Laura Resau is the award-winning author of seven highly acclaimed young adult and children’s novels–What the Moon Saw, Red Glass, Star in the Forest, The Queen of Water, and the Notebooks series (Delacorte/Random House). She draws inspiration from her time abroad as a cultural anthropologist, ESL teacher, and student. Loved by kids and adults alike, her novels have garnered many starred reviews and honors, including the IRA YA Fiction Award, the Américas Award, and spots on Oprah’s Kids’ Book Lists. Praised for its sensitive treatment of immigration and indigenous people’s issues, Resau’s writing has been called “vibrant, large-hearted” (Publishers’ Weekly on Red Glass) and “powerful, magical” (Booklist on What the Moon Saw). Resau lives with her husband, young son, and beagle in Fort Collins, Colorado. She donates a portion of her royalties to indigenous rights organizations in Latin America. For more info, visit her website.
What’s your idea of a good time?
Traveling to new places, discovering new foods, bumbling through new languages, meeting new people. The unfamiliar stimulates my creativity. Exploring makes me feel alive, even though it’s not always easy or even pleasant (especially when it involves politely nibbling at goat innards).
Name one thing that drives you crazy.
Those insanely loud electric hand dryers that are invading public restrooms everywhere like evil, shrieking hyenas. *shudder* (Thanks for letting me vent about that!)
Name one thing you can’t live without.
A notebook. I carry one everywhere. There’s one in nearly every room in my house. My notebooks contain the seeds of all the stories I’ve written. They’re like a non-mushy extension of my brain.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Oh, how to choose?! Well, when I was in Ecuador to research The Queen of Water, my co-author, Maria Virginia, convinced me to dress up in her indigenous Otavaleña clothing for a night on the town. She wrapped the skirt fabric around me really tightly, then tied a strip of cloth around the waist, which nearly cut off my circulation. At the restaurant, before I dug into a giant plate of chicken and potatoes, I begged her to loosen the fabric a little so that I could fit food inside my stomach. She agreed, but warned me, “Laurita! Listen, this is very important! Before you stand up, you must tighten the skirt up again. Or else it will fall right off!” So, I devoured my dinner, and then… you can probably tell where this is headed… I stood up and started walking. And there, in the middle of the restaurant, the skirt unspooled and fell into a heap at my feet. (And I wasn’t even wearing my nice underwear.)
Who was your favorite teacher?
I spent my junior year of college abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. And there, I had a class called something like 18th Century Fantastical French Literature. It was taught in the cave (basement) of a building that was even older than the stories we studied (and it really did feel like an actual cave down there). A small, bouncy, white-haired man with a neat, white triangular beard taught the course, and he was bursting with enthusiasm. On one of my creative writing assignments, he wrote, “Tu devrais etre écrivaine.”You should be a writer. And oui!–he tapped into what I wanted more than anything, to be a writer. He was the teacher who recognized that passion in me (even with my flawed French) and stated my path, quite simply.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
Hanging out under tables that felt like secret little worlds. Oh, don’t you miss that?
What’s your favorite writing quote?
There are so many! I have them copied into my notebooks, taped around my writing space, drifting around on scraps of paper. Different quotes speak to me more at different times, but one that often comes to mind is this: “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.” – Jack Gilbert, poet. When I’m writing, I often have the feeling that I’m diving down deep and searching for magical treasures to bring back to the surface. And it’s helpful to remember that the treasures themselves are rooting for me to succeed in this mission. I frequently struggle with self-doubt and anxiety, and this quote itself gives me courage.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I see writing as a dance between your dream mind and your rational mind. The material emerges from that deep, mysterious place… then you use a more analytical part of your brain to shape it into the story it wants to be. I try to let the dream mind lead this dance—it’s much wiser!
What inspired you to write your first book?
Do you have a specific writing style?
I love to weave the sensual and spiritual and socio-cultural together in my stories. I can’t resist adding sprinkles of magic and humor and romance, too.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing?
I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life, so it’s not surprising that insecurities and self-doubt creep into my writing process. It feels like the anxiety is a shape-shifting monster that’s always disguising itself in new forms. I’ve learned to just briefly acknowledge the latest monstrous form, and then let it go so I can get on with my writing. I try not to even engage with the latest monster. I say, “Oh, hi, I see you, monster, and I know what you are and I don’t need you. Bye.” And I turn away. (Easier said than done, of course.) (And I don’t say it out loud in public because I’m not quite that crazy.)
What comes easily?
I pretty much have to write at least a few times a week if I want to be in a decent mood. I feel yucky, emotionally and physically, if I go too long without writing– I feel grouchy and head-achey and un-alive. So I’ve learned to make writing an essential part of my daily routine. And usually, I do love writing, especially that stage where I feel like I’m swimming deep and encountering a whole mother lode of sparkling treasures…