Setting: the beautiful historic Provo library
Time: 11:00 a.m., Saturday, May 16
Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a pretty, vivacious brunette with a passion for books and art. She’s the award-winning author of beautiful die-cut (and regular) picture books such as:
First the Egg
Lemons Are Not Red
The Hidden Alphabet
Black? White! Day? Night!
Walter Was Worried
Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories
Laura gave an absolutely fascinating presentation using animated videos and pictures about the process she goes through to make each book. Here’s some of the things she shared with us:
–She loves using die-cuts
–She says, “My books give the reader the opportunity to look at things in a different way than they’ve done before.”
–She starts her story around a cool concept and builds the book around it
–Her studio is the beach about 5 miles from her home. She goes there almost every day and walks in the sand, thinking about her stories, and comes home energized and ready to write them. Her kids think they’ve got the rough end of the deal when she says she’s tired from working. “Mom, all you do for work is hang out at the beach…we have to sit in school all day!”
–For The Hidden Alphabet, she wanted to see if she could find letters and objects in the negative space around normal letters.
–For Lemons Are Not Red, she wanted to work with colors; also the concept of not. She wanted to play with what things are/are not.
–For Walter Was Worried, this story began life as the title Typefaces. She explored how you show emotion: with your facial expression, hand movements. She began taking away little bits of the expression to see how much she could take away and still have an easily understandable emotion. The book went through several drafts before her editor was satisfied.
–For Black? White!, the powers-that-be at her publishing house insisted the rubber duckie page had to go. Ducks don’t sink, they said. Get rid of it. She was so attached to the cute little duck that she fought valiantly for it. After going through a couple of more changes, she came up with an acceptable compromise: change the duck to a dolphin. That way, she still gets her water creature and it’s still cute, but everyone else was satisfied with the concept.
–For First the Egg, she showed us some pages from her journal as she began to think about specific things in nature that go through remarkable transformations. Out of that list her story was born.
–For Dog and Bear, the story started with a unique and colorful stuffed bear that she brought home one day and her dachshund dog, Copper. She journaled characteristics that friendly dogs, cats, and bears could have, then sketched and painted different versions of what she wanted them to look like.
She had a few minutes for audience questions when her presentation ended.
Q: Is it a deterrent in publishing a children’s book to do expensive things like die-cuts?
A: Yes and no. It is probably a deterrent if you are a brand-new author trying to break into publishing—the editor may not want to take a chance on your book in the current economy. But for me, my publisher is committed to making beautiful books. They figure out how to do it and how to do it right.
Q: Do you have any favorite experiences with kids discovering your books?
A: I love it when older children and adults pick up my books and say “Oh, COOL!” I believe picture books are not for kids only. They’re just books with pictures and meant for everyone.
Q: Have you noticed popularity of themes in children’s books?
A: Yes, but my publisher is not interested in the current themes (princesses, celebrity authors, etc.).
Q: What did you like to read as a kid?
A: I asked my mother that once, because I honestly didn’t remember reading any picture books as a kid! I asked her if we had any in the house. She said “Yes, but you were so busy making your own books that you didn’t read very many!”
Laura’s talk and presentation were so fun and engaging that even my three kids were mesmerized. My husband, who is a non-book-lover, said to me later, “That was pretty cool, seeing how those books were made.” Quite a compliment coming from him! I recommend Laura’s books to everyone. Pick one up at the library or a bookstore—you won’t be sorry.
Coming soon: Part 2: 6-Author Fantasy Panel.