Lynn Plourde is the author of more than forty children’s books including her first book Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud as well as Wild Child, Moose, of Course!, At One in a Place Called Maine, Maxi’s Secrets, How to Talk Monster, Best Buddies, and many more. She does numerous in-person and virtual author visits at schools. Lynn grew up in Skowhegan, Maine, and currently lives in Winthrop with her husband.
Lynn Plourde is a will-never-live-anywhere-else Mainer. She was born on October 1, 1955 in Dexter, grew up in Skowhegan, and currently lives in Winthrop. She’s the second oldest of four (one older sister, two younger brothers). Lynn’s Mémère and Pépère (grandparents) lived across the street from her family, and so there were many multi-generational Franco-American family gatherings with card-playing, sing-a-longs, and storytelling.
Ever since she started kindergarten, Lynn loved school and always thought she would grow up to be a teacher. She played “school” for hours and always made sure she was the teacher—Barbie and Ken were very attentive students. In real school, Lynn always tried to be the teachers’ pet. She learned to read in kindergarten with “Dick & Jane” and then went on to read many series books, including the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. Even though Lynn has written many picture books, she doesn’t remember reading them as a kid, just chapter books.
Lynn wasn’t very outdoorsy growing up and was known to crash her bike and scratch her feet before diving into the water—a nervous habit since she wasn’t a very good swimmer. In high school, Lynn participated in activities such as drama, speech, and majorettes.
Lynn went to the University of Maine where she also did drama and majorettes. She earned bachelor and master’s degrees in speech pathology and then worked for 21 years as a speech-language therapist in public schools. Her first published books were in that field, including the Classroom Listening and Speaking series.
When Lynn married her husband, Paul Knowles, in 1984, she got a ready-made family with her two “boys” (stepsons Lucas, 4, and Seth, 3). When she read books to the boys at bedtime, they’d fall asleep after a few books, but she continued reading stacks of picture books. That’s when she began to dream that maybe she could write picture books. And she did! But it took thirteen years of rejections of manuscript after manuscript before she got her first book published by Scholastic, Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud illustrated by John Schoenherr (of Owl Moon and Julie of the Wolves illustration fame).
Lynn and Paul had their daughter Kylee in 1986. And, so, with three kids in the house, there were plenty of adventures to use as ideas for stories. For example, Wild Child was inspired by the struggle of getting kids to bed, School Picture Day was the result of a challenging family photo, and more recently the Go, Grandma, Go! board book was inspired by keeping up with her energetic grandson, Beckett.
When writing books, Lynn enjoys new challenges which keep the job of being an author fresh and fascinating. She has written rhyming picture books, poetic stories, a fable, picture books with facts in the backmatter, a graphic novel, a biography, board books, and middle grade novels.
Lynn’s books often focus on family, school, the seasons, and Maine. She has a reputation for having a sense of humor in her books (i.e., the Mrs. Shepherd series that started with School Picture Day, The Blizzard Wizard, The Boy Whose Face Froze Like That), but also for sensitively dealing with the difficult topic of death (Thank You, Grandpa and Maxi’s Secrets).
Lynn’s experience working as a speech-language therapist and awareness of sounds inspired the use of wordplay in her books, including making up words (i.e., smuckery, whizzles, wucky, creating a Monster language in How to Talk Monster). Her work in special education also led her to create characters with special challenges, such as Best Buddies about a boy with Down syndrome and Maxi’s Secrets about a dog that is deaf.
With more than forty children’s books published, Lynn has received a number of awards for her books, including: Oppenheim, Amelia Bloomer List, Junior Library Guild, Children’s Literature Choice List, Growing Kids Classic Books, and Best of Book recognitions. In Maine, she has received Lupine Honor Awards and Maine Literary Awards. Her favorite awards are those voted on by children including the Golden Sower Award, Young Hoosier Award, and Maine Student Book Awards.
Now that Lynn is officially a senior citizen, her hobbies include going for walks, reading, and gardening. She also loves “staying young” by playing silly games and dress-up with her grandson. She still spends most of her time writing new books and doing author visits. She can’t imagine a time when she would ever stop writing.
