Laurie Lawlor up in a family enamored with the theater. Along with her five brothers and sisters she spent summers in a summer stock repertory company in a small mountain town in Colorado that was run by their mother (costumer, cook, accountant, and resident psychiatrist) and their father (artistic director). Lawlor’s father liked to joke that she “spent kindergarten under the piano.” She says, “I was the only one with stage fright. I preferred the back stage, where I shook the sheet metal to simulate thunder for storm scenes or helped paint rubber chickens for props.
Coming from a theatrical family with a highly developed imagination gave Lawlor some advantages. She soon learned that if she wanted some peace and quiet, she could simply invent terrifying stories bout characters who happened to inhabit the family’s home. In this way Lawlor was able to convince her gullible younger brothers and sisters to stay out of the attic or suffer the wrath of Evil Pan. In this clever way Lawlor acquired her first studio. There she was able to write and read and “nobody,” she says, “dared bother me.”
According to Laurie Lawlor, her “very first characters were strange and fabulous creatures who haunted the attic of my first childhood home — a run-down two-flat on a busy street in LaGrange, Illinois. My characters’ names were Jack Frost and the Fat Lady.”
Laurie says, “Conveniently for me, a little boy my age lived in our building. Poor Greggy! Whenever he got scared, his big eyes got even bigger. His mouth made a perfect O-shape, and he howled like a dog. I made it my business to use the magic of stories about Jack Frost and the Fat Lady to terrify Greggy. His howling gave me a very satisfied feeling. This was probably the earliest indication that I would one day become a writer.”
It was when Lawlor was in about the third grade that she decided to become a writer. That was when she made the amazing discovery that she did not have to tell these scary stories over and over again. She could simply write them down. Her best friend in third grade, who was an excellent artist, illustrated the books she wrote. They had such a good time creating the books that they decided to work together, making books, when they grew up. Unfortunately, Laurie’s friend became a dental hygienist, Laurie, however, trained as a journalist and then went on to write books.
Laurie worked on the high school newspaper and eventually went to journalism school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She worked for many years as a freelance writer and editor before devoting herself on a more full-time basis to the creation of fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults. She teaches writing workshops to elementary and junior high school students throughout the country as an artist-in-residence. She is a part-time faculty member of Chicago’s Columbia College, where she teaches writing to undergraduates and graduates students, and facilitates teacher workshops.