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  • Writer's pictureMary Boone

Six Questions With Laura Roettiger

Laura Roettiger is the author of Aliana Reaches for the Moon and has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL, before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education, as a mentor for new teachers at a STEM school, and as a tutor in the adult literacy program Boulder Reads. She is a judge for Rate Your Story. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and her students, letting them know she believes in them. Laura's website includes a blog with author interviews, giveaways, and photography.

1. What three things bring you joy?

• Hearing from my children, or better yet seeing them.

• Hiking with my Goldendoodle Charlie.

• Dancing to music with a happy beat.

2. What kind of student were you? What were your favorite subjects?

I enjoyed school, and was a good student academically and behavior-wise. In elementary school, my teachers and the principal liked and trusted me enough to let me answer the phone in the office when the secretary went to lunch. Years later, when I saw the principal she still recognized me. My favorite subjects were anything but gym, which is funny to me now because I love a variety of physical activities and have more trouble sitting still.

3. What one piece of advice would you like to give to aspiring kidlit authors?

Take your time to learn craft. This includes taking classes and attending conferences as you are able. Join groups like SCBWI and 12x12PB, buy a membership to Rate Your Story - anything which puts you in contact with a variety of other writers. Read widely in your genre, especially books that have been published in the past 3 years. Join a critique group or more than one if you can handle it. Finding good critique partners is vital because you learn how to take feedback and use it to revise but also how to give feedback. Neil Gaiman’s quote changed my way of looking at feedback: “Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

4. What’s a particularly striking or memorable reaction someone has had to this book?

Aliana Reaches for the Moon just celebrated its 3rd birthday, so I’ve had a lot of memorable reactions to and glowing reviews for the book.

Early on, Grace Wolf-Chase, an astronomer from Adler Planetarium, wrote an endorsement which is on the back of the book. This was the first time someone I didn’t know gave me such positive feedback: “Aliana Reaches for the Moon encourages all children - especially girls - to read, explore, experiment, and to take notice of the natural world. There’s even an important message for parents - doing science can be messy!”

I’ve also had some wonderful in person visits with children who loved the book and couldn’t wait to tell me their favorite part. That never gets old.

5. Where do you get inspiration for your characters? Are you influenced by people you know?

My characters are created from bits and pieces of people or animals I know or have read about. Aliana is a combination of my daughters and a few of my students. My blog’s tagline is “inspiration comes from everywhere” and that goes for my writing projects, too.

6. Was this always the title for this project? If not, what other titles did you consider and how did you land on this one?

Aliana Reaches for the Moon was originally titled Mountain Princesses Don’t Clean. In the first several drafts, Papá called Aliana "Princess," so she thought she was a princess. This is an example of how feedback changed and drastically improved my manuscript. The princess part of the story ended up being cut out which made the book stronger and more focused on her creativity and curiosity. If you haven’t read it, Aliana is still messy in the name of experimenting and exploring.

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