Introducing new Emu, Laurie Ann Thompson

Hey, I just got here,
and this is crazy,
but here’s my blog post,
so read it maybe.

Whether you like that song or not, it’s inescapable these days. It’s stuck in my head after watching two tiny young girls singing it together, complete with hand motions, at Starbucks the other day. At first I was appalled due to the entirely age-inappropriateness of the lyrics, but their performance was just too innocent and adorable. I couldn’t NOT smile. So, now I’m passing my little ear worm on to you. Aren’t you glad I’m here?

Just to keep you on your toes, we now have two Lauries as well as two Taras. Aside from that, I’m a bird (get it? emus?) of a different feather here so far. I write nonfiction, like Cynthia Levinson, and I write picture books, like Tara Lazar (and more, coming soon!), but I think I’m the only one here to combine the two: I specialize in nonfiction picture books. I love them. I read about 100 of them every year. I have bookshelves FULL of them in my house. Apparently they’re a tough sell, which I don’t really understand, because they’re awesome. But tough sell or not, it’s what I must do. And guess what? I sold one!

It currently doesn’t have a title or a publication date, but I can tell you this: it’s a biography of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who, with one leg, rode a bicycle nearly 400-miles across his home country of Ghana. His heroic ride garnered international attention and helped to change Ghana’s disability laws. And, by way of introduction, I can also tell you about “The Call,” or in my case, “The Calls.”

Call 1:
I am terrible about answering my phone. I am much better at leaving it in the car, in the drawer, out of battery, on silent, you name it. I also refuse to answer it when I’m doing something important, like writing, or driving, or sleeping. I am usually doing one of those three things. That means I occasionally miss important calls—like this one! Luckily, super-agent Joan knows this about me. Last May she sent me an email saying I should call her, because there was some “interesting interest” on my manuscript. I took a deep breath, got comfortable, and called her back. The interest was from a dream editor (Anne Schwartz) at a dream publisher (Schwartz & Wade/Random House). The interesting part was that she wanted a pre-empt (!), BUT… only if Sean Qualls would illustrate it. Were we interested? Um, one of the things we picture-book writers do if make lists of our dream illustrators for each project. Who was #1 on my secret list for this project? Yep, you guessed it—Sean Qualls! I seem to go into “must-act-professional” mode around Joan, so after a long pause, (I think) I managed to calmly ask, “Is there any downside to this?” Fortunately, Joan said no, so I said, “Let’s do it!” My fate would be in Mr. Qualls’ hands.

Call 2:
After a very long, nail-biting week (during which I only occasionally moaned, “How long does it take to read 600 words?”), I received another call from Joan. This time I was taking a walk with a friend and my husband. When the phone rang (yay, I had my phone, and it was on!), I thought to myself (in my typical phone-avoidance mindset), I am only going to answer this if it’s Joan. Yeah, right, like THAT’S going to happen. *looks at caller ID* Wait! It’s Joan!!! Then I got to say those words every writer longs to say, “Excuse me, but I have to take this. It’s my agent.” Bwah hah hah! Did I really just say that? I don’t even care what Joan says, just getting to say that out loud was enough. Wait, who am I kidding? No, it wasn’t enough. I want more! Geesh, just answer the phone before she hangs up, you moron. Yes, I remember all of that internal monologue perfectly, yet I don’t remember much of anything of the call itself. I was probably hyperventilating. I doubt I acted very professional. I have no idea if I said anything intelligible at all. But Joan must have, because when I hung up, I ran back to my hubby and friend and yelled, “Sean said YES!” There was hugging and crying, and I don’t think my feet touched the ground for the rest of the walk, or that whole day, or even for the next week.

Call 3:
I got my revision letter and notes a few days later (squee!), but there was still the matter of an offer to work out. At that point, I knew there was going to be extremely good news coming, but I still wasn’t allowed to tell anyone! That kind of secret is hard to keep, but I did it for two whole weeks. Then Joan got the offer and tried to call me to discuss the details. No answer. I called her back, but then she was driving. When she called me back, I was driving, on my way to the dentist. I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I put her on speaker and we ironed it all out while I zoomed down the freeway. We had just finished as I pulled into the dentist’s parking lot. I bet the dentist has never seen anyone looking that happy when they step into his office.

Well, that’s my “call” story. After all of the wonderful Emu’s Debuts launch parties recently, some of your beloved Emu’s Debuts will soon be retiring.  Fortunately, more of us newbies will be stepping in to introduce ourselves and keep the debut ball rolling (or at least be fodder for Jeannie Mobley’s diabolical tricks). Stay tuned!


