Authors on the Verge: Meet Laurel Snyder, picture book and middle grade author

Laurel Snyder
Laurel Snyder

This week we have the lovely Laurel Snyder. So there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is Laurel got skipped during my hiatus from the web, so we completely missed her debut. (GAH!) The good news is Laurel’s books are out now, and she’s got two of them! She is the debut children’s book author of UP AND DOWN THE SCRATCHY MOUNTAINS (Random House, 2008), and INSIDE THE SLIDY DINER (Tricycle, 2008) . A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, she has also written several books of poetry for adults. She lives in Atlanta with her family.

And here’s the scoop on her upcoming books …


UP AND DOWN THE SCRATCHY MOUNTAINS is a kind of old fashioned fairy tale, about a milkmaid with chutzpah, a prince who can’t help it, a prairie dog named Cat, and good government. INSIDE THE SLIDY DINER is a creepy picture book about a little girl named Edie who lives in a spooky diner full of wigglepedes.

(Snoop says, EEK!)

Now let’s start the interview, Laurel. When you received your offer, you …

… screamed my face off and cussed like a sailor! Then I was forced to sit in 2 hours of gridlock Atlanta traffic with a sobbing baby in the back seat. (I got the call at work, and then had to pick my son up). All the way home I just kept thinking, “I’m an author. I’m an author. I’m an author…”


So now that you have a contract, what’s it like to be on the other side.  What does it feel like to be official?

Honestly? My life hasn’t changed very much, but my sense of expectation, of what I have the *right* to demand from myself and the world, that’s different. I don’t mean this in an obnoxious entitlement way, but it’s a pretty strange feeling to be able to negotiate for $$$ as a stay-at-home-mom. I wish all moms could know what it feels like to think of their time in terms of $$$. Because their time IS worth money, too.

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

Well, my path was weird. Both my first novel and my first picture book were pulled from slush. But in each case, the book was accepted more than a year after I sent it in. In the case of SLIDY DINER, the editor found it, unread, while cleaning out her inbox. She emailed me to say, “Is this still available?” Uh, yeah!!!

And here’s our favorite question. How many rejections did you receive IN GENERAL (not just for these books) before you landed your first major publishing contract?

  • 0-10
  • 11-25
  • 26-50
  • 51-100
  • 100+

Tell us about one of your most heart-breaking rejections and about one of your best.

Best of all was the rejection I got for SCRATCHY MOUNTAINS, from the very editor who acquired it about a year after she sent the rejection! I basically refused to consider it a rejection. She said so many nice things, but faulted it for not being enough of a book to stand alone. So of course I rewrote it, made it meatier, longer, and sent it back to her. There’s a picture of the note on my blog!

How long did it take to sell your books, from putting the first words on the page to receiving an offer? Here are your choices.

  • 0-3 months
  • 3-6 months
  • 6 months to 1 year
  • 1 year – 2 years
  • 2 years – 3 years
  • 3 years+
  • The manuscript has been around longer than I have.

Prior to selling your books, you were …

A stay-at-home mom.

For a long time I was a waitress and student, and then I worked for Hillel (non-profit). But immediately before selling these books, I was staying home with my boys.

Now that you’ve sold some books, you plan to …

Hire a part-time sitter and have my house cleaned professionally. YEE HAW!!!

What are some of the new things you worry about now that you have a contract?

That the next book won’t be any good. Or that I won’t have time to give it my all, because of trying to be a full time mom at the same time I’m trying to be an author. I need to get better about setting boundaries.

If you’ve already begun or have finished the editorial process with your publishing house, let you us know what that’s been like.

Well, copyediting and all that– it’s painful. And scary because you’re so afraid you aren’t catching something. But the art stuff, collaboration with an illustrator, and seeing the design take shape. That’s SO FUN! And I have to say I LOVE my editors! I’m very lucky.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

ALWAYS have something in the mail. It keeps you moving forward. And set reasonable goals. I try for 1000 words a day when I’m on a deadline, and 500 when I’m not. If I can’t write 500 words a day I shouldn’t call myself a writer. The main thing is to only do it if you love it. I never understand why you’d write if you didn’t enjoy the process. There are so many awesome things to be! People should do things they love.

Describe an Ah-ha moment you’ve had that influenced your writing in a positive way.

A teacher I had in college used to lecture us about “cop talk”. She used to take off points not only for errors, but for using unccesarily big words and overly complicated sentence structures. She’d ask why we “utilized” instead of “using”. This has been a HUGE thing for me as a writer. I’m always trying to simplify. I believe that the best version is almost always the shortest, simplest version.

Aside from WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS: A CRASH COURSE<—shameless plug, are there any other books on craft you recommend?

The Triggering Town, by Richard Hugo. It’s not specifically for children’s authors, but it has been an essential read for me.

Finally, Snoop wants to know: What kind of book would you like to do that you haven’t done?

I’d like to do a really irreverent (but also reverent) Jewish picture book. Something really different from the books already out there.

(Snoop says, Hmmm… how about a Jewish bunny book?)

This concludes our interview with our latest author, Laurel Snyder. We wish Laurel much success with her debut books, UP AND DOWN THE SCRATCHY MOUNTAIN and INSIDE THE SLIDY DINER, available now! To see what Laurel’s up to these days, visit her website at or her blog at