Lori Mortensen is an award-winning children’s book author of more than six dozen books, and over 350 stories and articles. When she’s not removing her cat from her keyboard, she enjoys putting her green thumb to the test in her garden, whipping up culinary delights, and working on all sorts of new projects filled with extraordinary people and quirky characters that delight her writing soul.
A member of SCBWI, Lori is a frequent speaker at schools, SCBWI conferences, and has worked as a writing instructor for the past eight years at the Institute of Children’s Literature. Recent picture book titles include Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg, (Clarion, 2013), Cindy Moo (HarperCollins, 2012), Come See the Earth Turn – The Story of Léon Foucault (Random House, 2010), and In the Trees, Honey Bees! (Dawn, 2009). To learn more about Lori and her upcoming books, visit her website or read her blog.
What is guaranteed to happen tomorrow?
“The sun will come out tomorrow, tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun. . .” (Oops! That’s what popped into my mind!)
What simple thing are you unable to do?
Well, I’ve always been a miserable finger snapper. I go through the motions, but instead of producing a nice resounding SNAP! mine always sounds like an anemic thwap.
What is one thing you always wanted as a kid, but never got?
When I was little, my older sister used to wear a striped, pink and green play top with an ice cream soda applique on the front. It looked so cool. None of our other clothes had appliques on them–it was the one and only–so I remember staring at it longingly and wishing I had one too.
What event or decision is proof that you have finally “grown up”?
When we moved from our “starter” home, into our “raise the family” home, I went out and bought a white dinnerware set from Target with a raised leafy design on the edges. Somehow having a matching set meant that the picture of adulthood was complete. These days, those plates are stacked in the back of the cupboard somewhere. Instead, I love to browse around thrift stores and pick out unique, individual plates. When we eat, each plate is as wonderfully unique as everyone around the table.
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
I just keep pressing ahead. Keeping an idea book is helpful, so when an idea does pop into my mind, I can jot it down and get back to it when I’m ready to write it. Sometimes getting away from a project is helpful. If I release my mind from the frustration and do something else, sometimes new, better thoughts and ideas present themselves.
Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?
I always start with an idea in mind, but I may not know where I’m going which can be frustrating. However, as I find my way, usually all the pieces fall together and I make fun new discoveries.
Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?
I didn’t start writing for children until I was a stay-at-home mother of three. However, I always loved reading. So when I became reacquainted with children’s literature with my own children and sold my first magazine story to The Friend, I couldn’t wait to see what else I could do. I knew I was on the brink of an exhilarating literary journey.
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
Each success has given me confidence to press ahead until the next success. After a while, I realized if I kept at it, my writing would improve. Manuscripts do get better. Writers do get better ideas. Manuscripts that have been rejected multiple times by others are purchased by editors who love them as much as I do.
If you were no longer able to write, how else would you express your creativity?
I’ve recently taken up bird photography and it’s been another terrific avenue for self-expression. Up until then, I hadn’t paid much attention to birds. But once I started looking, a whole new world opened up and I had no idea about the variety of bird life that was literally in my backyard and beyond.
What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the author you are today?
I wouldn’t call it a sacrifice. I feel as if I’ve been able to do everything I’ve wanted to do. My stay-at-home priority was raising my children and volunteering in their classrooms and at church. When time allowed, I focused on writing, which was a wonderful separate thing from my role as mom and wife. As my children became more independent, I devoted more time to writing. Like anything, you have to put in the time to succeed, and doing what I love has never felt like a sacrifice.
What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?
Many years ago, I attended an SCBWI writing conference where the writing team of Judith Enderle and Stephanie Gordon spoke. One of them said, “If you only knew how many times we’ve been rejected.” For some reason, that really struck a chord with me and within that one sentence was a world of knowledge. To me, it said that they generated a lot of manuscripts to be rejected so many times. It said that even successful authors are rejected. It said that if you keep writing, you will succeed. I’m a firm believer that persistence pays off.
What is your typical day like?
When my kids were little, it was catch as catch can. Now that my children are grown and off on their own, I spend a lot of time at the keyboard. (Too much!) When I’m not writing, I go on walks, photograph birds, dig in the garden, and tackle fun culinary projects as occasions arise.
Which of your books gives you the most pride or satisfaction?
I love aspects about all of my books because each of them contains bits and pieces of what I thought was exciting to share with readers. I’m especially pleased with my latest release, Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg because it was so fun to write. (And who wouldn’t want to soak sweet beneath the moon and warble out a cowpoke tune?) I’m excited about the sequel to Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg that’s on the way called Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range. I can’t wait to see Michael Allen Austin’s new ootin’ tootin’ illustrations.