Livingston-raised Children’s Book Author in Love with her Craft

By Alexander Rivero, Staff Writer

Trained actress, piano instructor, and teacher Lorie Spohn–author of a collection of charming, self-illustrated children’s books–has bounced around the area quite a bit over the past 50 years. Having spent the first 30 years of her life in Livingston, she then moved to Morristown, then Randolph, then Allentown, PA, and has resided in Bethlehem, PA for the better part of the past 16 years. Throughout this time, her proverbial path of self-discovery apexed in illustration writing, two things she beautifully fused into the single art form of the children’s book. 


To scroll through her list of books is to recall our own days of spending a quiet summer afternoon putting our imaginations to paper. Her books are filled with colorful renderings of an imagination in constant flight–surfing dogs, walruses in party hats, lemurs in spectacles. And, though her list of topics and characters is diverse, there are themes that unify both her work, as well as her overall approach to it. 


“For me it’s all about the humor. I like to have a lot of humor in my books, both for my own enjoyment and because I know it works in getting others to enjoy my books,” she says. “There are many lessons I picked up during my 12 years as a substitute teacher, but I think the most important one out of all of them is the fact that humor is about as vital a part of getting the undivided attention of children as anything else.” 


Spohn began writing her books about a decade ago, when she decided to try her hand at something she loved doing for its own sake–illustrating and writing. Her time as a teacher helped tremendously in her reaching this conclusion, as she always enjoyed working with children, and especially appreciated the way in which doing so allowed her to nourish her own inner child and imagination. 


“I keep many of the kids I’ve taught over the years in mind when I work,” she says, responding to whether she has an “ideal reader” in mind when she begins and pushes forth on a new project. “I also think about my great nephew and great niece, Jordan and Sienna. Jordan’s four and Sienna’s three.”


Years ago, Spohn trained as an actress in West Virginia, but took to drawing and artwork as a way of continuing the impulse to create that had led her to acting school in the first place. 


“The desire to act morphed into the need to draw,” she says. 


Talking craft, Spohn admits that her illustrations take about five times as long a time to complete as the written portions of her book. And the quantity of the illustrations depend largely on the target audience of the book she happens to be working on at any given moment. 


“Generally speaking, the younger they are, the more important the pictures are,” she notes. 


Animals factor into much of Spohn’s artwork, both a personal preference and a market-savvy one. 


“I’ve always loved animals. All stories have animal characters in them. Children respond very well to animals, and many adults do too,” she says. Spohn had many exotic pets growing up, from a Mexican yellow-headed parrot to a pet caiman alligator, and she says having these animals in her daily life contributed a profound sense of magic to her years growing up.


Spohn uses watercolor pencils in her illustrations, which requires her first to pencil sketch whatever it is she is putting to paper. If the result is neat enough, she follows the sketch by scanning the result under a piece of watercolor paper, since she cannot use watercolors on sketch paper. She then proceeds to use watercolor pencils, which to the naked eye look just like regular pencils, and colors in the sections of the picture.


“Depending on how I’m feeling that day, I may do the whole thing in a single sitting, or I’ll divide it up into several,” she says. She concludes by running a damp brush over the portions where she colored with the pencils, and voila. 


Considering which of her books she looks to with most pride, she answers that her Jeffrey’s Adventures series takes the cake.


“I really liked that whole series in general, but specifically the one where he goes down the shore,” she says, referring to Jeffrey’s Amazing Adventures: A Shore Vacation. “I really liked the pictures in that one very much.” 


The Jeffrey’s Adventure series are geared more towards a 7-10 age reading group, where Spohn’s previous work is more geared towards a 4-6 aged reading group.


Some of Spohn’s other titles are: Jeffrey’s Amazing Adventures: A Dude Ranch Vacation; A Wacky and Wonderful Walrus School Play; How Letty Lemur Learned to Love Her Glasses; and Jordan’s Joyous and Jolly Walrus School Play, all of which are available on Amazon and Lulu. 


Spohn says she is currently working on the illustrations for another book, and that this one will be set in beautiful Hawaii. 


“My characters have always been pretty lucky.” 

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