the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog


Posted by Adi Rule on Fri, May 05, 2017 @ 06:05 AM

Today, we're powered up for Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, a new nonfiction picture book written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Katy Wu (Sterling Children's Books)! Laurie's here to give us the scoop.

Grace cover 96dpi small.jpgMeet Grace Hopper: the women who revolutionized computer coding.

An ace inventor, groundbreaker, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she coined the term “computer bug” and developed the program that taught computers to recognize words and not just endless 0’s and 1’s. Grace Hopper tells the inspirational story of this brilliant woman who had a passion for science and math and the firm belief that new solutions to problems were not found by those who said, “We’ve always done it this way.”

Rule breaker. Chance taker. Troublemaker. Amazing Grace.

Welcome, Laurie! 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?

The road to publication with this book started with a critique at the NJ SCBWI Conference. Meredith Mundy read the book and wanted to take it to acquisitions. There was no time before the meeting to make changes, but luckily, the manuscript passed this next hurdle. Now it was time to do revisions to get it past Sterling’s publication board. They had never done a picture book biography before, so it was going to be a hard sell. My agents, Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris of Liza Royce Agency, were thrilled to tell me the news that Sterling was going to publish Grace, and I was over the moon to hear it. After that, there were several more big revisions plus a few tweaks here and there before the manuscript was ready to go.

clocks.jpgWhat's your writing superpower?

My writing superpower is not a very useful one—I’m the Grammar Queen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly helpful, but I’d rather my superpower be queen of the elusive voice that editors say they’re always looking for.

What unusual swag do you wish you could make for this book?

Grace Hopper kept a clock in her office with the numbers running counter-clockwise to remind herself to think outside the box. I created this backwards clock on buttons. These have been very popular at book festivals. My publisher gave out a swag I’ve never seen before. They had lens wipes made up with a picture of the book cover on them.

lens wipe and clock.jpgSuper cool swag!

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

My studies at VCFA had a major impact on my writing, but there’s one way in particular that I’ve never heard others mention. I write faster now. I think this is because I can more quickly eliminate ideas and approaches that won’t work. I’m still a slow writer, but I’ve advanced from a snail’s pace to a turtle’s.

Yes! Go Team Turtle!

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

My advisors were the great Mark Karlin (picture book semester), Bonnie Christensen, Sharon Darrow, and Louise Hawes.

Thanks for visiting, Laurie. Here's to thinking outside the box with Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code!

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, 2015), received four starred trade reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal). When not writing, Laurie teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College.

Laurie is a member of the class of January 2016, The Inkredibles. Visit her online at her website,, and her blog,

Topics: nonfiction, picture book, picture book biography, Laurie Wallmark, 2017 release, Sterling Children's Books, Katy Wu


Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Nov 10, 2015 @ 07:11 AM

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.

Visit Laurie online at and follow her on Facebook (lauriewallmarkauthor) and Twitter (@lauriewallmark).

Topics: 2015 release, picture book, picture book biography, Creston Books, Laurie Wallmark, April Chu

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