Author Spotlight: Lydia Lukidis
Welcome to Picture Book Spotlight. The blog likely invading your inbox more frequently than you would prefer. Please don't unsubscribe...it hurts my feelings.
Things are busy around these parts lately. Lots going on in this corner of the internet and even more to celebrate. Another big cheer for Jess Hernandez on finding her literary agent!
So fun to watch everyone lift each other up. Shirley certainly could have taken the critique opportunity, but she wanted to share her good fortune with another. I love it.
Today we have another Author Spotlight with Lydia Lukidis and her new book, No Bears Allowed--definitely snatch yourself a copy for a kid in your life! Lydia is doing a giveaway with her post, so be sure to read to the end for details on how to enter the raffle.
Trigger warning...there are bears in this interview...proceed with caution.
-An uncluttered area
-Time- sounds easy, but this one can get tricky! Between my writing workshops in elementary schools, my work-for-hire projects for educational publishers, and my mom/household duties, life gets hectic. I have to map out my personal writing time each week to make sure it happens.
What’s something you absolutely must have in your refrigerator, or pantry?
Chocolate, though it doesn’t remain there for too long between my daughter and I!
Where do you feel most inspired and why?
I get inspired all the time, in any place, from the grocery store to my writing desk. I find myself literally inspired by almost everything in life. The trick is to keep a pad and pencil handy to jot down the ideas. About 10% of these ideas actually make it into a book, but it’s important to exercise one’s imagination.
I got a degree in Pure and Applied Science when I was younger, but then decided to study English Literature since writing was my first love. Years later, I ended up becoming a puppeteer. I wrote plays for young audiences and built string marionettes. It was great fun! That’s when I realized- I LOVE working with children. I left the world of puppetry behind to focus exclusively on writing. After a few years of hustling, I published my first book in 2013. My background in science comes in handy now, as I write many STEM related topics.
I’m a picture book fan, namely because you can pack so much magic and emotional resonance in so few words. Picture books take very little time to read, yet can really impact someone’s life. When I work in schools with students from K to grade 6, I notice they’re never too young or too old for a good picture book.
How has working in multiple disciplines and genres made you a better writer? What is your favorite thing to write?
I started with short stories and picture books, and I will always love these forms. But now that I’ve been reading more kidlit, I also fell in love with chapter books and middle grade novels. The experience has been and continues to be valuable. It’s critical to understand how to reach and engage different audiences and ages, and to fully understand story arcs as well as character development in these various forms. To be sure, writing a PB or CB or an MG novel is a completely different task, so it’s important to study each one separately.
Studying the craft of writing for children of varying ages has been both fun and informative. Right now, I stop at YA and I don’t write for adults either. I prefer writing for children because of their incredible and boundless imagination. You can get away with wilder ideas and the suspension of disbelief is more pronounced.
I really enjoyed reading No Bears Allowed! I can never get enough of the theme that things aren’t always what they seem--and broken expectations (especially our perception of others) is the stuff of magic. Talk to us about how this book came into being. What is the story behind the story?
Most of the time, my work is character driven. The characters often materialize before the story premise. No Bears Allowed started off as an inside joke, and I jotted down the title. I knew there was something there. A few years later, Bear and Rabbit came to life, and the story of an unlikely friendship began to form. I finally had a book! Then came the endless rounds of editing
Art credit: Tara J. Hannon, Blue Whale Press ©2019
I want to dig into your page turns. This is an area I am growing in. We all know a good picture book has to invite the reader (both adult and child) to WANT to go on to that next page.
Art credit: Tara J. Hannon, Blue Whale Press ©2019
I think your story inherently offers us this experience by offering a question--is Rabbit correct about bears? And ultimately, will Bear eat Rabbit? I identified nine specific moments where you simply HAVE to turn the page in your book. Here’s an example:
Bear examined his claws. “Yes, it’s true. My claws are long...and sharp.” Without another word, Bear climbed the tree. Rabbit gulped (page turn).
What a great moment! We don’t know if Rabbit is going to live or die. Talk about big stakes. I think a lot of authors really struggle with pagination--why do you think that is? Talk to us about your manuscript and how you provided those moments.
Thank-you! Understanding page turns and how to build tension in your story is critical. You want to aim for at least several hooks in your PB, egging the reader on. That element of surprise keeps things fresh. When I first started writing PBs, I never included or even thought about page turns. I also said too much, without allowing enough space for the illustrations to tell part of the story. I recommend story boarding your ideas, then including page spreads. You can make a rough dummy of your book, and I guarantee it will make you see things in a new light. I also recommend paring down your words as much as possible. Be vigilant with each word, cut out what is extraneous, and let the illustrations do some of the explaining.
Another important element is stakes, as you mentioned. The bigger the stakes, the more tension you can create. In my book, Rabbit’s continual fright about his fate kept the story going. Keeping Bear’s intentions ambiguous, at first, was another strategy to keep that tension going and make the reader wonder.
Art credit: Tara J. Hannon, Blue Whale Press ©2019
What sorts of things do you have planned to help celebrate and promote No Bears Allowed?
I’m excited to do my fourth book launch in October, there’s something really special about celebrating and sharing your work in a room full of children. I also organized a large book blog tour, which helps spread the word, and will be reading the book at the schools I visit. Writing and publishing a book takes years, so it’s a joy for writers to finally celebrate it!
