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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Interview with Laura Sassi about GOODNIGHT, MANGER and other AUTHOR INSIGHTS

Book Trailer Link

So excited to have Laura Sassi here today to tell us about her holiday-themed title, GOODNIGHT, MANGER.   

 Laura, thank you so much for joining us!  I would love to hear how you came up with the idea for GOODNIGHT, MANGER! 

First of all, thanks so much for having me on your blog, Mindy. It’s wonderful to chat with a fellow Zonderkidz author. Christmastime is a favorite season at our house and I love to decorate in anticipation and that what’s led to my moment of inspiration.  One the centerpieces of our Christmas decor is a little plastic nativity set. It’s plastic because, when my children were little, I wanted them to be able to interact with the figures and really get a hands-on sense of the story of the birth of Christ. Well, one day, I overheard my daughter playing with the little Baby Jesus.  She was gently carrying him around the house saying things like, “Baby Jesus crying. It’s okay, Baby.”  As I watched, she gently fed him with an imaginary bottle. Then, she sang him a lullaby until he stopped crying. Finally, she placed him ever so softly back in the manger.  Before listening to this tender play, I’d never thought of Baby Jesus as ever crying. After all, we rarely see him crying in the Christmas cards we send and he doesn’t even sniffle in the carols we sing, but he was human (and God) and so he must have cried. And that’s how I got the idea for the story.

What a beautiful image of your sweet daughter.  My kids loved to play with our nativity sets, too.  I can easily picture them doing things like that even though it has been a few (just a few ha ha) years since they were that little

2.  You seem to have a special way with word choice and rhyme.  Are there any techniques you use that help you to choose "just the right word?"

Well, I’ve used this analogy before, but it’s a good one, so I’ll share it again. Writing in verse is a lot like knitting. To flow smoothly and be pleasing to the ear, the piece must have a consistent form both for the rhythm and for the rhyme.  My poems and stories in verse tend to follow an AABB or ABAB rhyme scheme and I’ve used a variety of meters. The important thing is not so much which pattern I choose for the rhythm and rhyme, but sticking with it. As with knitting, the fun comes in finding creative ways to express myself within that structure.  This is where “choosing just the right word” comes into play.  Sometimes, I’ll spend pages and pages, or even a whole notebook, playing with words for a story in progess. And I as think about word choice, I’m thinking about so much more than just the rhyme.  Each word I choose must, in its own way, push the story forward - either via plot or character development. I make it a rule never  to use a word just because it rhymes.  That’s not good enough. It also has to be the best word possible that makes sense for the story.  Done right, writing in verse enhances a story – making it extra pleasing to young ears.  My technique for this:  many, many rounds of revision.  =)

Revision is definitely key for any author!  I like the idea of selecting the word that not only rhymes but pushes the story forward.  Very insightful.

3. I also noticed that you have developed some arts and crafts and extension activities to go along with GOODNIGHT, MANGER.  Can you tell us about them? 

Oh yes!  Reading GOODNIGHT, MANGER is just the beginning - the conversation starter, so to speak, to what the Christmas story is all about - that God sent his son in precious human form, to be the Savior of the world.  And that, just like each of us, Jesus, too, was once a baby who felt all the things we feel and who even cried - and what joy this brings to know that He can relate to each and every one of us on this very human level.  I have several extension activities perfect for little ones on my blog. 

  Extension activities  (From Laura's blog)

You can find more ideas at my guest appearance on Noelle Kirchner, The Ministering Mom’s website.

The Ministering Mom's Website

8 activities to teach little ones about the Nativity

 Sounds very helpful for new moms. I loved nurturing my own children along in their faith through activities like this.  What wonderful resources.  Thanks for sharing them!  

4. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

In addition to writing daily and being involved in critique group (which I highly recommend), my biggest recommendation for serious writers hoping to publish a book traditionally would be to seek agent representation. I’m convinced that it was that, coupled with many, many hours of writing and improving my craft, that landed me my first book contract. And even with an agent, landing that first contract took well over a year. Especially nowadays, when the competition is so intense and so many of the large publishing houses are closed to un-agented submissions, I think seeking representation of a good agent is crucial. Other than that, my biggest word of advice for aspiring picture book authors is to be patient. Keep honing your craft and don’t be in a rush to send your manuscripts off. Let them settle and then revisit them at regular intervals, allowing them to improve with age.

That's great advice.  It is hard to be patient, but being a writer takes lots of patience!

5. What has been the most rewarding part of publishing children’s books? 

This is a hard question, Mindy!  It’s rewarding on so many levels.  First, it’s just such a joy for me to write. And that in and of itself is a wonderful reward. I’m very easy to please - just give me a pen and a scrap of paper and I’m happy as can be!   It’s also a rewarding, yet humbling, feeling to know that the story you wrote so carefully and poured all your heart and soul into, is now out there for children to read and enjoy with their families. I would also add that I am LOVING this post-publication stage where I get to go to schools and libraries and bookstores and share my stories and interact with my readers. I’ve always loved writing and I’ve always loved interacting with kids and now I’m getting to do both.  

The photos that I have seen of these events seem wonderful.  I hope I can attend one sometime! 

6. Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline? 

2018 is an exciting year for me because I have two new books coming out. The first, which releases in March with Sterling Children’s Books, is called DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, about an opera-loving mouse who wants to help and the diva who thinks she deserves bigger help than a mouse. The second, which releases next December with Zonderkidz, is called LOVE IS KIND, about a little owl who searches for the perfect gift for his beloved grandmother and learns about love along the way. I can’t wait for these to release so I can share them with my readers.  

What fantastic news! You must be absolutely thrilled.  Congratulations.

Thanks for having me, Mindy!  It’s been so lovely. And I do hope that NEXT Christmas - when your book comes out - that you will join me at my blog so we can chat in celebration of your holiday release!

Yes, I would love to join you to share about my book when it comes out NEXT Christmas!!!

It has been wonderful having you visit my blog.  I admire and respect your work, and I wish you all the best!

P.S.  Laura will be running a Goodreads Giveaway of copy of the hardcover edition of GOODNIGHT, MANGER, signed by both author and illustrator which makes it extra special!

Check back to my blog for the link in the upcoming days...

Bio: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme.  Her picture books include  GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018). She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. She is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Other favorites by Laura Sassi


  1. Thank you for having me on your blog today, Mindy! It was LOVELY chatting with you. =)

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog, Glenys!

  3. Laura, it was great to interview you! 😊