Author Speaks: Laura Eckroat

This week we talk with children's author Laura Eckroat.

Laura Eckroat was born and raised in Whiting, Indiana. She has lived in Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, and now lives in Fort Worth, Texas. She is married to Steven and has a daughter named Ashley. She also has a one-year old Anatolian Shepherd named Muffin, who was rescued by the Eckroats when she was 12 weeks old.

Laura is certified in Special Education and is an elementary school teacher. She teaches and volunteers at the Fort Worth Nature Center using her books to teach children about the beauty and wonder of nature; her workshops also teach children how to start a Science journal. She previously was a human resources manager and the general manager of an educational toy store. She is also a Chicago Bears football fan -- and will always be. Even though Dallas Cowboy Fans try to convert her!

1. Tell us how The Life of Bud,  your first book, came to be.
 After 10 years of working on this book, Bud was born. For the longest time, the name of the book was Bud, The Littlest Leaf. I could never figure out how to finish the book or figure out really what I wanted to say to pull it together. After going through a tough time after my dad passed away, the book came into full focus and I could see the whole book in my head. I worked for about four hours to finish the book. The book follows Bud, who is the bud of an oak tree, through his life, through the seasons. He sees amazing things, makes wonderful memories, is hurt and scared. This book is a great way to teach young readers about the life cycle and can also be used to gently talk to children and adults about losing a loved one.

2. A Simpler Time was your second book. What prompted you to write it?
I am a lover of all things Nature. I loved sharing that passion with my daughter Ashley when she was little. This book was my way of reliving those memories and sharing with other moms and children, that there is more to life than hanging out in front of the TV or your computer! Go out and see the beauty that is right out your door!

3. Your third and fourth books feature Muffin, a rescue dog. Tell us HER story.
I am a DOG person and will never be without one!  It was a SUPER HOT day in August of 2010. We decided it was time to add to our family. Steven scoured the internet looking at many shelter dogs. After a couple hours he called me over to the computer and said, "Look at this cutie!"

My heart melted when I saw her face and her name--Muffin. She was at a rescue facility in Springtown, Texas. Steven called the facility and learned they usually didn't see people on Sunday, but made an exception. When we got there, we saw a puppy that definitely needed a home. She was 12 weeks old and had already been in four homes. She barely weighed eight pounds, and most of her fur was missing from the back half of her body (she was malnourished and dehydrated). As I held her, she melted into my arms. When I did set her down for a moment, she walked over to the gate on the deck and get looking from me to the gate handle as if saying, "Let's go!"  Well ... she came home with us and we nursed her back to health!

When I came home, my Facebook post was Went Out To Get a Donut (I waited for a few moments) and then posted Came Home With a Muffin -- and posted her picture. I knew it had to be a book. While writing it, I started singing the lyrics, and the rest is history.

Muffin and I love going to rescue dog events and donate as much as we can to help other pups find their FURever homes.

4. Why do you write children's books?
I have stories in me that I want to share with children. I love reading to them and helping them realize reading and writing is a lot of fun.

5. You travel to many places to promote your books. How do you plan this?
I spend a lot of time marketing my books. I am honored when librarians, schools, book fairs, and author fairs invite me to come and share my passion. I truly don't plan events. When they are presented to me, I make them work!

6. What's a favorite story from one of your travels?
Hmm ... I have many interesting things happen: My first book signing had over 200 people attend and was celebrated on my daughter's 16th birthday; I was the grand marshal of my hometown's Easter Parade and also did a whole school book reading at my Elementary School and the principal that was there when I attended came back to introduce me; I've met the nephew of Andy Warhol; I was asked to give the commencement speech at my high school. But my very favorite thing is to see children's eyes light up as I read to them ... it truly never gets old!

7. How do you write? Computer, pencil, tablet? And what is your writing process?
I start a story in a journal. I have many story starts that probably will never become a book. When I do "feel" a book coming on, I begin writing in the journal, and there is a rough story. I then need COMPLETE silence and go into AUTHOR mode and type the story into the computer and if I can't think of a word or just the right word, I leave a blank or fill in the spot with several word choices, but I don't want to lose the momentum. I type and type until the entire book is out. I then do not look at it again for a few days. Once I'm refreshed, I'll look at the book again and then re work it.

