In the vast array of picture books with cave people, I’ve yet to see a cave girl who craves the comfort of something other than a cave. Until today.
Laura Seely-Pollack lives in New Jersey with her three awesome kids and her one super husband. And while she has yet to get a pet snake, she does have two cats and two dogs. This is her debut picture book. You can learn more about her at her website or follow her on Instagram.
CAVE GIRL’S BIG IDEA is a story about Cave Girl who isn’t happy living in a cave. It’s too dark, too cold, and too hard. She comes up with an idea (with the help of her pet snake) for a new home, but her parents won’t listen to her. They have always lived in a cave. The way she is able to triumph despite the odds against her is exactly how we picture book writers try to give our main characters agency. The conclusion to this story (without me giving away any spoilers) is quite satisfying and frankly inspiring. And it made me wonder a lot about when people stopped living in caves historically, to be honest. I’ve visited many museums around the world and seen many indigenous cultures early habitats on display. Yet it never occurred to me to ask, “How did humans go from living in caves to the houses we live in today?” until I read this book. It’s an interesting thought!
Me: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey? How long have you been writing? Have you always wanted to write a picture book? What brought you to this book?
Laura: I started writing with the aim of publication about 10 years ago, although I have always loved to write. I majored in English in college and I have a master’s degree in literary education. I also taught HS English for 6 years and my favorite part of the curriculum was creative writing. I have always kept journals and notebooks filled with stories and poems, but I only wrote for pleasure, never with the aim of putting any of my stories out into the world. It wasn’t until I had kids, that I really fell back in love with picture books. Of course, I loved them as a child, but as an adult I found a new appreciation for the art and the concise nature of the writing. About 10 years ago, I joined SCBWI and a critique group, and quickly fell in love with writing humorous picture books!
Me: I don’t think I’ve seen another picture book about cave people building a house. What gave you the idea for this story?
Laura: My family and I went hiking in New Paltz, New York. New Paltz has lots of great trails and rock formations. It began to snow and I started to imagine what it must have been like living in pre-historic times. Where would we find shelter? I began to look at the rocks in a new way. Would any of these little caves and nooks make a good home? They all looked uncomfortable to me, but they gave me inspiration for Cave Girl’s Big Idea.
Me: This is your debut picture book (yay!). What does your writing process look like?
Laura: I know some people say that the best way to become a writer is to write every day. I don’t really write everyday but I do edit and jot down ideas every day. Every time I hear a funny word or phrase that I think could work in a book, I grab my notebook and write it down. When I do sit down to work on a project, especially a picture book, I try to write out as much of the story as I can. I give it some form of a beginning, middle and end, and then I put it aside. I find that if I just keep staring at the same manuscript for too long, I start to get lost in the weeds. If I come back to it after a break, I have a much clearer perspective and can be a more objective editor.
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Laura: Honestly, I was surprised at how interesting I found the Stone Age. Even though this book is fictional, I always try to root my stories in basic facts. It just fascinated me how much early people were able to accomplish with nothing but the nature around them. Creating fire, stone tools, and basic shelters took incredible ingenuity and lots of hard work.
Me: Absolutely true. I love that your main character is the one to come up with this idea of a “house” though her parents won’t listen to her. She holds onto her dream and doesn’t give up. Why is this something you want young readers to see and hear about?
Laura: I absolutely want young readers to know that if they are passionate about something, they should persevere! In some ways I feel like I went on a similar journey in the process of getting a book published. Much like cave girl, I had a big idea, and it took awhile for it to come to fruition. Fortunately, like cave girl, I didn’t give up. I definitely want kids to know that in life you may get rejections, but if you work hard and believe in your ideas, eventually your dreams will come true.
Me: The illustrations by Alexandra Colombo are wonderful. I love all of the textures she uses. Were there any illustration surprises for you?
Laura: I was so happy to see cave girl’s family. I thought her mother looked very stylish and her father reminds me so much of my husband. I also love how cave girl’s personality shines through on every page. I wanted her to represent every determined little girl out there and I think Alexandra really captured that! I also love the bright purple and orange on the front cover and the fact that cave girl has a torch over her head instead of a light bulb to represent her big idea.
Me: Any advice for other new picture book writers?
Laura: The best advice I can give is to take any constructive criticism and learn from it, but don’t let the rejections get you down. I know that’s easier said than done, but try to stay focused on your love of writing. If you have fun writing, your readers will have fun reading. I know it’s so cliché, but be like cave girl and don’t give up!
That’s great advice Laura. Thank you for stopping by my blog today and happy book birthday!
Dear readers, this book has been released into the world today. It’s a unique story of perseverance and dreaming of a better life told from a child’s perspective. I highly recommend it.
4 thoughts on “Simply 7 with Laura Seely-Pollack: CAVE GIRL’S BIG IDEA”
That art is wonderful! What a fun book!
I love informational fiction, and this looks like a winner. Now you have me wondering about the cave-house timeline…..Congrats on your debut, Laura!
Happy book birthday! This is so cute!
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