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Happy Earth Day! Let’s talk mushrooms!

My good friends forage for mushrooms. I went to their house around Halloween one year and saw a huge skull on their dining room table…what a perfectly spooky decoration…except…it wasn’t a skull at all! It was a giant puffball mushroom, and it was good eats! They sliced it up, seasoned and pan-fried it, and we fork-and-knifed it like a steak. It tasted divine. Since then, we’ve had all kinds of foraged dishes, including pasta in a creamy chanterelle sauce. What about morels, you ask? They’ve found them, too. (And I’ve eaten them!)

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I received this beauty, MUSHROOM RAIN by Laura K. Zimmermann, illustrated by Jamie Green.

I had to ask Laura about it!

Laura, my blog is all about brainstorming ideas for writing books—so where did the idea for MUSHROOM RAIN originate?

Storystorm (technically, when it was PiBoldMo)!

Ooh, a Storystorm Success story!

I was looking for information on female scientists to add to my ideas for the month and came across a story about Beatrix Potter’s research with mushrooms. Sadly, that manuscript didn’t sell but it did help me see mushrooms in a new way. So when I came across a story about mushroom spores helping to create rain, I had to read it. And when I did, two words popped into my mind. Well, technically 6. “That is so cool…Mushroom Rain!”

That is cool! Speaking of cool, have you ever gone mushroom foraging?

So far I have only foraged for pictures. My nieces and I found a ton of different varieties in South Carolina and I have come across quite a few at the Arboretum near where I live. I joined the Mycological Association of Washington DC but haven’t had time in my schedule to drive out to the locations they have been foraging. I’m hoping to later in the summer or fall. Given that I thought a white mushroom I saw was a cute innocent thing—I later learned it was a destroying angel—I think it is best that my first true forage be with people who know more than me.

When I’m with my mushroom friends, they do all sorts of things to ID the mushrooms, like put them on a sheet of paper to check spore prints. Spores do so much (wink, wink)!

The illustrations by Jamie Green are gorgeous, and I love the unique choice of the black background, which really makes the mushrooms pop.

It’s an interesting and brilliant choice. One might expect greenery or blue sky considering the subject matter. How did you feel when you first saw the illustrations?

I was both surprised and thrilled when I saw Jamie’s art for the book. It’s not an approach I ever imagined, but now I can’t picture it any other way. The wonderland feel captures the kingdom of mushrooms perfectly!

Yes, it feels rather regal and majestic! 

You have two spreads of fascinating back matter in this book. What is your approach to back matter?

As a scientist and nonfiction picture book writer, research rabbit holes are one of my virtual homes. I deep dive into any topic of interest and collect my favorite bits. Anything that doesn’t make it into the book, tries to find a home there.

What tips do you have for other non-fiction picture book writers?

Follow topics that won’t let go wherever they may lead. Straight or winding the path will take you where you want to go—even if you don’t know where that is at the start. Then double and triple check your facts. Find everything you can and reach out to those who know more than you. Many wonderful and patient experts helped make Mushroom Rain what it is today. And I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating. Join SCBWI. Use Storystorm and other challenges to push your writing forward. I am the writer I am today because of them and my amazing critique partners that I met, you guessed it, through SCBWI.

Laura, thank you for stopping by on Earth Day and sharing this enchanting story of mushrooms.

Blog readers, Laura is giving away a non-fiction picture book critique (plus a signed bookplate and SWAG) to one lucky winner.

Comment once below with your favorite mushroom.

A random winner will be selected next month.

Good luck!


College professor by day and children’s writer by night, Laura K. Zimmermann has published numerous academic articles on human development as well as nonfiction stories in AppleSeeds, Ask, Muse, Odyssey, and Root & Star magazines. Her debut picture book, MUSHROOM RAIN, is here now from Sleeping Bear Press.

When she’s not writing, you’ll find her teaching classes and conducting research at Shenandoah University or wandering through nature with Junior Explorer Tivy.

Online you can find her at LauraKZimmermann.com, @LauraK_PBwriter on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

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TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 26, 2022

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