Local Children’s Author Elizabeth Verdick Shares Her Writing Journey

Elizabeth Verdick and her small friend Ari Pitterle read Small Walt together at Verdick's Woodbury home.

Growing up, Woodbury resident Elizabeth Verdick always loved words and being around books. For the past 21 years, she's been able to make that passion her full–time job as an author of both nonfiction and fiction books for children and teens.

Fresh out of college and wanting to stay in Minnesota, Verdick found a job working at Red Balloon Book Shop in St. Paul. “I loved working around the children’s books,” Verdick says. “At the time, I wanted to get into publishing so it seemed like a good place to start.” Next, she found a job that got her even closer to the action as an editorial assistant for a publisher. “I enjoyed editing and working with authors, and I wanted to be an author too,” Verdick says.

Her first book, now out of print, was Making Every Day Count, a daily meditations book for teenagers. Eventually, Verdick was inspired by her own young children to write for toddlers. “I was a new mom, so it was a good time for me to start writing for a younger audience,” Verdick says.

Her process for turning an idea into a published book varies depending on the genre. For her fiction picture books, one theme in particular is likely to pop up in any book she writes. “I like to explore the theme of the unsung hero. I often find myself returning to that theme because I relate to it,” Verdick says. “Children relate to feeling small, feeling different or feeling hesitant. Peep Leap is about a duckling in a tree who is scared to follow his brothers and sisters to the pond below. [In] Small Walt, a little plow is trying to prove himself to the big plows in a snow storm—we all have to take that leap or face that storm.

“Sometimes, all I have to do is look out my window and I am inspired,”  Verdick adds. "I am inspired by nature and the weather.” One way Verdick gets ideas for her books is by going to the library and reading her books to children. “There is something about being in a room full of kids that I find really inspiring. Kids are engaged, they are funny, and they are full of wonder. It makes me want to go back to my desk and write.”

As for her nonfiction books, Verdick is able to take an extremely personal approach to getting her ideas. “When I am thinking of new ideas that are nonfiction, I think back as a parent and what my own kids have experienced,” Verdick says. One of her most popular from her Best Behavior series is Teeth Are Not for Biting, which is now 15 years old. The popular series includes other similar concepts for toddlers, like being gentle with animals (Tails Are Not for Pulling) and ourselves (Noses Are Not for Picking). “The fun of writing is that you don’t know what is going to come out. You sit down in front of that blank screen on the computer, and it’s daunting. It’s also very exciting at the same time,” Verdick says.

Verdick published her newest picture book, Small Walt, in 2017, with a follow-up, Small Walt and Mow the Tow, coming this fall. The books share the story of Walt, a determined little snow plow who must face a big, bad blizzard and other adventures.