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Laura Moss White: “What is determination.”

I believe the one habit that contributed the most to me becoming a writer was determination. Determination, according to one dictionary, is ‘…to have firmness of purpose’. Working in the field of special education, for example, one of the greatest things that students with special needs can have is self-determination, which is the process by […]

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I believe the one habit that contributed the most to me becoming a writer was determination. Determination, according to one dictionary, is ‘…to have firmness of purpose’. Working in the field of special education, for example, one of the greatest things that students with special needs can have is self-determination, which is the process by which a person controls their own life. It is very empowering to pave your own way and know that you did it.


As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Moss White.

Laura Moss White has been an educator for over twenty-five years with fifteen of those years being spent as a substitute teacher. Subs, Laura explains, are often overworked, unsupported and underappreciated. Laura decided to use cartoon characters to tell her stories, giving her book a fun, easy-to-read and relatable quality. Anyone who tortured a substitute when they were in school, which means just about everyone, will relate to Laura’s book.

Her day-to-day real-life experiences create captivating and humorous snapshots or ‘snips’ into the world in which all who sub, used to sub, or want to sub can relate. As Laura says:” Hooray for substitute teachers everywhere who keep the classrooms running when the regular teachers are absent. Subs are brave and creative!”


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

Ilove working with children and helping others. I have been teaching for over 25 years. Now I teach Adapted Physical Education to students preschool and up. I started out substitute teaching when my children were ready to go to school. Subbing is a great parent job; you are off when your children are off, like weekends, holidays, and summer-time. I ended up subbing for a total of 15 years. There were 60 subbing experiences that stood out to me that I wanted to share with others in a cartoon book titled, “Mrs. White’s Sub Snips”.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

A main theme that was very interesting as a sub teacher that occurred to me often was social class snobbery towards subs. Teachers and administrators do not consider subs to be ‘real teachers’ and will often treat subs poorly. A surprising experience that I had was when I would go into a school’s lunchroom to eat my lunch and sit down, and the teachers at the table would tell me that, “The chair is taken and that this is the teacher’s table”. This shows a social class division. Another experience that is shocking, is when I was at an elementary school that was having a staff luncheon, and the principal told me that, “Subs are not allowed to eat the food, but you can have the scraps when we’re done.” Probably, the most shocking experience was when I went into the lunchroom to get my sack lunch out of the fridge, and I noticed that my fork and spoon were missing. I saw one of the women teachers, who was sitting in a group, using my fork and spoon. I said to her, “Hey, that’s mine!” and she said, without blinking an eye with an attitude, “Yeah, you can have them back when I’m done.” Substitutes are not treated as equals; they deserve respect.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author?

The biggest challenge that I faced in my journey to becoming an author was finding a cartoon illustrator to bring my experiences to life.

How did you overcome it?

I overcame it by not giving up. I continually had this dream to get my ideas drawn up and to share them with others. After ten years of asking many people and trying different avenues, including taking a cartoon drawing class at the city college and even asking the instructor if he would do them with no avail, last summer I went on Upwork and hired a professional freelance cartoon illustrator, Caitlin Skaalrud, to do my cartoons. She was excellent.

Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

I would like to share that aspiring writers should never give up and believe in what they want to say and share with others. That others will enjoy, and get something beneficial from what it is aspiring authors want to say and to believe in themselves. For example, I present at national adapted physical education conferences on inclusion activities, and I am always amazed at the amount of people who come to see and listen to my presentations, take notes, and ask me questions.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake that I made starting as a sub teacher is when I dressed-up for Halloween as a Go-Go Dancer to a new class in a privileged school. The students and the school’s staff did not share my enthusiasm for this holiday or my choice of costume. I had on hot pink boots, a hot pink skirt, a white blouse, and a hot pink hat. I stood out like a sore thumb. I was embarrassed. The lesson that I learned from this was to dress-up for Halloween only at schools that I was familiar with and knew the school’s holiday policies and procedures.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

