I'm very happy to welcome Lydia Lukidis to my blog today! Thanks for participating in this interview, Lydia. For those of you who don't know Lydia, she has several books published – mainly as work-for-hire projects – and recently her first “all ...
I’m very happy to welcome Lydia Lukidis to my blog today! Thanks for participating in this interview, Lydia.
For those of you who don’t know Lydia, she has several books published – mainly as work-for-hire projects – and recently her first “all hers” picture book came out. We’re celebrating that book today! NO BEARS ALLOWED by Lydia, with illustrations by Tara J. Hannon, published by Blue Whale Press, is the story of a rabbit who is afraid of pretty much everything, but especially BEARS. Then, horror of horrors, a bear comes into his life. Is Bear really someone to be terrified of?
Now on to
BETH: Lydia, I know you’ve done several interviews already, and there are links to those below that I will urge my readers to check out, so I’ll try to ask new and fresh things. I’ll try, anyway! What was it about this rabbit and bear that made you take the leap of faith to strike out into new waters after doing so many work-for-hire projects?
it was the other way around. My first trade picture book came out in 2014, and
the second, in 2016. For these projects, I wrote narratives about a character
created by the publishing house. After those experiences, I was inspired to
write my own stories and wrote a slew of books. I learned about the industry
and set out to publish them. I spent a few years with the wrong agents (two in
total) and accumulated dozens of rejection letters for each book. At the time,
making a living off my books wasn’t viable, so I also gave writing workshops in
elementary schools and I turned to work-for-hire as a way to supplement my
income. I have come to love both these aspects of my job and still do them
today, in addition to working on my own books.
BETH: Ah. Thank you for the clarification. Can you give us a quick recap of NO BEARS ALLOWED (without revealing too much!) and tell us what your favorite part is, and why?
LYDIA: NO BEARS ALLOWED, like a lot of my work, is character driven. It’s all about Rabbit, who’s afraid of everything, including his own shadow. His biggest fear is, lo and behold, bears. And wouldn’t you know it, one day on his way to fetch carrots for his daily stew, he comes face to face with a …bear! The themes of confronting ones fears and not judging others permeate the story.
BETH: This definitely sounds like my kind of book! What sort of adjustments, if any, have you had to make to your thought processes and your book-launch processes for this book?
LYDIA: Every book and subsequent launch is a different entity, so I treat them all individually. The audience for this book is 3-6 years old, ideally, so I’ll tailor my book launch to suit them, and offer some carrot cupcakes, a free puppet making workshop and other fun elements.
BETH: Yum. Carrot cupcakes! I know you’re Canadian, as am I (waves across the miles). Has that made a difference in your process and progress as a writer?
LYDIA: Not really, though you would think it would. I don’t think most agents or publishers mind where you’re from, so long as they love your work.
BETH: That’s good news! The subject of fears and overcoming them, which is paramount in your book, is a subject that is dear to my heart. What do you hope kids will take away from your book in terms of their fears?
LYDIA: The takeaway is to learn to step out of your comfort zone. If you never try, you’ll never know who you really are or what you’re capable of. I hope this book encourages, even in a small way, children to look at their fears critically and learn to somehow overcome them. At the end of my book, Rabbit realizes that bears aren’t so bad, after all. Children may also feel like way about their own fears that have been built up in their minds.
BETH: Great message. That’s one that adults could use these days, too! This segues into the other takeaways you hope for your book, and the needs you see in our society that we as writers can help to address. I know having empathy for others is important to you. Can you talk about that? How do you weave that into your stories without being didactic or message-driven?
LYDIA: I wanted the book to cultivate empathy, since this is such a critical skill to have, especially today. It’s really about learning to see things from another person’s point of view. As Rabbit lets down his walls and allows Bear into his world, they slowly develop an unlikely friendship. Rabbit learns to become empathetic towards what he previously saw as a scary enemy. The end result is him learning to not judge others and make assumptions about them. These are lessons we could all benefit from.
not being didactic, this was a work in progress! My earlier works have been
ridiculously didactic and message-fueled, and I learned through those mistakes.
I came to realize that children are intelligent, and don’t need messages banged
over their heads, so to speak. They much prefer an enchanting narrative, and
you can weave your themes throughout that narrative.
BETH: Great point, that kids don’t need messages banged over their heads. It’s important for those of us who are writers to remember that. Books are important tools, but not in that way. That leads me to wonder what are some of the key roles of books for kids in our society, in your view? How do you hope NO BEARS ALLOWED fulfils those roles? How would you encourage other writers to work with those roles in their own books?
LYDIA: I think books are critical for many reasons. Here are a just few of them:
ignite one’s imagination
us understand ourselves, as well as each other
us find our place in this world
I hope NO BEARS ALLOWED fulfills these roles, it was certainly my intention. I think the best advice is to focus on your audience, and really understand them. What would they like to hear? And what do they need to hear about? If you keep everything child-centric, it will flow organically.
