Looking for an inspirational mom with a “you can’t stop me” attitude? Meet Tara Lazar (rhymes with bazaar), a creative mother of two who writes quirky, humorous children’s books−picture books and middle school novels−that kids (and adults) love. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010 and has lost feeling in her feet and legs. She’s a woman who is overcoming her chronic illness to achieve her goals and dreams.
Tara is a kidlit author powerhouse who speaks at conferences and events, and teaches workshops to help other children’s authors achieve their dreams of getting published. Her new children’s book “Normal Norman” is delightful tale with an important message all children need to hear: “Being yourself is the ONLY way to be.”
When did you become a published author and how does that feel?
My first book released in 2013. It’s funny, I always dreamt of future-author-Tara as someone completely different than who I actually am. Like life was suddenly going to become glamorous and important, like I would walk down the street with a sophisticated air. I don’t know why I thought things would get so blissfully rosy and carefree! Nothing really changed at all. I’m still a wife and mother first, creative writer second. No one magically appeared to take over the laundry, grocery shopping and Mom’s Taxi service!
How has your Multiple Sclerosis changed your life? Has it impacted your writing?
Unfortunately, I can’t do certain things I used to be able to do. I don’t walk very far and there’s certainly no more sports–no figure skating, no tennis, no hiking. I think the most difficult part of being diagnosed with a chronic, debilitating illness is that you have to totally redefine your expectations and find different ways of doing things. I went from being a very independent person to realizing that I need help a lot of the time. I am still learning to ask for it.
Luckily writing is the best job for me because I can be sitting comfortably in bed all day. I don’t have to schlep to an office; I don’t have to put in 12-hour days. I can adjust my schedule as my body needs. I know not to take on too much at once. I try to pace myself. I am still learning to do that, too!
I think MS makes me all the more determined to make my writing career a success. You can’t stop me, you meanie illness!
Tell us about your new book, Normal Norman.
What is “normal?” That’s the question an eager young scientist, narrating her very first book, hopes to answer. Unfortunately, her exceedingly “normal” subject—an orangutan named Norman—turns out to be exceptionally strange. He speaks English, sleeps in a bed, loves his stuffed toy, goes bananas over pizza, and even deep-sea dives! Oh, no: what’s a “normal” scientist to do? A humorous look at the wackiness that makes us all special— and a gentle reminder that “normal” can’t ever be defined!
What inspired you to write it?
One day the name “Normal Norman” popped into my head. I don’t know from where and I don’t recall what I was doing. But I wrote it down and I thought about it. A lot. When I finally sat down to write, it seemed natural to introduce Normal Norman via a junior scientist, because I knew that he would in no way actually be normal, much to the young researcher’s chagrin. He would do the opposite of whatever we threw at him. It would be messy! He just decided to be his normal self and I followed his lead. That’s how it is sometimes when I write; the character carves his or her own way and I just record it for posterity.
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
Anyone who doesn’t feel quite normal is the ideal reader. And, honestly, I think almost everyone has felt like the oddball at one time or another! I see the book being used to elicit laughter followed by a conversation about how being yourself is the only way to be.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading the book?
That there is no such thing as “normal”. I want children and adults alike to see our differences as strengths.
It would be my dream if this book brought new friends together, that if two children who saw the other as “different” reached out to find out more about each other. I hope they giggle together over Norman’s silly antics and find friendship in laughter.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your book?
It has been a lifelong dream to be a children’s author. I love hilarious, laugh-out-loud picture books and that’s what I strive to write as well. Nothing tickles me purple more than being able to give a child and adult special time to read and laugh together.
In addition to being an author, Tara is very supportive and nurturing of other writers. PiBoldMo is just one of the many things she does.
Tell us about PiBoldMo…who is it for and how can someone be a part of it?
PiBoIdMo, or Picture Book Idea Month, is not just for picture book writers, but for any writer who’s seeking to brainstorm new ideas. You can sign up on my blog in late October at taralazar.com, then the event runs throughout November. Authors, illustrators, editors and other picture book professionals guest blog daily with a brainstorming technique or an inspirational story to motivate you to record one new idea a day. They say it takes 30 days to create a habit, so by the end of the month, you’ll not only have 30 new story ideas, but a new creativity routine.
Discover more about author Tara Lazar: