Laura Scandiffio
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About Me (Biography)

I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario (which is a great place to grow up as long as you like winter!). As a kid I loved books, drawing, and riding my bike. One of my favourite games with good friends was putting on plays, or any excuse for make-believe. Some of my favourite books were J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. (And they still are favourites.)

Loving stories led to me loving history, especially retelling it in a way that’s exciting and makes you feel as if you were there. After all, history is stories of real people in extraordinary circumstances, facing crises that changed our world. I always wondered: what would I have done in their place? And how would I have felt?

Like lots of enthusiastic readers, I studied English literature at university. And since I was fascinated by why people act and think the way they do, I studied Psychology too.

After that I became a book editor, and worked a lot on books for children and teens. Eventually I started writing books of my own. My first book was The Martial Arts Book. With so many kids learning tae kwon do, karate, or judo, it seemed like a great idea to write a book that would explain where all those arts came from and why they were created in the first place. Researching that book was so much fun and the answers I found surprised and enlightened me. After that I knew I’d found what I love to do.

I try to watch everywhere for inspiration, and I find traveling one of the most inspiring things of all! I live in Toronto now with my husband and two children, and we recently returned from a year in Hong Kong, where I had fun trying to learn Mandarin.

My newest book, just released, is People Who Said No: Courage Against Oppression. In it I tell the real-life stories of people who refused to follow the rules of their society once their eyes were opened to the injustices around them. From Nazi Germany to segregation in the United States, from the Cold War nuclear arms race to Apartheid in South Africa, as well as more recent struggles for human rights around the world -- I found researching this book fascinating and writing it very moving.


What do you like about being a writer?

Two things come to mind:
1. All the stuff I learn! I do a lot of research for each book and it’s like going to school (in the best possible way) all over again each time. I love all the fascinating things I learned about the martial arts, famous escapes through history, the Crusades, how the Aztecs lived, or the world’s worst tyrants. Sometimes it’s the little details that capture your imagination.

2. Playing with words and language. You can sculpt a sentence like clay. Little changes take it from ho-hum to something that sings. Stretch it out here, smooth it out there, chop off that little bit that just doesn’t look right. When it works, you know it (or maybe your editor knows it). When it’s just right everything hums like a smooth-running machine. The right words can reach out and grab a reader, making them understand what someone else saw, felt, or thought, as if they were there, too. It can also make them feel like they’ve been understood. Then the whole process of writing feels magical.

Where do you get ideas for books?

Ideas can come from almost anywhere: a news headline, a conversation, a picture or object in a museum with an interesting story behind it. It’s a good idea to jot down ideas before you forget. Some never seem to lead anywhere, but others grow over time in your imagination, taking shape into something more complete that might make a good book. The next step is to ask yourself: is there a book like this already out there? Or is my idea different enough from what’s already been done? The answers will tell me when I’ve stumbled on something waiting to be written! 

Do you have advice for someone who wants to get better at writing?

First of all, read! And think a lot about what you read. If you love a book, ask yourself, what makes it so good? Good books are the best writing teachers, really.

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