Back in 2007, I interviewed Laurie Parker for North Mississippi Christian Family, just after her book, A Is For Angels, was just released. I wanted to share a portion of her question & answer story, since I just love her work.
Tell us about your Christian faith and how you first came to know the Lord.
I was raised in a Christian home, but I’ve grown closer to God as an adult because of my chosen career path as a self-employed artist, which, because it is both a risky AND exhausting undertaking, forces me to turn to Him in a big way.
Who/What has been the biggest influence on your life and your faith?
Reading! I read inspirational books, and more than any real-life people that I have actually known personally, I consider quite a few authors to be my teachers/mentors. Three writers who have had an important influence on me are Joel Goldsmith, Thomas Hora, and Vernon Howard. I especially believe both Goldsmith and Hora to have a true understanding of the mysteries of Christ and the meaning of scripture. Thomas Hora was a brilliant, but little known New York psychiatrist and teacher whose scripture-based practice was summed up by a principle that states, “All problems are psychological, but all solutions are spiritual.” I first discovered Joel Goldsmith through one of his books, “Infinite Supply,” which was a guide at the point in my life when I chose self-employment as a path. This book helped open my eyes to what it truly means to rely on God for one’s material needs.
How did you arrive at your career as a writer /artist?
I don’t consider WRITING as my career. CREATING is. I support myself as a full-time artist, and the writing is only a small aspect of what I do. People who are familiar with my books know that they are all written in RHYME. I have been writing poetry since I was 8-years-old or so; that early emergence shows it is a God-given gift. To write the text for one of my books takes me about a week or so at the most. That’s why when people approach me and say, “Are you still busy writing?” I just smile inwardly. I’m not a novelist. There is much less text in my books than that, and I only release one a book year. I am busy creating art year-round, and when I do arrive at an idea for one of my books, the written part is just whipped out relatively quickly. So writing is not something I do around the clock, or even for a considerable fraction of my time. I make my paper collage artwork—pictures, jewelry, ornaments etc., which I sell strictly at retail and art shows, and this is the time-consuming part of my livelihood. I wish there WERE a way for me to write in rhyme full-time and make a living doing so! The outlets or uses for rhyme are quite limited. The choices pretty much boil down to being a lyricist for a country musician (would LOVE that!), a greeting card writer, or a children’s book author. Or a “rapper.” That’s about all one can do with rhyme, and none of those careers are easy to break into! Only the greeting card or children’s book route would allow me to also use my abilities in artwork/illustrating. So it’s the fact that I have both abilities that launched me into doing the books. My already-existing career as a Mississippi artist had me poised in a market in which I was selling my work, and the idea of adding books to my merchandise was very appealing. For one, they could be mass-produced, rather than made by hand one-at-a-time like everything else I do! So the bottom line is, God gave me certain gifts, and I believe using them to be my calling. I am very passionate about creating, and the particular books I produce allow me to combine two abilities He gave me.
I am familiar with Mississippi Alphabet and Everywhere in Mississippi — tell us about your other works?