One of the most interesting projects that I am working on right now is a second book. It is completely different. I am working on a manuscript of poetic truths titled, “Spiritually in Origin”. Another interesting project is completing a master’s degree in adapted physical education from Western Michigan University.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

There are misconceptions of substitute teachers including unfortunate second-rate citizen stigmas of being financially struggling and being the walking wounded. Story examples include, when I was walking to my car after a long day’s work, and a male teacher from the school saw me and said, “I thought subs only drive old cars. How can you afford that?” Another time, I was at a show with my husband wearing a very nice coat, and a male teacher with his wife saw me and asked me how I could afford the coat I was wearing? At an elementary school, I overheard the principal telling her secretary that “…most subs are the walking wounded”. Another time, a principal told me to my face that “I was just a sub, and that I must be a sub for a reason, and that I must have a problem in getting a full-time job”.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

The main empowering lesson that I want my readers to take away after finishing my book is that sub teachers are brave, hardworking, and underappreciated men and women who keep the schools’ classrooms running when teachers are absent. I wanted to pay tribute to them. For example, one time I had been called in late to sub at a middle school and I was walking down the hallway to get to my classroom, when I saw and heard a young sub sobbing her eyes out running toward the main office. As I passed an open-doored classroom, I saw and heard the students laughing out hysterically and one of the students said, “We got that one…” This is what subs face every day. Another situation is when I was called in to cover a high school teacher and the students were acting out by pulling the phone out of the wall, drawing phallic symbols on the walls, standing on their desks, and throwing things across the room. I called security, who asked me, “Is this a life or death situation?” I responded, “It could be” and that I needed him. He didn’t want to come, and it took him twenty minutes to get there and finally escorted some of the students to the office. Again subs are brave. Probably, a worse experience that I had was when I had been called into sub at a year-round school during the hot summer for a second grade class. I was wearing a white skirt. In the morning, the lesson plans’ instructions were to have the class paint watercolor color-wheels all day long. During the day, paint got everywhere: on their clothes, the floor, the walls, their desks, and all over the bathrooms. At the end of the day, with one of the students waiting for her mother, we were scrubbing the floor on our knees. The principal came in on a rage and demanded that I clean all the paint up and just laid into me that I was a terrible sub. Later, I found out that I had been written up and had to go downtown to the Human Resources Director to defend myself. She later admitted that it was not a proper lesson to leave a sub, but I was blackballed from the school and told never to come back. This story is a good example of how subs are unsupported. Substitutes are not sub-human!

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.

To become a great author, there are 5 things you need to know. One is to write from experience, like for me writing from real-life subbing experiences. The second one is to be passionate about what it is you want to share, like for me I felt strongly about my experiences and wanting to turn them into cartoons. The third thing is to find a comfortable way to convey your ideas. I wanted to share my ideas as cartoons, because they are fun, easy-to-read, and relatable. I liked to make unfair or sad situations into funny ones. It turns lemons into lemonade. A fourth thing is to believe in what you want to share with others (to be true to yourself), like me sharing my experiences as a sub. Lastly, the fifth thing is to not give up on your dream, like for me it was to keep pushing forward and keep believing in what I wanted to accomplish.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

I believe the one habit that contributed the most to me becoming a writer was determination. Determination, according to one dictionary, is ‘…to have firmness of purpose’. Working in the field of special education, for example, one of the greatest things that students with special needs can have is self-determination, which is the process by which a person controls their own life. It is very empowering to pave your own way and know that you did it.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I draw inspiration from cartoonists and their clever and intelligent humor. Some of my favorites are ‘Daily Lesson in Humor’ by Johnny Hawkins, ‘Off The Mark” by, Mark Parisi, ‘Family Circle’, ‘Ziggy’, ‘Bizarro’, and ‘Mother Goose and Grimm’.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas can trigger. 🙂

I would start a movement to pay tribute to substitute teachers and have the educational system hold these professionals with more esteem, recognition, and respect.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I have a websitehttp://www.lauramosswhite.org/ that has my social media accounts on it and a contact page.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

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