Madison author offers ‘antidote’ to past two years of despair in debut novel | Entertainment


In Madison author Laura Anne Bird’s debut novel ‘Crossing the Pressure Line’, 12-year-old Clare learns to manage her feelings of grief and guilt by swimming, fishing and making friends in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

“Crossing the Pressure Line”, released on March 1, is aimed at intermediate level readers – boys and girls. However, “there’s definitely a message of female power woven through this,” Bird said. She will celebrate and discuss her book at two in-person events next week at the Mystery to Me bookstore.

Q: How would you describe “Crossing the Line of Pressure”?

Laura Anne Bird



A: My book is contemporary literary fiction for intermediate level readers, ages 8-12. Clare Burch is my main character. She is in a place of loss and grief when the story begins, but she goes through these things as the novel progresses. In the end, she found hope and joy again. I think this message is meaningful to all of us at this time. The past two years have been tough on everyone, and we live in a world full of despair. I feel like my book is an antidote to that.

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Q: What is your background? How long have you been writing?

A: I was a college English student and my entire career has been in nonprofit fundraising and communications. I finally made the leap from writing grant proposals to creative writing, which fills my cup. My goal has always been to write a book for children.

Q: How much does “Crossing the Pressure Line” draw from your life? I know you have a blind dachshund, as does Clare’s family. Have you also spent a lot of time in the North?

A: There are so many parallels between Clare’s life and mine. First, my family and I have a strong connection to northern Wisconsin. It is a place where we go several times a year, and we find great peace there. This is also where my husband taught our three children how to fish. Incidentally, my husband and I adopted our children from China and South Korea, which is another part of my life that I incorporated into the book. Clare befriends two children who have been adopted from abroad. It’s important to me, because I want to normalize families like mine, which may seem a little different. And yes, one of my funniest characters is Roger the blind dachshund! It is modeled after my own dog, Lucy. It’s amazing how she moves without her sight. She figured out how to compensate by using her other senses, which are remarkably heightened. Finally, Clare’s connection to the outdoors is exactly like mine. I have a deep love and respect for the natural world. It’s essential for me — for all of us — to get outside, get some fresh air, and use our muscles.

Q: Speaking of using her muscles, Clare is a great swimmer — a sport that plays a huge part in her life. Do you swim too?

A: I’m not a swimmer myself, but all of my kids have been on the swim team at one time or another. I am particularly impressed with one of my daughters, who has stuck with it for many years. She’s not the biggest or the fastest, but she shows up to practice every day and gives 100%. Clare embodies that same dogged determination and spirit. It’s just her, being present in her own body and feeling her own power. I think every teenage girl needs to hear this message. I certainly did at that age. In fact, “Crossing the Pressure Line” would have been the perfect book for me when I was young.

Q: Do you hope adults read this with their college readers?

A: I would love for parents to read the book with their children, as adults can get a lot out of the story too. One of the key themes for me is coping with loss and identifying the lifeboats that have the power to save us in turbulent times. Self-care is everything, and each of us does it differently. Clare, her mother and her grandmother all have their own approach, and I love how they stay true to themselves.

Q: The book opens with a rather terrible scene. Clare relives her grandfather’s death and how she blames herself for not doing enough to save him. Why did you decide to open the book this way?

A: The opening is tough, but I think the loss of Clare mirrors the losses of many children right now – after two years of the pandemic. Clare is unnecessarily hard on herself, but when she leaves her home in Chicago and crosses the “pressure line” to head north, she is finally able to heal. Being in a different headspace helps her accept that it wasn’t her place to save her grandfather in the first place. I wanted Clare to experience meaningful growth and find new purpose, which is what we are all forced to do in life.

Q: The characters in the book talk about this “line of pressure” as they head north. Can you explain this expression?

A: The first time I took a trip to the Northwoods, I was dating my husband. We were driving north on Interstate 39. At the point where 39 intersects State Highway 8, just past Tomahawk, he rolled down all the windows and yelled, “We’re crossing the pressure line!” I had no idea what he was talking about. He explained that it’s a kind of imaginary latitude, and when you cross it, you intentionally leave behind everything you don’t need. I like the idea of ​​crossing from one place to another to get a new perspective.

Q: Do you plan to write more?

A: I fell in love with the characters in my book, so yeah, I plan to write more so I can tell their stories. Right now I’m working on my second script, centered around the character of Jack. Jack plays a small part in “Crossing the Pressure Line”. He is a bit dark and conflicted, which is the opposite of Clare. Unlike many 12-year-old boys who live in the Northwoods, he doesn’t like to hunt or fish, which makes him feel like he doesn’t fit in with his community. Jack’s dad tells him he needs to find a hobby, which is a lot harder than it looks because he doesn’t like being outdoors at all. The hobby he stumbles upon is so much fun to write about and I think a lot of kids will relate to it. Ultimately, I want young readers to see themselves reflected in my pages. I want them to find hope and understand how incredibly resilient and inspiring they are.


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