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by Laura K. Zimmermann

First I want to thank Tara for inviting me to share my story, which begins with a new writer staring at her computer trying to decide whether or not to sign up for Storystorm (PiBoldMo at the time). I very nearly didn’t. I remember thinking that there was no way I could come up with 30 ideas in thirty days—that was more picture books ideas than I’d had all year. But there was nothing to lose, so I decided to try.

I began my hunt for ideas. I’m a nonfiction writer so I created a private list on Twitter where I collected organizations and people who tweeted about topics that interest me. Each day I poured over my list. I would also look through science report emails, conduct google searches, and started to look, really look, at the things around me. One day I came across a tweet about a graveyard. On the list of people buried there was someone called “The Blind Traveler” who was in no way associated with mushrooms, but did pull me into the world of picture book biographies.

Jump forward to the next Storystorm. With my new focus on picture book biographies I was searching for female scientists. I had uncovered several for my idea list, when I stumbled across a story about Beatrix Potter’s research with mushrooms. I had to learn more so I researched everything I could find. I read her journal and looked at pictures of her paintings, some of which I had seen in a museum many years earlier. The idea could work. So, I wrote the biography, and revised and revised and revised. But no one at the time seemed to be interested.

image by Beatrix Potter

I should probably mention at this point, that prior to the Beatrix Potter biography I had never seen mushrooms as anything other than things you buy in a grocery store to put in soups, spaghetti sauce, and on pizza. But to Beatrix they were beautiful and challenging—from their curving caps and bladelike gills, to their varied textures and colors that ranged from the reddest reds to the softest creams and everything in between. She spent years scrutinizing and painting them again and again, training her brush strokes to capture every detail. Over time she developed questions for which she could find no answers and so began her own research. And as I worked to understand her mycological studies and read about masses of crisp yellow cups nestled in moss and troops with foxy-brown caps surrounded by black firs, I began to see mushrooms in a new way.

Then one day, I came across an article about mushrooms creating rain—a mushroom rain. There was a book there I just knew it. So I did more research, wrote and revised, and revised, and revised. But again, no one seemed interested. Enter my agent, Kaitlyn Sanchez. I sent her Mushroom Rain hoping she might see what my critique partners and I saw. I didn’t have to wait long. Later that day I had a list of suggested revision in my inbox. She loved it too and with a bit more revision she started to shop it. There were still a lot of no’s, of course, but you only need one yes, which we got from Barb McNally at Sleeping Bear, who loved it exactly as it was. It is now in the hands of an amazing, mushroom-loving artist, Jamie Green, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Beatrix Potter once said, “There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” For me they led to a weird and wonderful world that, like an idea, springs up without warning and must be gathered before it disappears.


Although Laura has seen and eaten many mushrooms, she knew very little about them until she discovered them in Beatrix Potter’s paintings and journal. A mushroom hunter, artist, and researcher, it was Beatrix’s passion that led Laura to learn more about their weird and wonderful world. Laura K. Zimmermann is a college professor by day and children’s writer by night. She has published numerous academic articles as well as nonfiction stories in children’s magazines. Mushroom Rain is her first picture book. When she’s not writing, Laura can be found teaching and conducting research at Shenandoah University or wandering through nature with her Goldendoodle, Tivy. You can find Laura online at laurakzimmermann.com and on Twitter @LauraK_PBwriter and Instagram @LauraK_PBwriter.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


BLOOP
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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