Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Be Relentless: An Interview with children's book author, Lydia Lukidis
My interview today is with Lydia Lukidis who 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. Read on to discover how she’s been successful.
What drew you to writing children’s books?
I’ve been writing since the age of 6, but I focused mostly on poetry and short stories for many years. After getting a degree in English Literature, I went on a different venture- I became a puppeteer! I made string marionettes and wrote plays for children. That’s when I realized that I *loved* writing for children.
How long did it take you to write your first book?
My first children’s book was published in 2014. It took about 6 months to write. Some books take a few months, while many others take years.
What made you choose a gerbil as your main character point of view?
My first two trade picture books revolved around gerbils. I built narratives for characters that my publisher at the time had created. It was great fun! Children love gerbils and we did live photography to illustrate the book. The photos really brought the book to the next level.
Are you active with any writing critique groups?Yes! I highly recommend getting involved. People in the kidlit community are incredibly generous and it’s a good place to get advice and support. My favorite groups are Kidlit411, Sub it, as well as groups for giving workshops in schools.
I also have my own critique group and we help each other when needed. I met them through SCBWI, which is an essential organization to be part of if you write for children professionally.
How did you go about finding an agent / publisher?
I mostly relied on sending queries directly to agents. That’s how I found my 2 previous agents. A lot of research is required, you need to know who the right match will be and who will best represent your work.
I have also approached editors at publishing houses. There are many that accept unsolicited manuscripts. I’ve attended writing conferences, but not as much as I’d like. But they’re a great place to network with other writers, and often big agents and editors will allow you to query them after the event.
What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Dialog?
I have no shortage of ideas and it’s easy for me to start my stories. My main problem comes with the development of the narrative arc. I also have trouble with endings!
I’m getting more comfortable with the pacing in picture books because I read and write so many. But when it comes to novels, I find pacing is more challenging.
What does your editor remind you to do most often?
I work with different editors, but my top two mistakes would be misplaced commas and telling rather than showing.
What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
It’s always positive when an agent or editor tells you your work is on point. But for me, the ultimate audience is children. A few years back, I got my first “fan letter” from one of my young readers. He took the time to type out a letter on why he loved my book. My heart melted, and I sent him a huge care package to show my appreciation. When children, who can be honest yet sometimes harsh critics, love your work, that’s the moment of greatest satisfaction.
We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past it?
Trust me, I could line my entire house with all the rejection letters I’ve gotten over the years! I’ve learned to not take them personally, but some sting more than others. The ones that sting the most are when I get close, and an agent/editor asked to see more of my work, but then ultimately passes. That’s tough. I usually eat some chocolate, have a good cry, and then right back to it. It’s okay to fall, but you need to be relentless and keep getting back up.
What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing?
When I first started out, I was astounded how LONG everything takes in the publishing industry! It takes several years to publish a book. And, as with most other writers, I get frustrated when I don’t get a reply from a query. A “no” is better than no reply because at least you know where you stand.
I understand the nature of the industry better now- agents and editors are inundated, and simply don’t have the time to reply to everyone, though they’d like to. You just have to roll with it.
What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
Regarding picture books, I wish I had started making dummies earlier, and adding page spreads. Since I started doing that, it made a world of difference in the pacing and tension. Also, READ YOUR STORY OUT LOUD! Sounds so simple, but when I started out, I wasn’t doing it. Reading it out loud helps understands how it flows, and more importantly, when it doesn’t flow as well.
What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
An author I really respect, Laura Purdie Salas, once gave me great advice about having the wisdom to know it’s time to let go of a manuscript. Often, when we spend a lot of time on a project and put in considerable effort, we feel like we need to publish that book. But the truth is, writers don’t publish everything they write. You need to learn from experience and accept when to shelf a certain project.
Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
Just a reminder to write every day. I often get bogged down with answering emails, researching or administrative tasks, and there’s hardly enough time to write. That’s why I make a to-do list each week, to make sure I carve that time out.
What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
I just released a new picture book called NO BEARS ALLOWED illustrated by Tara J. Hannon and published by Blue Whale Press. I’ll be hosting a book launch shortly. Here’s the synopsis:
Rabbit is afraid of many things, but most of all he’s afraid of gigantic, monstery, BEARS! The very nervous Rabbit is soon confronted by his worst fear who appears to be far more interested in making new friends than causing Rabbit any real harm.
Despite his apprehension, Rabbit agrees to join his jovial new acquaintance for dinner, but wait a minute . . . is Bear planning to “have” Rabbit for dinner? In this tender story about a very nervous rabbit and a lovable bear, Rabbit discovers that things aren’t always as scary as they seem, and sometimes you may just have more in common with others than you think.
Sounds like a fun story. Here’s a link to purchase it. https://www.amazon.com/No-Bears-Allowed-Lydia-Lukidis/dp/0981493890/
If you’d like to learn more about her other books, get connected with these links: www.lydialukidis.com