Deb Larson, author of ONE FROZEN LAKE, the 2013 IRA Children’s and Young Author’s Book Award for Primary Fiction, recently shared some thoughts about her writing career with Amy Vessel of the IRA Children’s & Young Adult’s Book Award Committee.
What a year you have had! Tell us about your recent life experiences since publishing your first picture book, ONE FROZEN LAKE. What have been some of the highlights as a first-time children’s author?
It’s been amazing! It seemed like overnight I went from an aspiring author to my dream of being a published children’s book author. Some of the many highlights include discovering the emotional connection people have with ice-fishing. Of course, I have my memories of fishing with my dad—that is why I wrote the book—but the heart-warming stories people have relayed to me have truly surprised and humbled me. Ice fishing to many people in our area of the country obviously created lasting childhood memories.
Second, I have enjoyed sharing ONE FROZEN LAKE with children during my school author visits. I have had so much fun reading this book to children and hearing their insightful feedback as well as unexpected questions! It’s invigorating to be around children of all ages and knowing that perhaps I played a tiny part in their educational journey.
Finally, receiving this honor from IRA has been very meaningful to me. My favorite game to play as a child was “school,” and I was ALWAYS teacher. Educators are very dear to my heart, especially my third grade teacher, Mrs. Bleckinridge, who truly embodied the JOY of teaching.
You obviously have very personal connections to ice fishing, and ONE FROZEN LAKE provides such a vivid glimpse into this experience for those of us not familiar. Is there a favorite part of the book that truly captures your favorite memories from your own childhood?
The scene in the book where they are playing cards in the shack is my favorite! Unlike the boy in this book, for me, catching fish was never important. What truly mattered was being in a warm, cozy shack with my dad playing cards, drinking cocoa, and eating Snickers bars.
What impact did creative writing classes have on your career?
I’ve always wanted to write fiction. Minneapolis, Minnesota has a writing organization that provides classes for all genres of writing at many levels (i.e., beginning, advanced) called The Loft. I gave myself a writing class for a milestone birthday, and to be honest, I was quite nervous; however, the class was so inspiring that I continued to pursue more advanced writing courses, and many connections in the writing community led me to my incredible writing group.
When did you start writing stories for children?
I started writing when my own children were small. My first story was about a baby turtle that my son caught and later released. I actually wrote the story as a poem in my very first writing class. I took a class on picture book writing and immediately fell in love with the genre. I believe a good picture book is poetic, and I love the combination of rhythmical words and moving artwork. At that time, I wanted to capture his childhood memory. That same boy is now a high school senior, but even if it is never published, I will always cherish that baby turtle story.
Do you have suggestions for teachers to encourage their students to become better writers?
I can still remember being told as a young student in elementary school that I had writing talent by several of my teachers. That praise from my teachers filled me with immense pride and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I have no doubt that the encouragement from my teachers is one of the reasons that I am a writer today.
My strongest suggestion to all educators is to never underestimate the impact you can have on children through praise. You never know—you may have the next generation’s great author sitting right in the middle of your classroom.
To learn more about Deborah Jo Larson, visit her website, www.deborahjolarson.com. There you can access educational resources for ONE FROZEN LAKE and information for schools looking to schedule an author visit.
© 2014 Amy Vessel. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.