Thursday, August 6, 2009


Where do you work best at home?

I live in a very tiny cottage along Lake Michigan so my "studio" is just a corner of the living room. It's fine for now but when the weather is nice my favorite place to write and sketch is by the lake. It's very peaceful and I just love hearing the waves. When it's time to paint though, I have to head to my corner in the cottage. I have lots of little trinkets on my desk that make me smile. I also have to set up an extra table so I have room to spread out a bit while I paint. I love the cottage (where I'm sacrificing space for location) but do look forward to having a bit bigger house at some point with a great studio.

What time of day would we find you there?

I don't have any set hours when I write or sketch, but I do spend good chunks of time each day working. When I'm in the illustration process though, you'll find me at my desk from early morning till late into the evening for about 3 months. I'm really trying hard to do an overhaul on my working style though. I tend to work on one story at a time for months until it's written, with a deadline set about a year away. Then I work on the dummy for a few weeks. By the time I get to the finished illustrations I usually have about 3 months or less to finish them before my deadline so it's always a race to the finish and everything else in my life falls to the wayside. It's an exhausting way to work and I usually feel pretty burned out for awhile afterward. So NOW, after just finishing another book, my goal (REALLY!) is to get several things written so I can illustrate them at a more leisurely pace and try to have more balance in my life. I always figured most author/illustrators worked the same way but I've met enough of them now to know that most of them have quite "balanced" lives -- raising kids, working, having a social life and all the while making as many (or more) books as I do. It's very inspiring to me!

What is your favorite comfort food while you work?

M&M's (plain or peanut). Since they melt in your mouth, NOT in your hands, they are the perfect food for an illustrator because I've found that publishers don't like your illustrations to be stained with food.

What's on your nightstand? (you may include books as well as other items.)

I have an old chair from a flea market that poses as a nightstand and on it is a clock and a tiny metal lamp (and a bit of dust). Under it are always a few books I work my way through for about 20 minutes each night. Right now I have The Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Not So Big House (ha, go figure!), The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules and, no kidding, Keeper of the Night by Ms. Kimberly Willis Holt.

How does home feed into your writing?

Ever since moving back to Michigan into this little cottage in the woods, I'm very inspired by nature. It was back in Michigan that I came up with the idea for Do Unto Otters, starring a rabbit and 3 otters. I have several other ideas for stories that I'm playing around with that all star either various woodland animals and bugs or inanimate objects like leaves, acorns and sticks, etc. There's a window by my desk and just outside it I sprinkle lots of critter food so I enjoy watching the deer, turkeys, one rabbit, birds, chipmunks and squirrels that come by every day. I love watching the interaction between them and have gotten to where I recognize certain "regulars" in the yard. They've gotten quite accustomed to seeing me around, too, and don't seem that frightened of me....or my cat. She'll dart at squirrels and they've gotten so used to her that they barely move when she ambushes them. Then she'll just sort of stand there looking around like, "oh, lovely weather we're having, isn't it?"

Laurie Keller is the author/illustrator of 7 books including The Scrambled States of America, Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners, Arnie the Doughnut and Birdy's Smile Book (Fall, 2010). She also illustrated the upcoming book, Me and My Animal Friends (September/2009) by Ralph Covert of Ralph's World. Laurie worked as an illustrator at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, MO and as a freelance illustrator in New York City but now lives back in her home state, Michigan, with her boyfriend Scott and cat, Jules. In her spare time, Laurie enjoys traveling, doing yoga, camping, hiking, biking, playing the banjo and spending time with her 4 year old niece.

Want to know more?

Visit Laurie Keller's Website

and read a wonderful interview about her at Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast.


  1. This was lovely -- thank you.
    I met Laurie once when we both spoke to booksellers in New England. She is so funny and so full of energy, I just wanted to sit and listen to her talk about her work all day. I'm glad to have the visuals to go along with what I learned about her process.

  2. Linda, it's always comforting to learn someone we admire is so nice and fun. Laurie is definitely both of those things.