Laura Dower worked in marketing and editorial in kid’s publishing for many years before taking a big leap to the full-time life of an author. Since 2000, she has penned 100+ books–from picture books to young adult fiction and nonfiction. She has also written freelance for American Girl magazine, Mattel, Scholastic Book Clubs, Columbia Tri-Star, Star Wars Kids magazine, and even worked on a digital education platform called MicroRangers for the Museum of Natural History.
Along the way, she had two sons and a daughter. This meant a new life as tutor, swim taxi, baseball scorekeeper, backup singer, and Cub Scout and Girl Scout leader. Laura and her groovy family of five live in New York where they eat lots of bagels. Or at least, they used to. Now everyone’s trying to get a lot healthier. Hah!
Of course, that gives you no real idea what Laura is actually like. It’s the goofy, in-between stuff that really says it all. So here are a bunch of goofy, in-between facts, in Laura’s own words:
Arrival on Planet Earth: I was born in Massachusetts, nearly delivered in traffic on the way to the hospital. Born near Boston means I am a lifelong Red Sox fan. My great-grandfather was an electrician who helped install the lights in Fenway Park. Many pals are Yankees folks, however, which can be a problem during baseball season.
Siblings: I’m an only child. Sort of. My dad and stepmom adopted a beautiful baby boy when I was in college, so I do have a step-brother. His name is Andrew and he plays drums, teaches guitar, and has some fancy-pants job in Boston.
First childhood memory: Back in Massachusetts circa 1972: playing Matchbox cars in the windowsill, catching ladybugs in the kitchen, and singing Karen Carpenter tunes at the top of my lungs. I used to read the Wall Street Journal in my dad’s lap. Somehow it did not turn me into a globe-trekking investor. Shucks.
Grown-up dreams: I wanted to be a writer for Mad magazine or Saturday Night Live (this was back in the late 70s when the show first arrived). I made up my own magazine with jokes and skits and called it COOL. As if! (I guess looking back what I secretly wanted to be was Tina Fey–I WISH!) As a runner-up ambition, I also considered a lifetime vocation to teach the deaf. This was probably because I owas addicted twas so enamored of Helen Keller’s life accomplishments. Let’s face it, she and Annie Sullivan were amazing people. Well, most teachers I know are.
Obscure injuries: Knock wood–I have never broken an arm or a tibia or anything like that. But I do have three cool scars over my right eye from where my face collided with a wall; where I tripped over a chair into a desk (second grade–and hey, I was pushed!); and where a miniature golf club made unfortunate contact with my eyeglasses–and eyeball.
My start as a reader: my mom used to read to me. I still have the Winnie the Pooh book that we read together–and that I read to my kids. Heffalumps are my favorite. (side note: when each of my kids were wee babes, the get-to-sleep top hit in our house, sung by me, was “House at Pooh Corner.” My kids still ask me to sing it from time to time.
First book: Hello, Rock. It is about a rock. And some pebbles. I still have the book saved in a Ziploc bag.
My start as a writer: When I was in second and third grade I worked diligently on my very first story called Harry & Me. I have no idea who Harry was supposed to be (many characters we write are inspired by real peeps in our life, but Harry was a mish-mash of everyone I knew). I wrote it during recess. Click here to read some.
Most alarming fact about my childhood: I was good in math. An old friend just reminded me of our days in math club. Math club?!!
Wannabe actress: I acted in whatever I could; whenever I could. When I was in high school, I won a Shakespeare recitation competition. A bunch of us competed NYC-wide; and the judging panel included legends Helen Hayes and Rosemary Harris! Can you say STAR STRUCK?! One of the biggest wows ever. I competed nationally in public speaking tournaments/ forensics competitions, too, performing in the category of Dramatic Interpretation. Ahem. Born a ham; always a ham.
When acting and writing met: as a senior in high school I wrote and directed a short play called Lost Until Now.
Some other favorite books as a kid: Blueberries for Sal; Little House books; Charlotte’s Web; T.H. White Once and Future King; and yeah, any and every Helen Keller (and other) biographies in the library.
Biggest stumbling block for being a writer: I was a pretty good speller but kind-of, sorta, okay TERRIBLE at grammar, comprehension, etc. which was a problem when those testing years kicked in. Did extra-credit all through high school to make my writing better. Still working at it. Daily.
Strangest talent: uncanny ability to retain useless trivia. Still waiting for the call from the producers of Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune.
My genes: My mom is such a talented artist. I’m trying to convince her to start painting again. I just signed up for a drawing class. Do you doodle? I can’t help myself. I think I’ve passed down my doodle gene to my kids.
College stuff: Graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University with a B.A. in English. I was the third class of women accepted at the school. It went co-ed in 1983. Most of my best college buds I met the very first week of college. We’re FFL: friends for life.
First job ever: babysitting. Then assorted waitressing, coffee-making, switchboard-operating jobs.
First book ever: Scooby Doo’s Guide to Life
Favorite book(s) I’ve written: Madison Finn and Monster Squad series and whatever I am working on right this very minute…
Inspiration for my writing: eavesdropping on unsuspecting strangers; analyzing dreams; re-reading my old diaries; talking to my kids and their pals; reading anything from the newspaper to junk mail; and MY KIDS (of course).
Best advice I ever got about writing: “Trust Laura and her perceptions of things.” My college adviser wrote that on a file card for me nearly 20 years ago, I still have the coffee-stained and torn card framed on my desk.
Other random tidbit from my past: in high school I was featured in a Seventeen magazine spread. It was a makeover that I was photographed for throughout my senior year. Some fancy haircutters chopped my locks and got my photo taken all over NYC.
Not-so-great-habit: I am often late. It drives everyone I know crazy, especially my kids.
Gets my writing motor humming: rainstorms; highly competitive games of Scrabble and Boggle; crossword puzzles; really good books; really trashy magazines; classical music; and Venti, toffee nut Americanos from Starbucks.
In my spare time: I am a Cub Scout Webelos den leader (with 7 scouts) and a Girl Scout Cadette troop co-leader (with 7 scouts). This takes up extraordinary amounts of time, but I am an “all-in” sort of person. And I grew up a city girl! Anyone out there a cub scout or girl scout?
Dreaming big: would like to be able to hike up a very big mountain and camp at the top; play the violin in an orchestra; and train as a gourmet cook. But truth is, I had a dream that I could be a mom and a writer. And I’m doing just that. Blessings counted.