Wednesday, December 10, 2008
FEATURED AUTHOR: Lisa McCourt
Lisa McCourt’s books have sold over four and a half million copies. She likes saying that, especially on blurry Monday mornings at her keyboard when she’s convinced she’ll never have another creative thought in her life. Lisa worked for ten years in children’s publishing as an editor and a book club director before trading in her power suits for flamingo-print jammies to become a real author.
Soon Yummiest Love (Orchard, Jan. ’09) will join her thirty-three books, which include Granny’s Dragon, I Love You, Stinky Face and its four sequels, The Most Thankful Thing, and the Chicken Soup for Little Souls series. Her books have won five awards, appeared on PBS’s Between the Lions, received starred reviews in ALA Booklist and Publishers Weekly, and garnered praise from over 200 other reviewers. A former LMP Award finalist, she has appeared on CNN’s Showbiz Today where I Love You, Stinky Face was featured. None of the above has gotten her a fat head. It has been remarked, in fact, that her head is quite small.
Lisa’s most recent honor was winning the Importance of Books in Translation contest sponsored by SCBWI and Bologna Fiere, which scored her a trip to Bologna, Italy for the International Book Fair. She rode a gondola in Venice but her gondolier couldn’t sing so he whistled for her.
Lisa’s current passions include writing spiritual novels for young adults and presenting her highly-acclaimed creativity-unleashing programs for all ages. She lives in South Florida with her husband, son and daughter. Visit her at http://www.lisamccourt.com/.
Following in the footsteps of the bestselling modern classic, I Love You, Stinky Face, this new title from Lisa McCourt is sure to inspire an endless supply of cuddles and smiles. Share Yummiest Love with your yummy ones to remind them how incredibly special they are!
What would you like readers to take away from your book?
So many parents write me to say that my books help them express love to their kids. I can’t imagine anything better for a reader to take away! So I’d have to say that for Yummiest Love, as with my earlier books, I Love You, Stinky Face, its sequels, Good Night Princess Pruney Toes, and The Most Thankful Thing, my best wish is that it will help children deeply experience the immense unconditional love their parents feel for them.
What is your favorite scene from your book?
I have to admit when I read Yummiest Love at events I still get a little choked up near the end when the parent says, “It seems impossible that I could love you more each day but that is what happens. You keep changing and growing and that will never stop. All I can do is hang on for the ride.” This book has more personal details than my earlier mom-love titles. Most of those details are now cherished memories, but that line about watching them change and grow and me just hanging on for the ride still resonates for me.
Why did you elect to write for children?
I write now for teens but most of my earlier books were for younger children and all my future writing plans are in those two areas. I respect the world of childhood so much. I think of kids as more perfect, natural specimens of humankind than adults – they don’t have all those layers of societal conditioning wrapped around them yet. Kids’ honesty, raw enthusiasm, and the ever-evolving nature of their day-to-day lives make them the perfect audience for the kind of writing I like to do.
What did you learn while writing this book?
I learned that parental love is a limitless source of inspiration for me. And I learned that it’s okay for me to be a little more serious with that subject than I’ve been in the past.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
I think there’s a misconception that writing requires some kind of inborn, DNA-encoded talent, like double-jointedness. I believe everyone can write and it’s the cheapest, most effective form of therapy for anyone with any issue to work out. I’m a die-hard journaling advocate! Instead of buying the world a Coke, I’d like to buy the world a good pen and a pad of recycled paper.
What is the best lesson you have learned from another Children book writer?
There have been so many! My fabulous friend Lauren Myracle taught me that even egregiously bad first drafts can evolve into spectacularly good books. She is a fine lady and that was a fine lesson.
What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?
Transitioning from prolific picture book writer to novelist! It’s not so much that the novels have been hard for me to write. It’s more that I’m having a hard time feeling confident enough to ever let one go. There’s always something that can be improved, a different direction I could try. I look at the published books I’ve been most successful with and think, “What ever gave me the idea I could write a novel?”
What is something readers would be surprised you do?
When the first novel comes out this won’t be such a surprise, but at this point my readers might be surprised to know how spiritual I am and how extensively I’ve studied world religions, philosophy and metaphysics.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
I wish I’d known that writing what is truly in my heart is all I ever need to do. I wish I’d focused sooner on fulfilling myself as an author, instead of focusing on writing lots of books and selling lots of copies. (I’m proud of my combined sales of over four and a half million books – but I’m more proud of the newer material I’m writing, even with its uncertain success.) I wish I’d known that one touching, heartfelt letter from a fan would mean more to me than a starred review in Publishers Weekly.
How do you reach new readers?
I do a lot of school visits and give workshops at conferences and libraries. My programs are all about instilling creative confidence and making the creative process exciting for kids at different grade levels, from Pre-K all the way up through high school and adult. My presentations aren’t focused on my books to the degree that most authors’ are, but I do talk a little about them (especially when there’s a new one) and that’s probably my best venue for reaching new readers. I’ve already been talking up a novel that doesn’t even have a publication date yet!
Can you give us five Children book authors you admire?
I’ve buried myself lately in Young Adult material. There are so many authors I love, but I will single out Angela Johnson, Lauren Myracle, Libba Bray, Shannon Hale, and Tim Wynne-Jones.
If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?
I would first choose Maya Angelou, my very favorite author of all time, just for the chance to bask in her radiant spirit! It would be fun to party with the brilliantly innovative Kurt Vonnegut and saucy William Steig, too. They’d keep dinner lively and interesting for me and Maya.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?
Good writing is extremely personal. Don’t write to try to please an audience, to show off how clever you are, or to fill some niche you’ve identified in the marketplace. You have to completely put yourself on the page, the beautiful and the ugly. If you read what you’ve written and wince self-consciously over what it reveals, it’s probably good writing.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
There’s a button on the home page of my site that says, “chat me up.” My site address is http://www.lisamccourt.com/.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
I thought you’d never ask! My first novel (which is not even with a publisher yet but is all I really want to talk about anyway!) is called Just One Soul. It’s about living your spirit and finding your joy, even through bleak circumstances when your teen world seems to be crumbling all around you. It’s about forgiveness and perspective and self-love and taking ownership of your destiny. It’s by far my favorite thing I’ve written. (Okay, TECHNICALLY, my next two books published will be two Stinky Face readers from Scholastic, but look for the novel after that!)
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