Since the Muffin books are songs, I do write down words, but I also use QuickVoice on my iPhone and sing the tune and the words. It helps me with the cadence and rhythm. I also do NOT want to lose the tune that I've come up with, so it helps capture that as well.

8. From idea to completed book, how long does it take you?
The Life of Bud took 10 years! But Went Out To Get a Donut - Came Home With a Muffin took about a week.

A Simpler Time and What's In The Corner? A Muffin "Tail" each took a few months.

9. What's your current project?
I have a "sequel" to The Life of Bud in the works called Daisy, and I am working on Where's Muffin's Shadow? A Muffin "Tail" (a working title).

10. How can we learn more about you and your events?
There are many ways to find me: My website is The Books of Laura Eckroat, and I'm on Facebook at Life of Bud and Went Out To Get a Donut. People can email me HERE. And my books are available at, Barnes and Noble, and Tate Publishing.

I am available for school visits, literacy nights, library visits, book clubs, and more.

I am a kindergarten teacher, also, and I believe every child should have access to new and wonderful books. I am raising money to purchase books from up and coming authors and donating the books to the KIDS NEED TO READ organization. You can contribute HERE! Please help this worthy cause.

Thanks for interviewing me!

Thanks, Laura, for participating! Read other Author Speaks at 51313 Harbor Street.

Author Speaks: Gail Henderson

Gail Henderson recently collaborated with noted Oklahoma photographer Michael Duncan to produce Bare, a newly released book of poetry and photography that explores the enigma of womanhood in the world. She wrote Red Bird Woman, a collection of her poetry published in 2013 under the name Gail Wood. She has been published in ByLine Magazine, Creations 2014, Creations 2013: 40 Ways to Look at Love, and Creations 2012. As a board member for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, she honors the memory of her sister who suffered from bipolar disorder. She holds a Masters of Education in English and Social Studies from East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma. She loves hiking, gardening, cooking, and life. She taught junior high and high school English for 14 years in the small rural school from which she graduated and served as federal programs administrator for the same school for eight years. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. and Ada Writers.

1. Your latest book Bare was released this year. It features your poetry and artistic nude photography. Tell us about how Bare came to be.
My brother-in-law, who is an amateur photographer, showed me pictures of a nude in rural Oklahoma settings. He wasn’t sure how I would react to them. They were beautiful and inspiring--so evocative of the feminine spirit--so the first words out of my mouth were “I want to write poems for these!” He came up with the idea of a book of photography with poems written specifically for each one. It was such a joyful project.

2. Red Bird Woman is the name of your first book, but it's also a name that your Native American husband gave to you. Tell us how that happened and why you identify with it.
Neil and I were hiking when we heard a cardinal. It sang a three-part song ending in what sounded like “woogie, woogie, woogie.” He turned to me, squeezed my cheeks three times while saying “woogie, woogie, woogie.” It was so spontaneous and funny that he christened me Ohoya Hoshe Homma (woman bird red in Choctaw), which translates into Red Bird Woman. Neil understands my connection with Nature. Now the red bird symbolizes that connection.

3. Why do you write poetry? 
I love playing with words, trying to find the best word or phrase to express a thought in a way that is pleasing to the ear and accessible to the mind. I’m not a good story teller so short stories and novels are difficult for me to write. Poems are everywhere. I don’t have to make anything up. I just translate little pieces of life into words.

4. Do you find certain favorite themes in your poetry?
My poetry is woman-oriented, personal. I love being a woman, and I love expressing all the heartache and joy that goes with it.

5. Name a few poems you enjoy and tell us why.
My favorite poem is “Patterns” by Amy Lowell. I love the way it sounds, the images, the emotion it contains--I cry every time I read it aloud. Lowell squeezed so much into that poem. I am amazed every time I read it. Also, I love Shel Silverstein poetry. It’s musical, clever, and always has twisty endings! My children loved it when I read his poetry to them so I have good memories of his poems.

