Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf has written newspaper articles and features, poetry, and the picture book. She is also an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Independent Book Publisher’s Association (IBPA) and the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA).
Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Lauren. Your first book was a collection of poetry. What was the impetus for your switch to writing a picture book? Did writing a book of poetry help you prepare in any way for writing a picture book?
Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf: Writing Priceless Penny was actually my husband’s idea. After watching Penny scale our three foot pet gate, he told me that I should write a children’s book about Penny and how amazing she is. I do feel that writing a book of poetry better prepared me for the children’s book. I had already established a brainstorming and outlining process that I used for the poetry book, which came in very handy for Priceless Penny. I also had a more clear idea of how I wanted the book to look based on the look and feel of my poetry book.
Ferrante: Your picture book is entitled Priceless Penny. It is about an abandoned dog with the deformity. If it is not adopted quickly, it will be put to death at the shelter. It is based on your dog who has a severe overbite and a stumpy front paw. If you had not encountered this dog, do you think you would have written a picture book anyway? Or would you have continued in poetry?
Kramer-Theuerkauf: Had I not met Penny, I believe that I would have still ended up writing a children’s book, eventually! My mom was an elementary school teacher and I always loved getting to come and read the children stories or help with activities. Watching them really get into a story is truly an amazing sight to behold. I feel that I have always been drawn to the idea of writing for children and Penny helped me realize that dream.
Ferrante: You own a number of rescued cats and dogs, several with disabilities. Are you going to write any more picture books about any of these pets? Do you have a project in the works now?
Kramer-Theuerkauf: I am so glad that you asked! Priceless Penny is actually the first book in a series of children’s books that will star Penny. The second book is entitled Penny Meets Miracle. Penny’s world gets turned upside down when her parents bring home a two week old kitten that they found in the middle of the street. In Penny Discovers Hope, the third book in the series, Penny gets a new furry sister. Hope is differently-abled, just like Penny. She was born without eyes and is completely deaf. Penny soon learns to see the world through Hope’s perspective.
I also have two additional books in the works for adults. The first is entitled Adriel’s Adventures: Life as a Therapy Dog. This book will chronicle Adriel’s journey to becoming a certified therapy dog. The second book is entitled Having Hope Always: How My Blind/Deaf Dog Taught Me to See the World. This book is dedicated to our mini double dapple Dachshund, Hope, and tells the tale of how my husband and I learned to adjust to life with a blind/deaf dog and all of the lessons that Hope has taught us.
Ferrante: What advice do you have for people considering adopting an abandoned, abused, or physically challenged pet?
Kramer-Theuerkauf: My advice when it comes to adopting any animal is to realize that having a pet is a full time commitment. This is especially true of abused and physically challenged animals. Abused animals need more time to adjust to their new surroundings and need kind humans to show them what it means to be loved. Animals that are blind or deaf or have other physical complications may need to have special accommodations which can include medications, training or therapy sessions. It has been my experience that my rescue animals have taught me as much as I have taught them.
Ferrante: James Sell is the illustrator for Priceless Penny. How did you connect? Did you collaborate on the illustrations?
Kramer-Theuerkauf: James Sell is such an amazing illustrator! He actually lives in England. We met through LinkedIn when he responded to a post I created seeking illustrators for my project. The illustration creation was so much fun! I actually sent James photos of Penny as well as some of the other animals featured in the book and he worked his creative magic. We had a very open dialog if there were any changes that needed to be made.
Ferrante: What have you enjoyed the most about creating your first picture book?
Kramer-Theuerkauf: What I loved most about creating my first picture book was seeing it all come together. I actually made a binder filled with items from the project including multiple versions of the manuscript as well as all of the storyboards that James sent me. To be able to flip through the binder and literally see the story come alive before my eyes is truly breathtaking. I cannot wait to begin production of the second book!
Ferrante: What advice would you have for other writers starting their first picture book?
Kramer-Theuerkauf: My advice for other writers is to never give up on your dream. If you are passionate about something, write about it. If you want to create a picture book, be sure to select an illustrator that has the same vision for the story as you do. You should always be able to work with your illustrator as a team.
Ferrante: What you find the most difficult about writing and how do you manage it?
Kramer-Theuerkauf: The most difficult aspect of writing is the dreaded writer’s block. It can be very frustrating to feel stuck in your writing. When this happens to me, I usually take a break and go outside for a walk. You would be amazed at how much inspiration is all around us. I also find that listening to music helps to clear my mind and allows the ideas to flow more freely.
Ferrante: If you were a multimillionaire, where would you be and what do you believe you would be doing at this very moment?
Kramer-Theuerkauf: If I were a multimillionaire, I would buy acreage within my current town of Freeburg, Illinois. My husband and I would then build our dream project, which is an animal shelter that would be named The Duchess of Spots in honor of our first dogs. I would then spend my days rescuing animals and writing about my adventures. I would also donate money to some of my favorite animal rescue groups so that they can also continue to do their life saving work.
Ferrante: If you had to come up with one question for national opinion poll, what question would you most want to pose to the American public?
Kramer-Theuerkauf: This one is a stumper! My question would be: Do you believe that the city/county should have the right to limit how many pets you are allowed to have?
Ferrante: Of all the great success stories that you have ever heard or read about, which one do you find the most inspiring?
Kramer-Theuerkauf: Actually, the most inspiring success story is that of my dad. When he was in high school, a devastating tornado ripped through our town of Freeburg. At that time, there were no outdoor warning sirens to alert the community about the impending storm. In the wake of the tornado, my dad wrote a petition demanding that the town procure the life saving sirens. He and his friends would walk around town on the weekends collecting signatures. Our mayor was so impressed by all of dad’s hard work that he was later appointed to the position of Emergency Services and Disaster Agency (E.S.D.A.) Coordinator. He has been serving in this position for over 30 years. I am so proud every time that he performs the monthly siren test. Because of my dad, our town will receive the advanced warning it needs to keep our townspeople safe.
Ferrante: Thank you for such an interesting interview. It’s wonderful how you have opened your heart and home to these special pets.
Penny’s Official Website: www.pricelesspennyp.com
Author Website: www.theuerkaufstails.com
Penny’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/PricelessPennyPooch
Penny’s Twitter page: @PricelessPennyP
Penny’s Instagram account: @PricelessPennyP
Priceless Penny will be reviewed on this blog on December 12, 2016.
Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.