Yup! Writing and being an author is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but also the most fun job—so I don’t mind working hard. The reason it’s hard is because there’s lots of parts to my job (brainstorming new ideas to see if they might work, writing new stories, revising stories, researching, doing book signings, doing author visits with schools, answering mail and e-mails, publicizing my books, and more). It’s a challenge to fit in all the parts of my job, plus I’m NOT a very organized person.
I often start with something that really happened to me and then I ask the question, “What if?” For example, for my first book Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud, I really had piglets run down my road (rud) one day and so I asked, “What if other farm animals were in the road too?” And for my book Wild Child, I asked, “What if the parent who’s having a hard time putting kids to bed was Mother Earth?” I’m lucky in that I have hundreds and hundreds of ideas. I think that comes from being a creative person, but the challenge is deciding which ideas have the potential to “grow” into a story.
I work in an office (what used to be a small bedroom when all our kids lived home) at our house in Winthrop, Maine. Our house is on top of a ridge and we are surrounded by woods so I get to see deer, wild turkeys, fox, hawks, and other wild animals in our yard. We also have a very long driveway so no one drives by our house. I love the isolation and quiet of where we live—it makes it easier for me to concentrate and not be distracted as I write. In my office, I have a computer on my desk and that’s where I write. Although, sometimes, I like to get a pad of paper and lay on the couch and write there; then I will have to type up what I’ve written on my computer. I also have a copier, bookshelves, a file cabinet, plus awards and framed art from some of my books hanging on the walls in my office.
I do not illustrate my books. I draw stick figures! The illustrators of my books have wonderful artistic talents. My talent is with making word pictures. Also, I do not get to choose the illustrators of my books—that’s up to the publishing company. They work to find a good match between an author’s words and an illustrator’s art. It also surprises people that I do not get to tell an illustrator how to illustrate my story. I don’t want someone telling me how to write my story, and illustrators need freedom to create their own vision for a story.
That’s a tricky question because it really varies. The fastest I’ve ever written a picture book is one week, but it usually takes me several months to write a picture book—and picture books are only two-to-four typed pages! It has also taken me years to write some books—that’s not all I’m working on at that time, but I go in-and-out of a story until I can find the best way to tell it. It took me 18 months to write my middle grade novel, Maxi’s Secrets. Another way to describe how long it takes is to talk about drafts. I’ve found that it usually takes me about eight drafts to get a story ready for the world—that includes my own writing and rewriting, plus revising after input from my editor.
Not now, but our dog Maggie was the inspiration for my book Maxi’s Secrets (or, what you can learn from a dog). I also grew up having dogs as family pets, and there was a cat and a gerbil along the way too.
My favorite book of all time is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. He wrote it at his Brooklin, Maine, saltwater farm—so it’s a “Maine” book and that makes my heart happy. I wrote a term paper on E.B. White when I was in high school, a paper based on his essay books such as One Man’s Meat, and I wrote to Mr. White and I believe he wrote back to me on the same typewriter that he typed Charlotte’s Web on!
Oh! That’s a much harder question to answer. I have three kids and I love all my kids. I love all my books too—it wouldn’t be fair to choose one favorite. But I do have favorites within certain categories. For example, Pigs in the Mud is my favorite read aloud, and Lost Trail is my favorite graphic novel, and The First Feud is my favorite fable. If you forced me to choose an overall favorite, I would say “the next one.” You see, I get excited about books I’ve written, but they haven’t found their way out into the world yet. I’m always anxious for them to find their way into the world.
First of all, if you want to be an author, read, read, read, and then read some more. You should read in the genre that you most want to write in. Or maybe it’s better to say that you should pay attention to what genre you most enjoy reading because that’s the one you’ll likely be best at writing. I read lots of picture books and middle grade novels—and that’s what I write. My other suggestion to help you write better is to read your writing aloud so you can hear how it sounds and find out what is working and isn’t working. Also, get honest feedback from others on your writing—they can help to kick your writing up a notch. I’ve pulled together an advice letter (for adults who want to write for kids):
Read Advice Letter
‘Til the day I die.