6. What is your writing process? Do you use a pen or computer?
I might jot ideas down on paper, but I mostly compose at a computer. It’s so handy to have an online thesaurus. I wish I could say I were disciplined and wrote everyday, but I take spells of writing --unless I have a particular project, then I can work more steadily. Sometimes it takes me 15 minutes to write a poem--that’s rare. Most of the time I struggle with the poem until I finally let go and let it be what it wants to be. That can take weeks, but a good poem always wins.

7. Many people are turned off by poetry. How can they be turned back on?
I’m turned off by so much of today’s poetry! A poem should make sense, not be an obscure accumulation of words that involves detective work and a hundred readings to understand it. If you are writing for the literati, be obscure and intellectual, but if you want to be read by the masses, make sure your poems are accessible and appeal to the emotions. I would never make it in New York City!

8. What do you want a reader to take away from or learn from your poetry?
First, I want my reader to say, “I get it!” It is important that a reader understand the poem at some level. Second, readers must like the way a poem sounds--the music--even if they can’t tell you why. It is not necessary for a reader to identify alliteration or metaphor to enjoy the result.

9. What has been the best writing advice for you?
Be concise. Use the best and fewest number of words.
And what has surprised you the most about the process of publishing a book?
When you have good friends helping you, it’s easy.

10. What will be your next writing project?
Right now, I am helping my husband write the story of his journey to receiving his Ph.D. For my own project, I’m not sure yet. I’ve learned not to force myself to establish specific writing goals. That doesn’t work well for me--it sets up too much pressure and causes my creative self to rebel. It comes from too many years of proposal writing and deadlines. I keep myself open to ideas. I’ll recognize the next project when the words “I want to write poems for that!” leap out of my mouth.

I am considering a poetry project about my baby sister who died eight years ago of a drug overdose. I miss her everyday and writing about her would keep her spirit alive. My heart will know when the time is right for this very personal project.

Thanks, Gail!

To learn more about Gail and her poetry, visit her website Red Bird Woman.

To learn about other authors, visit Author Speaks at 51313 Harbor Street.

Author Speaks: Christy Bower

Christy Bower is the author of more than twenty books, including Christian nonfiction and youth fantasy fiction titles. She has a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (2004) from Multnomah Biblical Seminary.

Christy lives in northwest Montana, where she considers Glacier National Park her backyard. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking, cleaning, and doing mundane tasks. She says, “Being an author isn’t as glamorous as people seem to think.” And if you hang out with Christy very long, you’ll discover she’s a Star Wars geek and proud of it. She sat down and answered 10 questions for us.

1. What's your latest published book?
My first book, Abundant Life (2002), has been out of print for several years so in honor of publishing my 20th book (Bible Surveyor Handbook), I decided to give new life to my first book by making it available in electronic form for the first time. I republished it under a new title, Unstuck: Escape Spiritual Stagnation, Experience Abundant Life. Unstuck is for people who feel like they are doing all the right things as a Christian but they’re still not growing or they feel their relationship with God has flat lined.

2. Why do you write inspirational books?
Writing inspirational books comes from my heart. Faith defines my life, but I’ve struggled with my relationship with God over and over in different ways. People at church don’t talk about struggles like these, but I was pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way so I decided to speak out about overcoming these obstacles so I could help others who suffer in silence.

3. What are you working on now?
Right now I’m in the production stage of finishing Donkey Oatie’s Bushel of Fun Cookbook (now released) It’s a companion book to the Dragon Hollow trilogy, my youth fantasy fiction books for ages 9-12. Not everything I write has a Christian flavor. My youth fantasy fiction is just good clean fun that organically portrays virtues such as loyalty, courage, and forgiveness. They’re packed with action and plenty of humor.

I’m also working on editing my September release, Sweeter Than Chocolate: Developing a Healthy Addiction to God’s Word. And I’m finishing my Christian apocalyptic novel, Return of the Elves. I stay busy.

