I'm excited to welcome Lydia to ReFoReMo! Her newest release, NO BEARS ALLOWED, is powerful story of fear growing into friendship.
Hi Lydia! Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?
When I started writing for children years ago, I didn’t study the art of writing at all. I just wrote. I was always an avid reader and have been writing since I was 6 years old, but I still didn’t know much about my own craft. In retrospect, I don’t recommend this strategy! It wasn’t until years later that I read Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul and my mind was blown. I started to become more conscious of the writing process and of the many literary devices.
Then I started following the ReFoReMo blog. My mind was blown again! The blog helped me understand the importance of reading and studying mentor texts. To become a strong writer, you need to not only write, but you need to research. The object is to understand key concepts like characters, development, story arcs, and tension. It’s one thing to read about these concepts, but it’s much more helpful to read a book that uses these writing devices effectively in the story. I buy a ton of books, borrow them from my library, and read them in classrooms on my breaks when I give writing workshops. This has shaped my practice.
Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of NO BEARS ALLOWED?
Yes! In particular, I was moved by the book Fox and Squirrel by Ruth Ohi. This was followed up by Fox and Squirrel Help Out and Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend. Fox and Squirrel have many differences (Squirrel is small and Fox is big; Squirrel lives in a nest and Fox in a burrow etc…) but as their friendship grows, they realize their differences are a good thing, and that they also have other things in common. I love this series because I wanted to write a sweet story about friendship, and they provided so much inspiration. I’m a big fan of Ruth Ohi. What I admire most about her is her ability to pare down language and still create an emotional resonance. I’m trying to learn this art myself, because I’m often too wordy. One of the keys is to always keep the young audience in mind.
How has reading Picture Books helped you discover who you are as a writer?
Reading mentor picture books has helped me understand all the key concepts a writer must know. The more you read, the better writer you become, it’s that simple. I think it’s important to study and be familiar with the classics, but it’s also important to keep a pulse on what’s happening with more contemporary books.
I admire my colleagues and look up to many of them. Here’s a short list of my favorite mentor picture books:
Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Love by Matt de la Peña
The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds & The Life of H. Tracy Hall by Hannah Holt
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs by Melissa Stewart
Chester (the whole series) by Melanie Watt
What do you feel is the BEST way to for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?
READ as many books as you can. Buy them, borrow them, read them at schools, visit libraries- whatever it takes. I try to keep organized and create folders on my computer with different kinds of pictures books (from fractured fairy tales to straight nonfiction) to keep track of them. Not everyone will respond to things in the same way, so when something moves me, I keep notes of that. I’ve compiled a lot of notes throughout the years! They provide sparks that light up my inspiration.
I also recommend following blogs like ReFoReMo, Kidlit 411, Sub it, and for the nonfiction fans, Celebrate Science by Melissa Stewart and The Nonfiction Detectives are excellent. Find some critique partners, discuss kidlit, and get involved in online forums. Writing can be a solitary endeavour but there’s a really generous writing community that surrounds it. I’m still reading, studying, and learning, and will be for the rest of my days!
Thank you, Lydia! I'm excited to read more of your work in the future!
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 including her STEM books The Broken Bees’ Nest and The Space Rock Mystery. Her latest picture book, No Bears Allowed, was released by Blue Whale Press in July.
Lydia is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy. She regularly gives writing workshops in elementary schools across Quebec through the Culture in the Schools Program. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence.
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For more information on the publisher, please visit www.bluewhalepress.com