A for Angels, is my tenth book. My first, Everywhere in Mississippi, was released in 1996. People call me a “children’s author,” and that’s okay. Because I want children to enjoy my books. But I really feel that I write for children AND adults and that my books are better categorized as “gift books.” The normal connotation of “children’s book” is not exactly fitting for my work. There is just an abundance of books out there to the effect of…I don’t know…like “The Day a Monkey Wore Purple Pajamas” or “The Runaway Pickle” etc. The entire text might consist of eight or so simple sentences. And there’s nothing wrong with that! I’m just not writing for that level or that genre. I’m actually aiming for chapter-book readers. I prefer to write with some wit, and go “a little deeper” when possible. And rhyming the entire text as I do requires a lot of “wordsmithing.” METERED rhyme is a painstaking craft when it is done right. I’m big on WORDS; I try to emphasize vocabulary and language. I don’t water it down, because reading is a vanishing art with our youth as it is. I’m from the “old school” and was raised on classic English literature and poetry. Undoubtedly, I’ve been influenced by the poets I enjoy: Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Matthew Arnold, to name a few. And I also aspire to the perfect meter and whimsy of Dr. Seuss! I prefer to be called “artist” or “poet” to “children’s book author.” There are those into wearing funny hats or acting like a clown to entertain children, and many of them also write children’s books, and that’s their cup of tea. But that is not me and it’s not my mission. I create; I don’t perform in person! I have found that many people seem to think I am supposed to act in a certain silly way, though. It goes with the territory of being called “children’s author,” and to a degree with just being an artist in general. But I don’t have an “entertainer” personality; I am actually somewhat introverted. I’m also not an educator, reading specialist, literacy expert, etc., yet somehow people think I am an authority in these fields, and often ask me to speak on them! Or to direct such programs! I find that crazy! I’m just an artist who is using the talents God gave me to give the world a PRODUCT that I hope will bring joy to both young AND old. Because of these unsolicited, non-stop requests for me to assume the role of “public speaker,” I have really come to appreciate what is said in I Thessalonians 4:11-12: “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.” To quietly work with my hands and go about my business as my authentic self—that’s all I’m trying to do!
My newest book, released in July of 2007, is called “A for Angels.” It’s a Bible Alphabet book. It has people, places and things from the Bible that represent the alphabet—one per letter. For example, A is for Angels, B is for Bethlehem, C is for Coat of Many Colors, D is for Daniel etc. There is rhyming story text and a collage illustration to accompany each letter. And I incorporated scripture into the ABC format, choosing some that is more sophisticated and thought-provoking, so as to be for the adults in the family. This book has something for all ages! In terms of what I want to get across with “A for Angels,” I would say that there are many messages in this book, but they come from the Bible, not me. I pulled from an already-existing work and just tried to use my creative abilities to put some of its spiritual truths “out there” in an appealing way.
What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment?
Mmmm…I guess the publication and immediate success of my first book was a dream-come-true for me. I was also very pleased that I was able to see my book “The Turtle Saver” come to fruition as well. Another milestone was when I made the step to go it alone and self-publish my seventh book, “It Really Said Christmas.” But I don’t view any of the “success” I’ve had as something I accomplished so much as I see it as a “spiritual validation” that I am doing what I am meant to do in life.
How has your faith played a role in your success?
Faith is a crucial component for anyone who is self-employed. I would say even more so for someone who is both self-employed AND single, as I am. And I’ll go one step further and add even more so for someone who is an ARTIST! There’s a reason for the term “starving artist!” Not that I am in any way hurting, I am very blessed. But my chosen career path is NOT easy. It’s extremely labor-intensive and without guarantees. And being on my own, I get very scared about the future—how will I take care of myself, how will I have a place to live, how can I afford the already high, and rapidly rising cost of basic security, etc. I then remind myself that GOD is the SOURCE of these things and that I have to think in terms of ASSURANCE that He provides, not insurance that man sells. For 15 years, I have been self-employed. It is an amazing illustration of God’s grace. No employer, yet I have an income! Where does it come from?! One’s vocation is a major thing in life, and mine has taught me in a very CONCRETE way about full reliance on God.
Tell us about your family and where they live and work today.
No family of my own; I’ve never been married. I have two sisters and one brother. They and my mom all live in Starkville where I also live and work.
Outside of work, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
I have little spare time because supporting myself via my handiwork keeps me so busy. Creating and art are my passions, so fortunately, that is built into my job. When I’m not producing those items that I sell for income, I thrive on doing a variety of other art and writing projects. I enjoy interior decorating, and I like to go “junking.” And although not a “hobby” per say, I am an “Andy Griffith” aficionado!
I hope I’ll be able to support myself as an artist for the rest of my life! As for my next book, I never know about that until the moment of inspiration comes. Those ideas come from a Higher Mind. Two of my favorite scriptures are: “The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” John 14:10, and “For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me.” Job 23:14.
This question & answer story was originally published in the October 2007 edition of North Mississippi Christian Family at NMSCF October 2007