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Late Bloomer Profile: Laura Boldin-Fournier and her debut picture book, AN ORANGUTAN’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (Pelican Publishing)

Don’t let age discourage you from your publication dreams! This month’s Late Bloomer profile: Laura Boldin-Fournier, whose first chidren’s book came out when she was 68 years old. AN ORANGUTAN’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS debuted earlier this year from Pelican Publishing, and Laura was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Debbie: How did you get the idea for the book? How did you develop the idea?

Inspiration struck after a friend told me he gave wrapped presents to his dogs for the holidays. It sounded like a great idea for a children’s book. Using the zoo as the setting provided an opportunity for illustrations of many animals, but who would give them presents? A zoo keeper? Santa Claus? No, not them. I wanted a unique character, so I created an orangutan helper for Santa. Why an orangutan? Orangutans, also known as red apes, are intelligent, agile and strong enough to get the job done. They’re fun to look at, and Oranga Claus is a funny name.

As I developed the story, adding quirky humor and a surprise ending, my critique groups offered encouragement and suggestions. Thanks to them, an editor accepted my manuscript from the slush pile.

Debbie: How wonderful! And the illustrations are so fun.

Yes, cartoonist Stan Jaskiel ramped up the humor with his amazing illustrations. What child could resist opening a book displaying Oranga Claus, on his sleigh, with his team of zebras flying through the sky? Orangutans have also responded well. Nine out of ten recommend it. (One couldn’t read.)

Debbie: Heh. So what was the submission process like? Did you get any rejections before Pelican bought your story? 

Over the years, I wrote several picture books, all of which received rejections. AN ORANGUTAN’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS became the exception to the rule. A friend of mine knew an editor at a small company. She advised me to send my manuscript there, and the editor expressed an interest, but her company went out of business. I didn’t receive a contract, but I also didn’t receive a rejection. Fortunately, I discovered the Pelican Company has a series of “Night Before Christmas” books. I snail mailed my manuscript, and Nina Kooij, accepted it from the slush pile. She notified me by email, and I haven’t stopped smiling since.

Debbie: That’s fantastic. What advice do you have for writers seeking publication?

So, if it’s your desire to be published, don’t let age stop you. Write every day. Get feedback from critique groups. If you’re interested in writing for children, join the SCBWI. Revise your work. Be patient. Don’t give up. Someday you’ll be published. I did it. So can you!

Thanks, Laura!

You can find out more about Laura Boldin-Fournier and her work at and on Twitter at @LauraBoldin.

From Debbie: Did you get your first children’s book published by a traditional publishing house after the age of 50? I’d love to hear from you!

For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.