October 16


Cover Reveal of Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

I’ve been writing books since I was eight years old, and for most of my life, I wrote just for myself. I wrote because I had stories in my head, and I wanted to see how they’d end.  I wrote because I loved to play with words.  I scribbled my books, and bound them in scraps of wallpaper, and then I put them in a drawer.  That felt fine.


Of course I dreamed of publishing and becoming an author someday, but that seemed unlikely.  Certainly, for most of my life, I never expected to be paid for my writing.
Then I was fortunate enough to sell my first book, and several books after that, and my life changed in many ways. I was, obviously, overjoyed.  I worked with amazing editors.  I traveled. I met my own favorite authors, my heroes. The experience was a dream come true…


Except that something happened along the way, inside me.  I stopped writing for myself.  I sold books on proposal, which meant I owed those books to someone else long before I’d finished writing them.  Which meant that I was trying to guess what someone else wanted. Which meant I was no longer listening to myself. I began to dread sitting down at my desk each day.


So I took a deep breath, and decided to start over. Just as I had done when I was eight, I sat down with a pencil and a notebook.  I got out paints and colored pencils and drew maps and characters (badly—I’m no artist). I promised myself that I wouldn’t show anybody anything until I had a full draft, until I knew in my heart what I wanted the book to be.  I followed my instincts, and set aside all thoughts of selling the manuscript.  I only had one goal—to write for myself again, to play with words, to find the love.


That took about a year, and some days I thought I was crazy, as I fiddled with my art supplies and my hand cramped from writing by hand.  But slowly, I fell into a story, into a world of my own imagining.  My characters came alive inside me.  I began to talk to them as I fell asleep at night, exactly as I had done when I was eight.  Slowly, I found myself living on an island, with a herd of children, magical winds, bonfires, wild kittens, and starfish fields.


I knew that I’d done the right thing. I felt like me again, like a writer again.  I felt like I’d flipped a switch inside myself.  I felt true.  But after all that work, the book was a strange one, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to publish it at all.   I had to accept the possibility that my island might remain a private island, for me alone.


And yet, somehow, here it is!  It did find a home, with an editor who saw what I saw in my dreams, who felt the pull of the ocean breezes and the sand beneath his feet too.   Here it is now, a book! With this absolutely ethereal cover that makes me want to cry.   Isn’t it a kind of magic—how an idea becomes a story, and the story becomes a book, an object?  How we can dream things into existence. I am lucky.  I am very, very lucky.  I am so grateful.


And I hope you’ll all love this book, my Orphan Island.  But if you don’t, that’s all right.  You don’t have to love it. I wrote this one for myself. Because sometimes, a girl needs to go it alone. Sometimes, a girl just needs an island.


Laurel Snyder is a poet, essayist, and author of picture books and novels for children, including The Longest Night, Bigger than a Bread Box, and Seven Stories Up. She is also the editor of the nonfiction anthology Half/Life: Jew-ish Tales from Interfaith Homes, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered. She lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at www.laurelsnyder.com.



Nine on an island, orphans all,
Any more, the sky might fall.
On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.
Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?
Acclaimed author Laurel Snyder returns with a powerful, original, unforgettable story of growing up—the things we fight to hold on to, and the things we struggle to let go.