Thank you to Austin SCBWI member Laura Creedle for being this month’s member interview! Laura’s debut novel, THE LOVE LETTERS OF ABELARD AND LILY (called “entertaining, thought-provoking, and unsettling – in a good way” by Kirkus) is the love story of two teens living their lives with ADHD and high-functioning autism; a reflection of Laura’s own experience growing up neuro-divergent, struggling with ADHD and dyslexia. Laura is a guitar-playing, cowboy-boot wearing Austinite, who in addition to being an accomplished author, also serves as a kindergarten pre-literacy volunteer. Welcome, Laura!
Where did you grow up, and how did that place (or those places) shape your work?
My mother is from Austin, and I’ve lived in Austin for the last forty years, but I spent a large part of my childhood in Rochester, Minnesota. It’s where the Mayo Clinic is. Every year in grade school we’d have field trips to Medical history museum to learn about rare diseases. The medical museum lingers large in my imagination along with the network of subterranean tunnels, and the Mayowood mansion which is creepy and beautiful and probably haunted. Just saying.
When I started first grade as dyslexic, ADHD, with a processing delay, I was considered unteachable. My first grade teacher thought I had a severe intellectual disability. My mother disagreed and took me to the Mayo Clinic for a battery of tests.
My experiences at the Mayo Clinic definitely figure into Dr. Brainguy and his legion of fascinated medical students in The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily. Some of my earliest memories are of people in lab coats with clipboards asking me strange and seemingly random questions.
Did you always want to be a writer, or did that come later?
Always. Not only was I neurologically diverse, but I was exceedingly shy. It didn’t help that I felt gaslighted at school, constantly being told I was lazy or stupid. I had a running conversation with a voice in my head, an empirical, rational voice that questioned everything that I was told about myself. It was a small leap from hearing that voice to writing it down.
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
Oh, they would be bored probably. I write, I talk to my cat, I look out at my backyard stream to see if I can spot turtles and fish. I drink a lot of coffee with my husband. My nephew, his wife and their adorable infant live with us. Sometimes I babysit. I have a friend who is severely dyslexic, and didn’t get the years of therapy I did. I go with her to doctor appointments to fill out paperwork since she can’t read. Not at all. It reminds me of how lucky I am.
How does your everyday life feed your work?
Because I don’t work outside the house, people call me up to ask me for help. I was a stay at home mom, which meant I always had a house full of neighborhood kids. I’ve never lived in a house that wasn’t filled with a restless, happy energy. Lots of people, drifting in and out. I had a friend who lived in my back yard for years, first in a tent, and then in a trailer. I used to think that I’d want a quiet, orderly life and that would help my writing. Not anymore.
Tell us about some accomplishments that make you proud.
The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily won the 2017 Texas Writer’s League Book Award for MG/YA. I’m so proud of that!
What surprises you about the creative life?
For years I wouldn’t tell people I was ADHD or dyslexic, or that I didn’t graduate from high school, because I was ashamed. When I first got my publishing deal, I had moments of raw panic because I wouldn’t be able to hide it anymore. Now I’m glad. It was very freeing.
When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find?
I’m always happy when readers say my books are a quick read. It means the voice and the story pulled them in. I’m ADHD, and I don’t have a lot of readerly patience for slow development. I don’t expect readers to wade through a lot of beautiful writing on the way to something happening.
Quick Fire Questions:
Would you rather be able to go back in time or have the power to stop time whenever you felt like it?
This opens a lot of sci-fi questions that I’m not fully prepared to answer. I am very impulsive, and I wouldn’t trust myself in the past not to wade into dubious history and change things. I never want to stop time. Sometimes I want to speed it up to get through a bad day or traffic on I-35. But then again, If I had the power to speed up time, I’d probably be 83 right now thinking —what happened? Where did my life go? Did I miss something?
Would you rather secretly love a book everyone else hates, or secretly hate a book everyone else loves?
Secretly love a book everyone else hates. I don’t enjoy hating things. I can’t hate a book without imagining the author curled up in the corner of a darkened closet, shaking uncontrollably. We’ve all had scathing critiques. It’s never fun, and I don’t wish that on anybody.
Would you rather have dinner with your favorite author, or favorite book character?
My very first panel at my very first conference was ND and mental health with Neal Shusterman and Maureen Johnson. They are both great writers and YA legends. Maureen Johnson was ill, so it was just me, Neal Shusterman, and his 300 hundred adoring fans. I was so nervous! But he was very gracious, and after a while I lost all nerves. And we had a fascinating conversation about neuro-difference and mental health. And at the end, he turned to me and said that the hour had flown by, and that he’d enjoyed it very much. No dinner involved— but I count this as a bucket list, conversation with one of my favorite authors accomplished!