4. What’s your writing process?
As you can see, I work on several projects at once. I don’t know if other authors work that way or not. At any given time I have projects in the idea stage, planning, writing, revising, editing, and production (layout and design). I usually have five projects in the works so if I’m not in the mood for fiction, I can work on non-fiction. I write best at night, from 10 p.m.–2 a.m., but that can quickly become an all-nighter if I’m engrossed in my content and lose track of time.

My writing process revolves around self-awareness. I have bipolar disorder so I have manic swings in which I am highly creative and can generate lots of content. At other times things swing the other way and I’m mired in depression so it’s not a good time to write, but it is a good time to edit. To some degree that’s true for everyone: our brains operate in right-brain creativity and left-brain logic. Rather than trying to force creativity or analytical editing, I choose to shift to the type of project my brain is capable of at the moment.

5. Do you write with pencil, pen, computer, or tablet? What’s your favorite?
I generate first drafts with pen and paper. Sometimes pencil. I like how a pencil feels, but my hand gets tired faster. And I have good reason for using pen and paper, too. When you type at a keyboard and make a typing error, your brain shifts to left-brain analytical correction mode. Then your thoughts become more critical about the words you put on the page because your brain is analyzing. Writing by hand allows me to stay in my right-brain creative mode because I’m writing down words I will correct later on. It tells the left-brain, “It’s not your turn yet, but you’ll get your chance.” I actually plan to write a book on this next year.

6. What has been important advice to you in pursuing a writing career, and what advice would you give to a new writer?
The most important advice I received early on was: “Don’t fall in love with your own words.” The publishing committee will change your title, the editor will change your words, and entire chapters may fall on the editing room floor. Don’t be offended. The editor’s job is to make your message better. Why wouldn’t you want that?

But more and more writers are going independent today, so my advice would be: learn grammar and punctuation and keep learning it. Take a class at a community college. Take a class online. Or at least go through a grammar book. I read one book a year on grammar or punctuation. There are some fun ones on the market. You might even laugh and learn at the same time. Ongoing education is important for any writer, but even more so for a self-published writer. And don’t be afraid to hire an editor. I have.

7. What has been the most gratifying or most surprising result from your writing career so far?
Twice I have been named “Writer of the Year” by American Christian Writers (2007, 2011). These awards corresponded with the releases of my books by Discovery House Publishers, Devotion Explosion: Getting Real with God (2007) and Best Friends with God: Falling in Love with the God Who Loves You (2010), both of which have now gone into a fourth printing. I never dreamed my books would enjoy longevity and popularity. It has been an unexpected blessing.

8. You've written 20 books. What are some of their titles?
In addition to the books I’ve already mentioned, I have a series of 12 Crossword Bible Studies containing crossword puzzles for every chapter of the New Testament. And this year I released Bible Surveyor Handbook: A 15-Lesson Overview of the Entire Bible, which gives readers a basic understanding of what’s happening in the Bible. And, of course, there’s my Dragon Hollow trilogy: The Legend of Dragon Hollow, The Secret of the Sword, and The Rise of the Dragon King.

9. Which of your books is your favorite?
I have two. Grant me one non-fiction and one fiction.

Devotion Explosion has always felt like a book I was meant to write. The message of that book is important to me. It’s very freeing and I want others to experience that freedom in their relationship with God.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the Dragon Hollow books because they are filled with puns, silly The Secret of the Sword was my favorite of the three because in writing it I had to solve some serious problems with how to get this boy to overthrow a usurper king and convince the people he was the rightful king. That took some thinking and I was pleased with how it came out. It has songs, humorous incidents, and hidden literary references. It’s like Christy unfiltered.

10. How can people learn more about your writing?
My website, Christy Bower, offers lots of free downloads, including sample chapters, resources for Christian growth, articles I’ve written for magazines, as well as downloadable extras to go with my books. But to stay up with the latest, you can receive a chapter a week in your inbox from one of my books. Sign up at HERE. Thanks for the thought-provoking questions.

Read about other authors at Author Speaks at 51313 Harbor Street.