We're buzzing with excitement over Laurie Wallmark's new picture book biography, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, illustrated by April Chu, out now from Creston Books! And we're not the only ones -- Ada has already gotten fabulous starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, who calls it a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.”
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work.
Welcome, Laurie! So, tell us . . .
What was the spark that ignited this book?
I was drawn to Ada because I want to shine a light on technical women who have been overlooked by history. I teach computer science, and Ada was the world’s first computer programmer. I never considered anyone else for my first picture book biography.
Tell us about how you sold this book. What was it like when you found out? Do you have an agent? Were there a lot of revisions along the way?
In June of 2013 I had a critique with Ginger Harris (Liza Royce Agency) at the NJ SCBWI annual conference. She and her partner, Liza Fleissig, had both read the manuscript and saw its potential. They thought it would be a good match for Marissa Moss of Creston Books. I did a revision for Liza and Ginger, and they sent it off. After that, I did four revisions for Marissa before she made an offer. After the sale, I did at least ten additional revisions with Marissa. She’s an incredible editor, and I was lucky to have her for my first book. Now, Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris of Liza Royce Agency are my awesome agents.
Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does a family member read your early drafts? Is Twitter your bastion of support?
I’m fortunate to have several writing communities. My husband is my first reader. He reads and makes suggestions for all my manuscripts. My critique group—the Squirrel Girls—has seen many a version of Ada along the way. NJ SCBWI members have also been part of my writing community for many years. I’m a former assistant regional advisor, so I’ve had the opportunity to become friends and writing colleagues with many skilled writers and illustrators. And of course I now have VCFA and my beloved Inkredibles. My classmates’ support has helped me immeasurable on my writing journey. Other than providing a daily link to a children’s writing post I find useful, I am not active on social media.
What was it like watching the illustrations/cover come together?
I am fortunate to have been paired with the talented illustrator, April Chu. The quality of her artwork truly brings Ada’s world to life. I loved being able to watch her illustrations grow from initial and detailed sketches to the final artwork. I have no artistic talent and am in awe of those who do.
Who were your advisors at VCFA?
My amazing advisors were: Mark Karlins (picture book intensive), Bonnie Christensen, Sharon Darrow, and Louise Hawes. They each contributed to bringing my writing to a new level.
What was special about your VCFA graduating class?
We Inkredibles are a family. When our writing is going well, we celebrate. When it isn’t, we commiserate. Either way, we’re always there for each other. Even those classmates who won’t be graduating with us are still Inkredibles. Once an Inkie, always an Inkie!
The VCFA class bond is so magical! What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?
Apply! (But consider starting in the summer so you have fewer Vermont winter residencies.)
Ha ha! Thanks so much for stopping by, Laurie. And welcome to the world, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine!
Laurie Wallmark writes exclusively for children. She can't imagine having to restrict herself to only one type of book, so she writes picture books, middle-grade novels, poetry, and nonfiction. When not writing or studying, Laurie teaches computer science at a local community college, both on campus and in prison.