BETH: That is a perfect mini-course in what is important in writing for kids, right there. Thank you. Is there anything you’d like to add?
LYDIA: Being a writer is a wonderful journey, but it’s filled with ups and downs. I’m grateful to have found a way to build a career on telling stories and reaching children. I’m especially grateful to Steve Kemp and Alayne Christian from Blue Whale Press for seeing the magic in NO BEARS ALLOWED, and to Tara J. Hannon for agreeing to illustrate it.
BETH: And we’re grateful to Steve, Alayne, Tara, and YOU for making this book come into being. Thank you again, Lydia, for being with us today, and for your thoughtful, insightful answers.
Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with a multi-disciplinary background that spans the fields of literature, science and theater. So far, she has over 40 books and eBooks published, as well as a dozen educational books. Her latest STEM books include The Broken Bees’ Nest and The Space Rock Mystery.
My dear online friend, Ashley Franklin, recently launched her debut picture book, NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE, illustrated by Ebony Glenn, and it’s now available, delighting and empowering young readers everywhere. Here’s a link to the publisher’s website.
I’m grateful to have been watching the preparations for this launch, and to have been retweeting my fingers off as she did interview after interview during the launch period.
Beth: Thanks, Ashley, for giving me the opportunity to do this after-launch interview. Your delightful book character, Tameika, is now out in the world. Congratulations! What was the whole launch process like for you?
Ashley: Thanks, Beth! I was extremely nervous about the launch, so I planned it strategically to build up my comfort level. My absolute first event was at a preschool where my sister is one of the teachers.
I’ve also had two Barnes & Noble events
that were quite special to me. The first was in Maryland, where I grew up. It
was an awesome feeling being with family and friends. It was also special to me
because my grandma (Mom-Mom, as I call her) was able to attend. I dedicated the
book to her, so that definitely pulled on the heart strings.
The second Barnes & Noble event was
special because I got a chance to do a joint reading with Wendy Greenley,
author of Lola Shapes the Sky. We are in the same debut group and met online.
It’s great when you can connect with your Internet friends in person.
I have a couple of events left still, and I
think I’m most glad that I’ve been able to meet readers face-to-face. I like
hearing their takeaways and being able to give them little things like stickers
Oh, and I can’t forget about the amazing
feedback we’ve been getting via social media! I’ve had a blast doing interviews
and podcasts. It’s been so touching seeing parents post pictures of their
children with the book. It’s a phenomenal feeling when you finally get to see
your book in the hands of the kids you’re writing for.
Beth: I wanted to underline the last two lines of the last paragraph there. I can imagine it’s a phenomenal feeling indeed. And those events sound fabulous! I’d love to be able to be at one. Since that’s not possible, my readers and I will imagine you’re showing us your book in person. Could we get a glimpse of one of your favorite spreads in NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE?
Ashley: Sure! This is my favorite spread because it highlights Tameika’s closeness with her parents—and not just her mom, but her dad as well. I really love how the supportive family comes across. It’s just a really tender moment when Tameika is getting the reassurance that she needs, and I think that Ebony did a wonderful job of capturing it.
Beth: Lovely. Perfect melding of text and illustration. Thank you. After hearing what fun you’ve been having in your launch events, what are your thoughts now as the launch-dust settles and you get into your new normal as a published author?
Ashley: I’m still trying to figure that out. I’m currently out on submission, but I also find myself letting the feedback from Not Quite Snow White resonate while I continue to write new stories. The writing journey is continuous, so my new normal isn’t much different from my old normal. I’m going to keep trying to write the best stories that I can.
Beth: Good point. Just keep writing. I spent some time on your website, and particularly loved what you said about why you write: “I write because I want to help more kids see the magic within themselves.” Could you say more about that, where that comes from, and where you hope to go with it?
Ashley: Kids are just filled with hope, potential, and imagination. To me, that’s a magical foundation. It’s something that we adults have been blessed with the task of nurturing—whether that be as parents, educators, family, etc.
I hope to write stories that truly resonate
with children that can help them to see that they can shine brilliantly
regardless of their situation. Particularly for children who may not come from
ideal situations, they especially need to trust and believe in themselves. They
need to know that there’s something special inside of them, something magical
if you will, that gives them the ability to succeed.
Beth: Oh, how I love that. That’s so important. Now, you’re probably asked this next question every time you turn around, but — I know you have two active kids. How do you find time to write while raising them to be the delightful kids I know they are? What have their thoughts been in this whirlwind book-launch time?
Ashley: My kids are having the time of their lives with their grandmother while I’m doing these launch activities. They are the first to get pictures after an event, and we FaceTime so we can talk all about it. They’re my beta readers, so they’ve been supportive for the longest.
