“Class Mom” Laurie Gelman Earns Top Honors | Debut Spotlight

Laurie Gelman has put her stamp on the world of women’s fiction with her debut novel, Class Mom (LJ 5/1/17), which revolves around the antics of kindergarten class mom Jen Dixon. Here, the author gives a behind-the-scenes peek into her writing process, shedding light on how the book came to life.

So many women—regardless if they are mothers or not—will be able to relate to Class Mom. What attracted you to the story?
I did a lot of complaining about being a class mom. I would tell my agent stories and have him in stitches; he suggested I write them down. I wove them all together, filled in the blanks, and out came a book. I’m as surprised as anyone.

Jen’s emails to the parents were laugh-out-loud funny! Are there characteristics of you in Jen?

The very first email Jen sends is pretty much verbatim [a version of] the ones I sent my class each year. So I would say yes, there is a bit of me in my main character. Just a bit though. I’m nowhere near as cool as she is.

What was the best and worst part of being a class mom?
My favorite part was something I did not include in the book. It was getting to be in the classroom for all the parties and other events. My girls’ faces would light up when I came into the room. I guess I did include a bit of that when Jen helps out on picture day. My least favorite part was being treated like an employee by the other parents who would conveniently forget that I was not being paid for this job.

Did you embellish any particular situations that Jen encountered? Was Miss Ward based on your daughters’ real-life teachers?
I embellished the parent-teacher conference a bit to play along with Miss Ward’s crazy personality, but I did not exaggerate the tiny chairs and risking your life trying to get in and out of them. No, the girls have never had a teacher like that. I hope no one has!

What scene(s) did you most enjoy writing? What was your favorite part of the process?
[Writing] the emails was definitely my favorite part. I used some of my original emails, although I had to adapt them a bit. My favorite part of the writing process was actually the rewriting. I would write in the morning and edit in the evening with a glass of wine. That just might be where the funny stuff came from.

Besides Jen, were you especially attached to any character?
The whole heartbroken [aspect of] Nina was fun to write, but I’d have to say my favorite was Jen’s mother, Kay. She is so quirky, and you get that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Who or what has influenced you as an author?
You know, I really can’t point to any one person or thing that has inspired me. I have done so many different types of writing—news, long-form magazine articles, reviews, blogs, a screenplay based on my father’s experience winning a gold medal at the Olympics, and now fiction. I think the one common denominator is that I find it is my best way of communicating my thoughts and feelings.

Was working on a first novel what you expected?
I was amazed at how long it took me to write the book. I was used to slamming out one or two blogs a day, but to sit down almost every day for a year and a half and never have a finished product was really daunting. I thought of scrapping the whole thing more than once, but then I would show [it to] one of my friends and they would encourage me to keep going.

Having experience in so many different areas of writing, does one style stand out to you?
I’m going to be honest, blogging is the easiest! You sit down, you write it, you publish it, and within minutes plenty of people let you know how much they hate it (or like it). The gratification is instantaneous, but now that the book is finished, I feel a much stronger sense of accomplishment. I guess it’s like the difference between making [boxed] mac and cheese for dinner or cooking a gourmet meal.

Do you have another project in the works?
I’m writing a not-so-funny story about a latch-key kid growing up in the 1970s. But if readers demand Class Mom 2, I have a lot of ideas!—Erin Holt, Williamson Cty. P.L., Franklin, TN

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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Comments

  1. Barbara Floyd says:

    Sounds like you’ve written everything I thought I would one day! So glad you are sharing this. I remember those days so well, they were some of the best times of my life.

  2. Joyce Bertodatto says:

    Being a mother of four I was class mom three times .i had a set of twins . It was a ball -going to the Bronx zoo ! Roller skating in a in door rink with at least 25 kids just because I could skate. Forgot to tell you at the Bronx zoo three 5year old and myself got peed on the first ten minutes we were there .No handy wipes then ! I brought wash rags just in case for dirty hands ! Who ever thought I’d be useing to wash off pee . Yes I was a class mom but there were many fun times helping the kids they could do something.

  3. Toni Nako says:

    Class Mom 2, definitely please. Thank you!

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