Who or what inspired you to be an author?
I have always created imagined worlds in my mind writing poetry and short stories from the time I was in elementary school. I knew that something inside of me flowed through words. I’d loved to read and used to think of authors as these magical people that had words that just sizzled from their fingertips. But then I saw a book titled, The Weekend Novelist at Barnes and Noble. I picked it up and began leafing through the pages. Here was a step-by-step instruction manual on novel writing. I doubted myself at first but then the idea of seeing the stories I dream is come alive on the page took root. So I began the exercises and one page at a time I created Forest Secrets. It was rough, and not ready for the world so I put it away. Wrote Artania 1. Artania 2. Dean and JoJo. That’s when I remembered that first story and got out the old files and began revising. When people call me author I feel like that unique part of me, my inner voice is being recognized. And it feels wonderful.
Growing up, our biggest inspirations were our teachers. What do you love about teaching?
I love that moment of a-ha from students, when the spark becomes a flame. When a child who had been saying, “I can’t,” does the impossible. I love the warmth we share in my classroom, the community. I love feeling like my life has meaning because I have helped set a child on an easier path.
You were involved in a collaboration involving the subject of anti-bullying, what advice do you have for teaching facing the same issues in their classrooms? What would you say to students and parents? Empower and trust children to make good choices. Given the right tools, children are very powerful. I’ve seen kids from diverse backgrounds come together in support of eachother. I’ve had students from gang families, foster care, and abusive homes volunteer as friend mediators. Tell them they have the power to make change if only they seek win-win solutions.
What inspired The Artania Chronicles? Is there a takeaway that you want young readers to have after reading?
I want children to realize that we all have a magical place inside of us, our creative self, that is absolutely unique. No one can draw, write, dance, sing, or swing a baseball bat exactly the same as another. But everyone can rejoice in their own talent. Every time a human sketches, sculpts, or paints a beautiful being is birthed in Artania but when children turn away from their true selves it gives power to an evil race of beings.
Being an educator & writer for a younger audience, with kids being influenced by technology, do you find it hard for kids to want to pick up a book?
Not at all! Kids seem to know that there is something unique about reading that technology cannot match. And they get pretty proud when others see them reading big books.
Do you see yourself expanding into other genres?
I collaborated with naturalist Dean Bernal on his adult memoir, an amazing experience where I felt like I was the young man swimming with a wild dolphin. I’ve also dabbled in play writing. In addition to writing the Artania fantasy series I recently started a YA novel. My science fiction short story won an award in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest.
If you were only allowed one book, what would it be and why?
Stranger in a Strange Land because I love its optimism.
What advice would you have for aspiring writers?
Read. A lot. Write. A lot. Know that like everything it takes time. Don’t worry about fame and fortune. Find joy in the process and the journey will be pretty freaking amazing.
About the Author
Laurie Woodward is a school teacher and the author of the fantasy books: The Artania Chronicles. Her Artania: The Pharaohs’ Cry is the first children’s book in the series. Laurie is also a collaborator on the award-winning Dean and JoJo anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. The European published version of Dean and JoJo for which she was the ghost writer was translated by Jochen Lehner who has also translated books for the Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra, In addition to writing, Ms. Woodward is an award winning peace consultant who helps other educators teach children how to stop bullying, avoid arguments, and maintain healthy friendships. Laurie writes her novels in the coastal towns of California.