Their constant support is what gives me the
time to write. We will sit around the kitchen table, and my 5yo colors or
practices his letters while my 7yo draws and I write. Other times it’s about
making the most of each moment—writing while making dinner, writing while my
7yo is at taekwondo, or writing after they’ve both gone to bed.
Beth: I love the mental image those words give, of all of you engaged in creative activities at once. Circling back to thoughts about the launch, do you have any advice for other writers who are looking forward to and planning for their debut releases?
Ashley: Do what makes you comfortable, and surround yourself with loved ones. You only get one first book, so enjoy it.
Also, if you’re going to do swag, take
advantage of sales! Picture books can take two years to come out. That leaves
you with plenty of time to plan for and purchase swag.
Beth: Excellent advice. “You only get one first book, so enjoy it.” YES! Besides delighting that Tameika is now out in the world, and helping her make her way in that world, what is next for you, in terms of your writing?
Ashley: I’m still working on picture books, but I’m also dabbling with middle grade. I like challenging myself with writing different things, and I have my sights set on reaching a slightly older audience in addition to the picture book audience.
Beth: Super! You’ve got a lot to give, and I’m very happy to hear you’re working toward reaching out to older kids as well. Before we leave your launch experience, can you give us some links to previous interviews? I know there were some fabulous ones.
The Children’s Book Podcast w/ Matthew Winner: linked here.
Justin Colón Books:
Beth: Thanks so much, Ashley, for being on my blog today, and for being such a lovely part of my community of writing friends. I wish you and Tameika all the best!
Ashley: Thanks for having me, Beth!
Ashley Franklin is an African-American Muslim
writer, mother, and adjunct college professor.
Her debut picture book, NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE
(published 7/9/19), is a tender story of an African-American girl who must
dispel doubts about her ability to play a traditionally non-minority
princess—Princess Snow White.
Ashley currently resides in Arkansas with her
husband and two sons. Their favorite pastime is “park-hopping” and exploring
the many nature trails in their area.
Yes, it’s time once again for one of Susanna Hill’s Pretty Much World Famous and Totally Amazing writing contests — THE VALENTINY CONTEST! The rules are simple. Write a Valentine story for kids, no more than 214 words (2/14. Duh.) in which someone feels guilty. And so, without further ado (or adon’t) I present my entry.
AND be single, double, TRIPLE sure to pop by Susanna’s blog and read all the other wonderful entries! Here’s the link (there are more being posted all the time, so you’ll want to go back again and again!)
Single… Double… TRIPLE GUILTY!
Valentine’s Day tomorrow! Tony could hardly wait. Ms. Flinker was throwing an old-fashioned Valentine’s party with balloons and cupcakes, and a Valentine’s Box for each of them, so all the kids in the class could put in cards.
Tony dumped out his box of SuperZoomer Valentines. Uh-oh. 20 cards per box. 21 kids in his class.
He giggled. He wouldn’t give nasty Lisa one. She said he was too little for Kindergarten. She called him Tiny, even when he yelled MY NAME IS TONY!
On Valentine’s Day, a SuperZoomer Valentine superzoomed into nearly all the Valentine Boxes lined up along the front table. Nobody noticed that Tony didn’t put one in Lisa’s box. His stomach did, though. GUILTY, it told him.
They ate their cupcakes. They drank red juice. Then it was time for the Valentines. The first one out of his box was from – LISA! Oh no. His stomach said DOUBLE GUILTY. The Valentine said, “Tony – I’m sorry. Can we be friends?”
TRIPLE GUILTY said his stomach. He ran to the back of the room. Red construction paper. Markers. SuperZoomer fast, he made a Valentine.
“Lisa, my card for you wouldn’t fit in the box.”
She looked. “To my new friend. Happy VALENTINY Day!”
I’ve just started reading this, and had to come to my blog to urge you to find it and read it too.
From the blurb on the back cover, “Meet 10 remarkable women you’ve probably never heard of. They battled bears and cougars, traversed mountains and extreme terrain, endured hardship during wartime and challenged ideas of what was appropriate for women in their time.”
From the acknowledgements, I can tell that Lisa researched this book thoroughly and vigorously. From what I’ve read thus far, I can also tell that she knows how to take rigorous research and make the person come to life on the page.
This is another book that I’m just setting down long enough to post about it, then going right back to reading. It is moving and real.
I was immediately drawn to G-baby (Georgie), the main character, who is trying so hard to get used to being part of a “blended-up” family. She’s torn between a little sister, Peaches, who needs more reassurance than G-baby can give and an older step-sister, Tangie, who can’t stand her. G-baby is desperate to get Tangie to like her. Then Peaches becomes seriously ill.
And that’s the point where I set down the book long enough to post this and urge you to read it, too. Here are a couple of links to tell you more about the book, which was just published in November 2018.