Friend Friday

I am thrilled to host Laura Purdie Salas today. I first “met” Laura through her lovely book, A Leaf Can Be, but then I got to sit right next to her at the Golden Kite Luncheon this past August where that beautiful book received a Golden Kite honor award. I think you will get a tiny picture of her big heart when you learn that she is donating a portion of her author royalties for her newest book, Water Can Be, to WaterAid, a global water charity.

Laura Purdie Salas

I know some writers set out to write books that change the world. I never hold aspirations quite that grand, but my books usually at least change me in some way.

Water Can Be…started as A River Can Be…. That’s what I submitted to Millbrook Editorial Director Carol Hinz, who edited A Leaf Can Be . . . I loved how Leaf had turned out, and I thought, “Cool! Let’s do that again!” So, I wrote A River Can Be…, and I liked it. I mean, rivers are cool. They do everything: carve out canyons, produce electricity, form borders, and–well, like a Swiss Army Knife, a good river can do just about anything. What’s not to love?
But Carol declined the manuscript, pointing out that it lacked the universality of A Leaf Can Be. . ., because not all kids have access to a river. That threw me. I’ve lived my life in Florida and Minnesota, two states where a river is almost always within splashing distance.

Laura head over heels at the go ahead to rewrite A River Can Be

So I proposed broadening the scope to all kinds of water, not just rivers. She said yes, and I got to work. As I brainstormed, a million memories surfaced:
·      Me, age 4, riding a Colorado ski lift with my dad. At the top, he stood and skied off. I didn’t. They had to circle the chair around, and I faced down an enormous snow-covered mountain. Ack!

·      Swimming in Blue Spring in Florida, watching manatees play where the spring water joins the warm, alligator- and boat-filled St. Johns River.
·      Diving off the high dive at the Langford Pool for the first time.
·      Canoeing on Lake Sylvan, two blocks from my childhood home, keeping eyes peeled for alligators. (Shudder.)

·      Ice skating (in Florida!) on my first date with my husband, Randy.
·      Cross-country skiing at night through the woods, while owls called in the trees overhead.
·      Watching a November storm whip Lake Superior into a frenzy, waves sloshing high over the sides of the Duluth Canal.

·      Canyoning in Scotland on our 20th-anniversary honeymoon (finally!), sliding down waterfalls in a wetsuit so compressed I thought I would pop.
So many memories. I have always loved and respected water. 

As I wrote Water Can Be…, those general feelings crystallized into a series of touchstones from my life. The world couldn’t survive without water, of course. But really, what I was thinking about was that I would be a different person without my water memories.
I watched a documentary recently about Arctic exploration in which explorer and photographer Sebastian Copeland said, “[P]hotography has been my weapon. With images, my mission would be to help people fall in love with their world, because I feel we will not save what we do not love.” I love that. We have global water problems that cost children’s lives every day, and my book isn’t going to solve them. But if it makes other people fall in love a little bit, well, that’s a first step. And that would make me a very happy writer.

Laura Purdie Salas is the author of more than 120 books for kids and teens, including WATER CAN BE…, A LEAF CAN BE… (Bank Street Best Books, IRA Teachers’ Choice, Minnesota Book Award Finalist, Riverby Award for Nature Books for Young Readers, and more), and BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS (Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notable, Bank Street Best Book, Eureka! Gold Medal, and more). She loves to introduce kids to poetry and help them find poems they can relate to, no matter what their age, mood, and personality. She has also written numerous nonfiction books. See more about Laura and her work here.

No Responses to “Friend Friday”

  1. Diane Mayr

    Good interview! I especially like Copeland’s quote–it really says it all, doesn’t it? If you don’t love it, why would you want to save it?

  2. Tabatha

    It’s interesting reading about you mining your water memories for poems — writers have to be such active thinkers (and experiencers and rememberers…). Writers can’t live their lives with their heads down, looking at their phones! I hope kids who read your books are encouraged to look around. (BTW, I like your headshot a lot. Thumbs up!)

  3. tanita✿davis

    Oh, way to go, Laura, for coming back from a “no” with a way to make it “yes!” I have every faith that this book will be an even bigger smash hit than A LEAF… Finger’s crossed for your charity of choice – what a great idea.

    The pictures in this post were just fab, too. Can’t wait ’til it’s time to get out and enjoy water (in non-frozen form) again!

  4. laurasalas

    Thanks, Diane! I was watching the documentary and that stuck with me. I had to go back to it and find it again the next day.

    Tabatha–so true! I try to remind myself that. I’m always a bit sad when kids ask how much time I spend out in nature, and the answer is so little! But I find it where I can. Thanks for the compliment–author photos are so stressful!

    Tanita, thank you:>) I’m excited to be donating to WaterAid–though it will be embarrassing if the book doesn’t even earn out its advance and the $300 I just donated is it. Oi. Risks come in all different forms, right? We’re still buried in snow, but at least it’s sunny today. Feels kinda springlike:>)

  5. laurasalas

    And thank YOU, Kirby, for inviting me to visit, for writing such gripping historical fiction, and for being such a lovely, gracious person. :>)

  6. LInda Baie

    What a terrific interview, Laura. I love all the different water experiences you touched here, letting us know how you came to this new & beautiful book. I suspect it will be a ‘go-to’ book for many in schools. At least in my school nearly everyone studies about water in one way or another. Thanks Kirby for Laura’s post!

  7. Tara Smith

    I will read your poems differently now, laura, with a better understanding of your own experiences of water – of all sorts, and in so many ways. Another treasure of a poetry to share with my students, Laura – thank you!

    • laurasalas

      Thanks, Tara. It’s a continuing lesson for me–that I need to share myself in order to share my books!

  8. Myra Garces Bacsal

    Hi there Kirby, thank you for hosting lovely Laura in your blog this week for Poetry Friday. Laura, thank you so much for sharing the background of Water Can Be. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and finally read it. I consider myself a water baby myself. A Water dragon to be precise. 🙂

    • laurasalas

      Thanks, Myra–it was fun to dig through pictures. Water dragon–love it! I think most creative people love water. There’s some sort of link there…

  9. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

    Laura’s humility, acknowledging how her books change “at least” her is so wise, yet she does change us – her readers – in many ways. I adore this peek behind the scenes of her thinking and this celebration of another gorgeous book – in word and picture. Thank you to both of you! xo, a.

    • laurasalas

      Thank you, Amy! I do think every book I love changes me at least a little–FOREST HAS A SONG tweaked my view of forests. I already loved them for their majesty and mystery and silence and darkness. FOREST made me appreciate the light and gentle and wistful side of them:>)