Your website has some wonderful resources for kids and adults! I also like how you list and describe the workshops that you offer. What is your favorite workshop to do? Tell us about a memorable moment from one of your visits.
I love working in schools. It’s vital to keep a pulse on what’s going on, and what kids are into. I always note what their favourite books are.
Working with children is also fun and comical. As you can imagine, kids have no filter. Over the years, I’ve heard all kinds of hilarious things, like:
“So how old are you anyway, like a hundred?”
“Yes but, how famous are you?”
“Do you make more money than someone who works at McDonald’s?”
It makes for great comedy!
I also love to connect with and encourage other writers. Over the years, I accumulated some of the best writing blogs, writing groups and Twitter pitch events, which I share on my website. The kidlit community is incredibly generous with their knowledge, and it’s a pleasure to be part of it and give back what I can.
You’ve been kidlit blogging for awhile now. You do a lot! (subscribe to Lydia’s blog) Why is this practice an important component to your author-life? What would you say to an author or artist on the fence about jumping into their own blog?
I didn’t start my blog until last year, and I find it’s a great forum to connect with and share with others. It does take time and effort, so you need to be ready for that. I find it to be a worthwhile endeavour. I also write a monthly newsletter, in which I talk about my new projects, what’s new in the kidlit world, and resources for parents and educators. I also share free stories, games and riddles for children aged 3-12. Writers, parents, librarians and educators are welcome to join, it’s free! You can subscribe here: http://www.lydialukidis.com/
After I parted ways with my second agent (it’s been a long journey), I decided to take a break from querying agents and focus on my works in progress. I’m particularly excited about two nonfiction picture books about some unique animals, and my middle grade novel about Medusa. I plan to dive back into the querying trenches in the fall. Hopefully, the third time will be a charm!
What are some picture books published recently that have inspired you or had you laughing out loud?
I’m a huge Melanie Watt fan. I was laughing like crazy when I read the Chester series. Her Scaredy Squirrel series are also hilarious.
What would you like to promote and who would you like to give a shout out to?
I’d like to give a shout out to my publisher Blue Whale Press. I’m so grateful they saw the magic in No Bears Allowed and helped it become a reality. Alayne Kay Christian and Steve Kemp have been an absolute pleasure to work with. I would also like to give a shout out to Tara J. Hannon, the talented artist who illustrated the book. Her whimsical drawings really brought the book to the next level, and she brought her own ideas to the table.
You can purchase No Bears Allowed here: https://www.amazon.com/No-Bears-Allowed-Lydia-Lukidis/dp/0981493890
they capture the magic and wonder of life, and enrich our experience in so many ways.
Thank you for sharing so much with us, Lydia! Congrats on your new book! : )
And thank YOU for reading and participating, kidlit fam! Lydia would like to give back to the kidlit community with a picture book manuscript critique for one lucky winner. See details below to enter!
Picture Book Manuscript Critique!
TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:
Retweet this post on Twitter
Subscribe to Picture Book Spotlight
Share our Facebook post
Subscribe to Picture Book Spotlight
The deadline for this contest is Friday, August 30th at 9AM CST
The winners will be contacted on Friday, August 30th and announced on Twitter and Facebook
About Lydia Lukidis
Lydia Lukidis is an author and conceptual artist. Her passion for reading and writing began at a very young age when she composed poem after poem in her journals. She later acquired her Bachelor degree in English Literature from McGill University and her love for the written word continued to grow.
Lydia fuses her creativity and skills to educate, inspire and entertain children. Her mandate as an artist is to provoke thought and feeling while having a positive impact on children. She has published over 40 children’s books and eBooks, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as over a dozen educational books with publishers such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Kane Press (a division of Lerner). She also composes lesson plans, activities and curriculum based texts for children.
Lydia’s background is multi-disciplinary and spans the fields of literature, science and puppetry. She has co-written and co-produced five plays for Panadream Theater, a company she co-founded in 2007. These plays for young audiences were told through the eyes of string marionettes. Her award winning play Yorgo & the World was selected to be part of the prestigious 2012 World Puppetry Festival in China. Her plays were presented at many international festivals and she collaborated with companies like Cirque du Soleil for several special events.
Lydia also does school visits and gives writing workshops for children aged 5-12. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence while improving their literacy. She is currently part of the Culture in the Schools Program organized by the Ministre de Culture et Communications Québec. These workshops are subsidized by the Quebec Government.
In addition to her work with children, Lydia is a freelance journalist for magazines and websites, and primarily focuses on such topics as education, parenting, and wellness. She also does conceptual work for creative companies such as Moment Factory, where her latest project was to collaborate on a family show for Royal Caribbean International.
By day, Brian battles illiteracy by teaching high school students how to talk real good English and how to read and write and stuff. He also librarians. Yes, he did just use librarian as a verb. By night, he sleeps. He wakes up. He does it again. Then he sleeps again. Then he teaches some more. Then sleeps. Occasionally he writes picture books. Occasionally he follows his dreams. Occasionally he spontaneously combusts. When this happens, he slowly emerges from the ashes and rises anew. It's usually messy. His wife does not appreciate the charing and the frequent trips to the store to replace their many burned homegoods. Regardless, he's still good natured and can't really control when it happens. If you would like to win yourself a picture book manuscript critique by Lydia and want tip the scales in your direction just a tad more, include a fire emoji in your retweet of this here post. Here's another amusing anecdote. Once someone asked Brian if he smokes. He replied, "only when I'm on fire."