Growing up Some authors begin writing stories when they're little. But I didn't. In fact, since I started kindergarten when I was four, reading and writing was a confusing mystery, especially all of those vowel sounds—A, E, I, O, U—Whaaat? But after a while, I caught on. And when my third grade teacher, Mrs. Hall, read to us after lunch recess, I fell in love with books such as Ellen Tebbits, Charlotte's Web, and A Wrinkle in Time. Books continue to be some of my best friends.
So, when did I begin writing? Although my nose was usually in a book, I didn't start writing until I began reading to my own children and wondered—What could I write?
I've been writing ever since!
Lori Mortensen is an award-winning children's author of more than 100 books. Recent picture book releases include Arlo Draws an Octopus, NONSENSE! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey, If Wendell Had a Walrus, illustrated by New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Matt Phelan, Away with Words, the Daring Story of Isabella Bird, Mousequerade Ball, illustrated by renowned illustrator Betsy Lewin, Chicken Lily and Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range, the sequel to Amazon bestseller Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg.
When she's not hiking around, camera in hand, she's tapping away at her keyboard, conjuring, coaxing, and prodding her latest stories to life. Today, she lives in the foothills of Northern California with her family and the wonderful assortment of birds that come her way. To find out more about upcoming releases, reviews, teacher activities, critiques, and more, visit her website at
Fluffius Maximus Max was my dear office buddy for nearly 20 years. We picked him out of a box when somebody was giving away kittens in front of Safeway. Sometimes, he'd pose with my latest release. Sometimes he'd leap into my Christmas card. Sometimes he sat where he didn't belong—like my desk—and worked his way into many of my stories. It was always exciting with Max around. I miss him every day.
If you've read the "official stuff" you know that when I'm not at my computer, I just might be off bird watching. I've only been bird watching for a few years, but it's super fun. It's sort of like going on a treasure hunt. You never know what you might find! Here are just a few of the birds I've found—a Great Horned Owl, bald eagle, and spotted towhee.
Did you know? Cindy Moo has a lookalike.I didn't know either until I met Butterfly Tully. She has the same brown patch over her eye, and the same brown and white coloring. And it's clear she has great taste in books.
My book went to the White House!
A few years ago when President Obama was in office, the White House beekeeper went to a beekeeping event in Maryland and bought my rhyming, nonfiction picture book, In the Trees, Honey Bees!, for the Obama children, Malia and Natasha. Wow! My book buzzed all the way to the White House! Sweet!
I love writing picture books! Better than the pitter-patter of rain. Better than piles of crunchy fall leaves. Better than a Maui Zowie pizza. (And that's sayin' something!) Why? Because picture books are like magical portals to whole new worlds. The best ones are silly, surprising, clever, and heartwarming—the very kind I try to write. And when I actually do it, and I arrange the words just right, I feel like jumping up and down and shouting, "Hooray!" (Or, reading to some chickens!)
What am I doing right now?
Typing at the computer, of course! (That was a trick question!) But when I'm not typing, I might be drumming up a new idea, relocating spiders outside (yeah--that's a thing at my house) or brainstorming with the best writing friends ever--you know who you are! Or, who knows? I could be signing books, visiting a school, or ruling the world from a big red throne. (Okay, maybe I was just reading one of my books!)
Chloe Bristol, Rob Sayegh, and me!
Meeting Matt Phelan.
Do authors and illustrators know each other? People often think writers and illustrators are buddies because their names appear on the same books. But most of the time, I never even meet the illustrators of my books. After I write the manuscript, I send it to my agent, then my agent submits it to different publishers. When a publisher buys it, they choose the illustrator. Now, it's the illustrator's turn to tell their half of the story through their awesome illustrations. Sometimes, however, I do get to meet the illustrators. Not long ago, I met Chloe Bristol who illustrated Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey and Rob Sayegh, Jr., who was in the process of illustrating our picture book, Arlo Draws and Octopus, at Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore in Berkeley, California. A few years ago, I happened to meet Matt Phelan who illustrated If Wendell Had a Walrus at an American Library Association event in San Francisco.
Everyone has a birthday—and so do books! Their birthday is the date they're released into the world. My new picture book, Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey had a book birthday at Mrs. Dalloway's bookstore in Berkeley, California. There were some awfully fun people there—Kwame Alexander, Chloe Bristol, Mintie Das and many others! Thanks Mrs. Dalloway's!
Whoa, Nelly! That's a lot of books!
I've written A LOT of books! Many, many more than I can include here. Fiction and nonfiction, early readers, leveled readers, shared books, first graphic novels, picture book biographies, and mid-grade nonfiction for many publishers. Here are some of the titles I've written for Picture Window Books, Stone Arch Books, Capstone Press, Rourke Publishers, and KidHaven Press.
My writing tips for young authors
Read a lot!
Go to the library and read even more! (I've always loved the library!)
Think about the stories you read. Why do you like them?
Write a little every day. The more you do it, the better you'll get.