“Mushroom Rain,” a children’s book by Shenandoah University Psychology Professor Laura K. Zimmermann, Ph.D., has been picked up by Sleeping Bear Press and is slated to be released in spring 2022, as announced in Publisher’s Weekly.
Zimmermann’s book, according to Publisher’s Weekly, “explores the mysterious world of mushrooms from their hidden threads that wander below to spores that soar, seed the clouds, and fall in drops of rain.”
While “Mushroom Rain” is Dr. Zimmermann’s first children’s picture book to be acquired for publication, she said it’s not her first time writing for children. “Years ago when I taught First-Year Seminar [at Shenandoah], I wrote an educational e-book and edited 95 SU student e-books for children in Uganda, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. It was a lot of work, but I loved it and when the program ended, I looked for new ways to write for children. That’s when I began writing for children’s magazines. I started writing picture books because the way they blend illustrations and words together to tell a story is magical. I also love a challenge and picture books were a whole new way of writing for me.”
It’s not wholly surprising that Zimmermann is drawn to writing for children. Her academic interests include child development, as well as the roles of technology and play in cognitive development. Even so, her inspiration for writing can come from anywhere.
In general, if I find something that interests and excites me I want to convey that to children. Learning can be a lot of fun, but not all children see that.”
“For ‘Mushroom Rain,’ in particular, I have [late 19th/early 20th-century children’s author and illustrator] Beatrix Potter to thank. I actually knew very little about mushrooms until I discovered them in her paintings and journal. In fact, I saw some of her original paintings on a trip to England I took with SU College of Arts & Sciences colleagues many years ago. But it wasn’t until I read her journal that I learned Beatrix was also a mushroom hunter and researcher and it was her passion for mushrooms that led me into their weird and wonderful world.”
She began work on “Mushroom Rain” several years ago. “I did a ton of research, and many, many revisions, but I couldn’t find anyone interested in publishing it. So, it sat on my computer until I signed with my agent, Kaitlyn Sanchez, last February. After some more revisions, she submitted it to 16 different editors before we found one that loved it as much as we did. It took about 11 months from the submission to the final contract being signed,” Zimmermann said. The book is now in the hands of illustrator Jamie Green, who was chosen for the task by Zimmermann’s editor, as is common in the world of children’s literature.
Zimmermann is currently working on three children’s books and her agent is shopping three more to publishers. All are nonfiction, which means a great deal of research is required.
A single sentence can have me down the research rabbit hole for days. When you can’t find the information you need or get it worded the way you want, it can be really frustrating. But when things come together, it is wonderful.”
While Zimmermann is an avid writer today, she admits it wasn’t her strongest subject in school, and it’s a skill she has worked hard to develop. “Writing is a process. I took classes, went to conferences, joined writers’ groups, read hundreds of picture books, and wrote a lot. There really isn’t a shortcut for anyone.” Since her books require so much of her time, she does most of her writing during school breaks.
Although the work can be tough, time-consuming, and without guarantees in terms of what will be published, it remains very special, Zimmermann said.
The best thing about writing for children is getting to see your readers get as excited about a topic as you are—that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”