The Backstory: MUSHROOM RAIN
I am excited to welcome Laura K. Zimmermann to The Backstory today. She is here to share the story behind the story of her debut picture book, MUSHROOM RAIN (Sleeping Bear Press, 2022) with illustrations by Jamie Green. Keep reading to discover what Beatrix Potter has to do with this story and for your chance to win a nonfiction pb critique.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind MUSHROOM RAIN.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
Thank you so much for inviting me to share my story. MUSHROOM RAIN is about the mysterious world of mushrooms and how they help create rain.
I love ideas that help children notice something that they commonly overlook. I can just imagine how after reading your book a child would observe and wonder more than they ever had and approach a common activity such as a walk in the park or a hike with a new lense. And Jamie Green's magnificent illustrations add such a sense of wonder that I don't think a child could read this book and not feel a spark of interest.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
It started with a Storystorm idea for a book on Beatrix Potter. Before Peter Rabbit, Beatrix was obsessed with mushrooms. She painted more than 335 watercolors that ranged from realistic to scientific and was one of the first to discover how spores become mushrooms. It was Beatrix who helped me see mushrooms in a new way. When I later came across a story on how spores serve as cloud seeds the idea for MUSHROOM RAIN was born.
I am completely fascinated! There is so much about this answer that is new learning for me. I can see how this idea was one you needed to pursue. Now excuse me while I go research more about Beatrix Potter!
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now MUSHROOM RAIN? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
It was something I started work on immediately, however, it was built on what I learned when I researched Beatrix, so the spores had already had some time to germinate. There are even a few passages in MUSHROOM RAIN that came from the earlier manuscript.
I live for these hidden facts and connections. It is so cool that some of your earlier manuscript found a home in MUSHROOM RAIN.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
Ideas are everywhere, if you remember to look for them. Sometimes we get so caught up with other things we forget. I work out a lot of ideas while I am walking in nature with my dog, Tivy. Some ideas I find there, others peek out from research, news stories or even social media. When I see a potential spark, I run a quick search online to see if there is something there for me to follow.
Nature is a great catalyst for creativity. And there is nothing better than that rush of adrenalin you get when you think you are onto a new idea.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
I have an office filled with picture books all of which have guided me in one way or another. In terms of a craft book, I highly recommend Ann Whitford Paul’s WRITING PICTURE BOOKS: A HANDS-ON GUIDE FROM STORY CREATION TO PUBLICATION.
Whether it be a character, setting, word choice, structure or some other aspect, diving into picture books is a perfect way to find new creative paths to explore.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
As you can see my office is filled with all things Kid Lit and other children’s media. Books old and new, art on the walls—I’m completely surrounded by it. Tivy’s work chair is next to my desk. She thinks deep thoughts there while I write. I got my second monitor a year ago and I love it. It allows me to have research pulled up on one screen and the story I am writing on the other. Offline research tends to live in piles around me.
What a cute officemate!
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
If a spark of an idea darts by, grab onto it and follow where it leads. And always keep a notebook near your bed and shower. Those ideas are slippery and can vanish in a blink of an eye.
Yes, yes, yes! Write down any and every idea that flashes through your mind. While they might not all become gems, at least you will have the time and ability to determine if they are worth committing more time to. There is nothing more frustrating than those wisps of ideas that slip away never to be remembered.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
Now that we are moving toward summer, I am starting to write more. I don’t have a lot of time during the school year, so summer is a big writing time for me. I also have some fun MUSHROOM RAIN events planned—folks who live near Winchester, VA, Nashville, and Central Florida stay tuned.
That sounds so exciting! I can't wait to learn more about these events. I hope they all go wonderfully for you and maybe some of our readers will be able to attend.
Where can people connect more with you?
You can find me online at laurakzimmermann.com and on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest at @LauraK_PBwriter.
Readers, please give Laura a follow and give her website a visit which is filled with resources for parents and teachers to share with children. And don't forget to check out her book, MUSHROOM RAIN (Sleeping Bear Press, 2022) with illustrations by Jamie Green which is available now!
Laura is generously offering one winner a critique for a nonfiction non rhyming picture book under 1,000, a bookplate, and some swag.
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT LAURA K. ZIMMERMANN
Laura K. Zimmermann is a professor by day and children’s author by night. MUSHROOM RAIN is her first picture book. When she's not writing, Laura can be found teaching and conducting research at Shenandoah University or wandering through nature with her Goldendoodle, Tivy.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
ANDREW HACKET always dreamed of writing picture books, but never believed it was possible. Then one day he thought, “I could. I should.” So he did (with a lot of hard work). And while he hopes no one swallows acorns as a result of his story, OLLIE, THE ACORN, AND THE MIGHTY IDEA (Page Street Kids, 2024), he does hope kids will be inspired to grow kindness in their communities and stand up for themselves — without eating anyone, of course.
Andrew lives in Holden, Massachusetts with his wife and three children, all of whom are very mighty.