Filed under Introduction, The Call

26 responses to “Introducing new Emu, Laurie Ann Thompson

  1. Nice to meet you, Laurie! You are definitely a unique EMU – with all the reading I do, I rarely come upon a non-fiction picture book – so it will be very interesting to hear more about your inspirations and your journey. Welcome! 🙂

    P.S. I wonder if any writer has a “being asked to the prom” story that is anything close to as nervous and breathless as his or her “The Call” story. Doubt it…


  2. Laurie! It’s good to have an EMU hybrid among us (an EMU Prius?)–non-fiction picture books ROCK! And this one is going to be very special. I get all teary just thinking about Emmanuel’s heroic journey. I am handicapped so I can understand the heights of his triumph. I mean, I can’t even ride a bike so the fact that he can amazes me. He could ride down the street and I’d be impressed–but he rode all the way across Ghana!

    You are like me with the cell phone. I’ve gotten so bad with it that I now own the 90-yr-old person’s phone with two buttons–one to call home and one for 9-1-1. LOL.

    Congratulations and welcome to EMU’s Debuts!


  3. Welcome aboard, Laurie. What Laurie hasn’t told you all in this post, but I can, is she has the best laugh in the world!


    • Joshua McCune

      Not only does she have a great laugh, but she’s also really, really good at making others laugh. Like Mike Jung, she has perfect comedic timing.

      Tried replying inline, but that acted all screwy, so updated here… Laurie, I remember several times during the retreat when you’d interject some whip-smart comment that absolutely cut me to pieces… Yes, you are one funny cat.


      • Wow, thanks, Josh! I don’t feel funny at all. I can’t help but try, because I love to laugh, but I usually feel like I just missed it. I think I’ll frame that “like Mike Jung” part. This is the first and probably last time anyone will grant me that honor. 😉


    • Aw, thanks, Jeannie! Unless you’re just softening me up for some evil plan to come. Hmmm….


  4. Welcome, Laurie! As a school librarian and teacher, I ADORE non-fiction picture books for mini-lessons, so keep writing them! I can’t wait to add your to our library shelves. 🙂


  5. Hey, everybody, Laurie Ann Thompson is in the house! (or is it nest?) Love your getting the call story, and can relate as one of those rarely-answer-my-cell folks too. I’m so looking forward to when your book enters the world–it’s going to touch so many hearts.


  6. Laurie,
    In all our chatting at the retreat, I never heard this story. I LOVE it. It gives me chills. It inspires and warms my heart. But I have to know, has it changed your phone-answering habits???
    Looking forward to your future posts!


    • Jean, I have a submission out right now that I would LOVE to hear some good news on, so I am definitely trying to be more diligent about having my phone with me, charged, and on… but there are still no guarantees. 😉


  7. Welcome, Laurie! Hooray for new EMUs! Your Call #3 sounds kind of like my call, which also involved pulling over the side of the road. And your book sounds amazing, I can’t wait to read it!


  8. Thanks, Tara! I can’t wait to read yours either. It sounds like so much fun!


    • 🙂 I think I mentioned this elsewhere before, but I’m especially excited about your book because I’ve spent a little time in Ghana. Imagining someone cycling on some of those roads–able-bodied or not!–just blows my mind. Do you know what route he took? I remember there being more paved roads in the south of the country than the north…


  9. Jan O'Neil

    Congratulations, Laurie! I knew you were a rock star…


  10. Cynthia Levinson

    This is a wonderful story, Laurie. Or, I guess I should say, ‘these are wonderful stories.” I’ve never heard of anyone getting a revision letter before a contract (except writers who don’t know whether or not they’re going to get the contract and hope they revise the right way so they will). Congratulations! (And, thanks for the shout-out.)


    • Thanks, Cynthia! Yes, you can imagine my surprise when I got the first revision notes just days after hearing the deal was going to go ahead. Exciting!

      Hey, I just realized that you’ll be leaving us soon, which means I’ll be the only stable nonfiction person here among this rowdy gang of sociopaths, er, I mean fiction writers. I’ll never be able to believe anything anybody says. Please, don’t go!


  11. I loved this, Laurie:

    Then I got to say those words every writer longs to say, “Excuse me, but I have to take this. It’s my agent.”


  12. My “call,” at least from my agent, was an email. She wanted to talk to me! So we scheduled a time, and then I waited a few minutes, because we didn’t know who was calling who. But we did talk, and had a nice long chat about her background and mine, and about the candy experiments project and what she loved about it. I got off the phone and sat around dazed, as if I’d just been to a funeral, not knowing what to do next. The agent was terrific, and placed my book with a publisher I had never considered, and I’m getting close to the release date!


    • My first call with Joan was similar, Loralee! I assumed she was going to call me, but then I sat there worrying maybe I was supposed to call her. Luckily, she DID call me, and right on time, so I didn’t have to worry long. And, yeah, I think I sat there dazed after she offered representation, with a big silly grin on my face, for quite some time. 🙂 Congratulations again on Candy Experiments! I’m so looking forward to it.


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