Laura Gehl is the author of AND THEN ANOTHER SHEEP TURNED UP and HARE AND TORTOISE RACE ACROSS ISRAEL, both out this spring from Kar-Ben/Lerner, as well as ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR (Simon & Schuster, 2014) and the PEEP AND EGG books (Macmillan, 2016). Laura also writes about science for children and adults. She lives with her husband and four kids in Chevy Chase, Maryland. For more info, visit her website and Facebook.
At the end of your Chinese meal, what would you like your fortune to read?
Vague fortunes drive me crazy, so I would want something specific. “You will get two new book contracts today, followed shortly by the news that you won a big award” would do nicely. Another fortune I would like: “Your children will grow up happy and safe, find loving spouses, and provide you with healthy grandchildren.”
What is the best thing about getting old?
Not caring as much about what people think. Feeling fine about buying 99% of my clothes from L.L. Bean. Getting to spend most of my time with people whose company I truly value.
What do you do too little of?
Spending 1 on 1 time with each of my kids. It’s hard with four of them, but I know it is important.
If you owned a store, what sorts of things would you sell?
Is this a trick question??? BOOKS, OF COURSE! And maybe some coffee and chocolate to enjoy along with the books.
What book (either because of its length or subject) intimidates you?
I recently checked out a Timmy Failure book, by Stephan Pastis, from the library. My 10-year-old and 8-year-old were literally grabbing it out of each other’s hands, so I had to read it too. The book was so hilarious that I knew I could never write anything as funny. Definitely intimidating. I feel that way when I read and re-read Gordon Korman’s Macdonald Hall books too. Intimidating in the you-can-never-ever-be-this-funny kind of way.
What was your favorite meal when you were growing up?
I’ve always been a huge fan of the traditional Thanksgiving meal…turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce…and I still am. But I also had a bizarre fascination as a child with TV dinners and, similarly, the meals on airplanes. I just loved how there were distinct little parts of the meal in their own distinct little boxes. Unlike Thanksgiving food, I have outgrown my love of TV dinners and airplane meals.
If you could make up a school subject, what would it be?
Woods Walking. If all kids could spend a block of time each day walking in the woods, I think kids and teachers would be calmer, happier, and more focused. If children actually learned about nature in the process, so much the better, but just walking in the woods would be wonderful.
What bad habit will you purposely never quit?
Biting my nails. It really saves time, since I never need to trim them.
What are you thinking about right now?
I’ve already had my chocolate break, my coffee break, and my walking break. Now what do I do if I start to feel tired and unmotivated???
Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?
By far, I prefer to write on my living room couch. Since the couch is smack in the middle of my house, this means I can only really write when my husband and four kids are all out.
When do you feel the most energized?
Right after eating chocolate. They don’t call it a sugar high for nothing…and chocolate has the caffeine kick in addition to the sugar!
Does your writing reflect your personality?
I hope so. My books are intended to be funny and kind and make the world a better place. If that reflects my personality, then…YAY!
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
I like to have lots of different projects going on at any given time. That way when I feel blocked on one, I can work on another.
What is your typical day like?
Wake up, feed kids, get kids out the door, write, eat lunch, write, pick up kids, feed kids dinner, get kids to bed, write. A chocolate break is always in there somewhere, sometimes a coffee break, and on a good day a walk with a friend or a solitary run. I try to work on my most challenging project first thing in the morning, when my brain is fresh. Later in the day, my writing time might involve copy-editing or critiquing, because those tasks do not require as much focus and emotional energy.
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
I used to keep a file of positive words received from editors and agents. If I received a rejection letter that had a few positive sentences and a few critical sentences, I would take just the positive words and paste them in my file. Reading through that file helped me keep going.
How much of your own life is reflected in your work?
My kids are always giving me ideas, of course. But whenever I try to write a story with a fictionalized version of one of my own children as the main character, it is a complete and utter disaster.