal experience influenced your writing?
Your personal experience is what motivates you to write a particular story. I think all stories are self-exploratory in some ways, and in order to write characters with compassion you must find yourself in the story and discover why it’s important to you.