I love featuring underrepresented women in history, so just love Laurie Wallmark's new book GRACE HOPPER, QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE, illustrated by Katy Wu (Sterling Children's Books).

e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it?
When I lie in bed at night, unable to fall asleep, I allow my mind to wander about the many possibilities for my stories—scenes, characters, plot, etc. This lets me consider different options before committing any of them to paper. As I get closer to an overall structure for the story, I’ll make notes. Since I’m writing these in the dark, they’re often indecipherable, but they’re usually good enough to jog my memory. This stage of my creative process takes a long time. After that, I make an outline, even for picture books.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
When I started writing about Grace Hopper, very few people knew who she was. Just as the book was about to go to press, President Obama announced Grace was going to receive the National Medal of Freedom. I sent my editor a “stop the presses” email at 7:00 in the morning. I was on tenterhooks until she got to the office, not knowing if it was too late to include this very important piece of information in the book. Luckily, we could add it to her timeline. If the announcement had been even a week later, it would have been too late to make the change.
e: What was your path to publication? 
I’ve known my editor at Sterling, Meredith Mundy, for many years and respect her abilities. Because of this, I chose to have her critique my manuscript at a NJ SCBWI Annual Conference. Meredith loved the story, but wanted me to make some revisions before she presented it to the acquisitions committee. I was, of course, happy to do so. My agent, Liza Fleissig, was also at the conference, so they were able to begin the business side of things. Once the manuscript was acquired, it went through several more rounds of revision.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
For me, the most challenging part of writing is facing that empty computer screen. I need to learn how to turn off my inner editor and let the words, good or bad, flow out. I’m much better at revising than at doing the initial creation.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I want to children, both girls and boys, to realize it’s possible for anyone to have a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), regardless of sex, race, physical or mental challenges, etc. Picture book biographies which show the diversity of people in STEM will help children understand this.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I can’t yet give you the specifics, but it’s another woman in STEM, this time a mathematician.

e: Fantastic Laurie - I look forward to it! :)

1 comment:

WriterSideUp said...

I just love that you caught the announcement about Obama and Grace :) You do fanTAStic work, Laurie and I just KNOW you'll keep it up :)