Author Spotlight: Lizzy Rizzi
Happy Tuesday and welcome to Picture Book Spotlight!
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What a great turnout for Lisa Kalma and her debut of, My Llama Drama. A big digital high five goes to Kael Tudor for winning a picture book manuscript critique by Lisa! If you missed her interview, check it out here in all it's llama glory.
Today is a very special Author Spotlight.
I had the privilege of meeting Lizzy Rizzi several months back when we both randomly joined a Twitter-based critique group initiated by Kailei Pew. Over the months we've shared various manuscripts back and forth, and not long after the group formed we became agent siblings.
What is an agent sibling? Is that a made up thing? No. No, it is not.
Practically speaking, Lizzy has become a trusted friend who I know will always give a kind but razor sharp critique. She is encouraging and always makes time to speak into my stories at whatever stage of development they're in.
As writers the only way we can endure the brutal tundra of emotions, navigate the murky waters of "is this idea even remotely good?", and survive the endless desert of "dear God why is this industry so slow?" is with a buddy.
Lizzy has been my buddy.
Who is your buddy? If you don't know...maybe it's time to figure that out.
I MUST have American coffee. I'm not a creature of habit regarding food, but I can't function without my morning coffee. Italian espresso is great and certainly has it's place, but I need something I can sit and savor.
Name three things you can’t do your job without.
Google Docs, a device (computer, iPad, or phone), and a childless moment. I've got two little ones at home and Docs is my savior! I'm constantly swapping from device to device, and it also allows me to use any (and every) kid-free moment I have to write.
Where do you feel most inspired and why?
Usually I feel most inspired when I'm by myself walking or running. Or right after reading something wonderful. I grew up being read Shel Silverstein poems, so his work always inspires me and can usually get me out of a writing slump.
I'm a teacher by profession and I've always wanted to write, but didn't even consider picture books until I had my daughter. Actually, full-disclosure, my parents kind of put the idea in my head after they saw an episode of HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL about two millionaire children's book writers looking for a mansion in Spain. My parents said, "Why not you?" And I thought "Why NOT me?" Because of course we all know this industry will make us millions. :) Luckily, I really fell in love with the genre. To me, picture books are true works of art - the perfect marriage of words, pictures, AND performance art.
What are some unique challenges you face living in Italy?
My biggest obstacle living abroad is accessing current picture books. I have libraries nearby, but of course the books are in Italian, and the Italian market isn't a mirror-image of the North American market, so even bookstores don't help me much. Instead, I search YouTube, buy a lot of books, and try to binge-read when I'm in the States.
Many writers end up working with multiple agents over the span of their author careers. I think this is something newer writers may not always realize. Perhaps there is a misconception that once you find your agent, they are always going to be your "forever agent." Ultimately, it’s about working to make that relationship work and that it’s okay to make a change if it isn’t. What are some things that are really important to you about a healthy working relationship with an agent? For our friends who may be in a situation that isn’t quite working, when do you know it’s time to consider a change?
When I signed with my first agent, I'll admit that I HOPED she would be my forever-agent. Clearly, it didn't work out that way for me. There were lots of reasons I finally made the decision to part ways with my agent, but for those who might be finding themselves in a similar position, I believe if you've given the relationship some time (years, not months) and you're having nagging doubts or if something about the relationship isn't working for you, it might be time to make a change. It's a scary decision. Maybe one of the scariest I've faced professionally. But ultimately, I'm glad I made the change.
Before I found representation I always thought there was a little shroud of mystery associated with agented authors--what did they do all day? How were their author-lives different after that significant achievement? Was everything the same? What are some misconceptions you think querying authors have about authors who are represented by an agent? How is your author-life different after finding representation?
I think the biggest misconception I had before getting an agent (and for a while after) was that once I had an agent, I'd be selling manuscripts left and right. I'm sure that happens for some lucky writers, however that's not been the case for me. Still, I consider myself very fortunate. I have someone who is championing my work. I've learned a lot about the business even while NOT selling. And I'm hopeful I'll get to share my stories with kids soon.
I think there's just this constant feeling of always being SOOO close. For me, that feeling can be really hard.
What’s something you like about working with Melissa?
I love working with Melissa for so many reasons, but the thing I appreciate most is how she deals with her submissions. She puts every submission and every editorial response in a Google Sheet, and I get alerted immediately of any changes. It's awesome! That way I know exactly where I stand all the time.
What are some books you have on submission that you can tell us about?
I have two very different pieces out right now. One is a humorous picture book about an endearing fashion designer. The other is a lyrical picture book about a special little girl searching for her "place" in the world.
Honestly, I'd be thrilled if either sold! Come and get 'em, editors! But the lyrical picture book holds a really special place in my heart -- I've worked on it for YEARS-- so seeing that one published would be amazing.
How can you encourage writers and illustrators still wading knee-deep in the muck of the seemingly endless query swamp?
Keep going. Keep writing. Querying is hard, but it's all about making the right match. And nos don't mean your writing isn't fantastic. It just means you haven't met your agent-soulmate yet!
What are some picture books published recently that have inspired you or had you laughing out loud?
I love LEAVE ME ALONE by Vera Brosgol because of the way it mixes a traditional, almost folktale story with modern elements.
I also love A BIG MOONCAKE FOR LITTLE STAR because the illustrations are absolutely breathtaking.
What are you currently working on that you can share with us? Any teasers?
Honestly, summer with the kids and a trip home to visit my family has crippled my writing! I'm hoping to get back to it soon.
The world can never have enough stories.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Lizzy! Sending all the positive vibes your way as you wait for that first book deal! Remember our bet...whoever gets picked up first...buys the drinks.
Thank YOU for reading and supporting authors and illustrators at every chapter of their story, kidlit fam! As a thank you for reading this interview, Lizzy has offered to giveaway a query AND picture book manuscript critique. And I speak from personal experience...the winner is SUPER LUCKY because Lizzy's feedback is beyond fabulous. See details below on how you can take your picture book to the next level!