#TuesdayTalk with Laurie Elmquist. Her new board book, Beach Baby, is on shelves now.
Tell us about your book.
Beach Baby is a story for babies. It’s a promise to the next generation and the next and the next, that the things we love now at the beach, the pelicans and the dolphins, will be there for them in years to come.
What was the catalyst for your story?
I had just come back from a visit to Maine Island, BC and my head was filled with all the beautiful images I’d seen. It was spring and I’d watched a goose waddling up from the bay. I’d found purple starfish while walking the beach. I started to think of other beaches I’d walked along in Oregon and California where I’d seen flocks of sandpipers and the funny way they run in and out of the waves. The water’s edge is such a dynamic place where things are always happening. The poets have always talked about it as a place of flux.
If your book is illustrated, what was it like to see your story come alive visually?
The book is illustrated by the luminous drawings of Elly MacKay. All I can say is that she breathed life into the words. She kept the focus on babies and the small lumpy sand castles with shells for windows they create. I was grateful to Elly’s vision, her attention to small details, and her magnificent drawing of a whale at the end of the book.
What are the challenges of writing for or within a series?
I had an idea that each book would encapsulate a different feeling. Beach Baby has that dynamic feeling of wind and surf, and seals popping their heads above the waves. In some ways, it’s the element of surprise. Forest Baby is a different vibe altogether. The light is different in a forest. It is filtered through the trees and is dappled. Underneath your feet, instead of sand or rock, there’s a softness to the earth. It gives with each footstep. I wanted the second and third books to have a unique feel to them, but also recreate that joy I get when I’m out in nature. I always seem to breathe easier, to be more calm in the natural world. I like its rhythms. So I suppose, the challenge is to do something different in the next two books but also keep the joy of being in nature.
What was your favorite book as a child?
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson was one of my favorites. I had an illustrated version with footnotes that explained the historical references. My grandmother bought it for me which made it special.
In your opinion, what makes a compelling story?
I like characters who are funny and not too perfect. I like beautiful language and economy of words. I like it when a couple of words can open up a whole scene in your mind.
Do you gravitate toward a certain genre or type of writing? Why?
I’m writing for children because it’s fun. I like to make myself laugh and I find I can do this when I’m writing for children.
What types of conversations do you hope will come out of your book?
I really hope that kids will drag their parents and grandparents to the beach because of this book. I can see them tugging on their parents’ arms and saying, “Let’s go see seals and sea otters. Let’s go make a sand castle.”
Tell us a little known or interesting fact about yourself.
I grew up close to Isaac Lake in Ontario, Canada. I now live by the ocean in Victoria, BC. I’ve always known that where there is water, there are birds and animals. If I hadn’t grown up with frogs and catbirds and crickets, I think I’d be a different person.
Laurie Elmquist holds an MA in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor in Ontario and has been published in several magazines and anthologies. A teacher at Camosun College in Victoria, British Columbia, and online instructor at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Laurie has served as a judge for several competitions, including the Canadian Author’s Association Book Prize. When she’s not writing, Laurie enjoys exploring the beaches of the west coast, from California to Vancouver Island. Beach Baby is her first book. For more information, visit www.laurieelmquist.com.