Spotlight’s on…Lisa Moser!
I can’t think of a finer person than Lisa Moser to be highlighted for this, the second monthly “Spotlight’s On…” guest feature on Peace Garden Mama. It has been a privilege watching Lisa’s career as an author blossom over the past years, and I am deeply grateful for the insight she shares here.
Lisa Moser first descended upon the scene of children’s books in 2006 with her award-winning The Monster in the Backpack. Since then, she has consistently produced a book each year, much to the delight of children everywhere. Lisa has spoken of her recently released Kisses on the Wind as “the one;” meaning, if she could write just one book, this would be it. (I can’t wait to hear why that is!)
Readers, I present to you Lisa Moser!
Lisa, you and I met in the summer of 2002 at the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. Back then, we were both aspiring children’s authors with stories in our hearts and sparkles of hope in our eyes. Can you briefly share what events took place from the time of that conference to when you received “the call?”
The Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop was a real turning point in my career. That summer, I found myself really questioning whether I could make it as a children’s author. My confidence was seriously shaken. I’d been writing, taking classes, submitting manuscripts, and receiving rejections for seven years. Writing had become something I dreaded, instead of something I loved, and I hadn’t submitted anything for an entire year. I finally voiced that terrible fear of not being good enough to my husband. I told him I thought I was going to quit. And that wonderful, loving, dear, kind man went out and bought me a laptop and brought it home. Then he took the brochure for the Highlights Workshop off my bedside table and said, “You’re going to this conference. You can do this.” Marty has always been an incredible blessing to me, and I owe him so much!
When I went to the Highlights Workshop, I was stunned because everyone, and I mean everyone, was treated like a writer. It didn’t matter that you hadn’t published a book. It didn’t matter that you were just starting out. The Highlights staff, editors, speakers, and fellow conference attendees treated you like a writer.
It’s funny how much people believing in you matters. At Chautauqua, I found my joy again. I didn’t worry about getting published. I wrote because I wanted to tell a story.
When I got home, I pulled out a story that I’d been working on for seven years, The Monster in the Backpack. I’d never been able to find a satisfying ending to that story. But one night, I just started from scratch. I didn’t look at what I’d previously written. I simply started on it from a totally fresh perspective, and the story absolutely spilled out of me. Three months later, Candlewick Press bought the story, and I had a book under contract. What an incredible journey in three months’ time- from almost quitting to selling my first book.
How has your life changed since then? Have there been some surprising aspects of becoming a children’s author that you hadn’t anticipated back in the summer of 2002?
I think the biggest change is that I take myself and my writing more seriously. I carve out hours during the day to write. It’s my job, now – my wonderful, joyful, sometimes arduous job! And I love it!
What is it about the world of children’s writing that draws you there?
When I walk into a bookstore or a library, I feel this vibration in my soul. It’s as if it’s saying to me, “This is what you were meant to do. This is your gift.” The good Lord gives us all incredible gifts and blessings, and I believe I was meant to write children’s books.
I have always loved books. From the moment I could walk, I would follow my mom around the house with a stack of books. I would persistently bug her until she stopped whatever she was doing, took me into her lap, and read to me. Then I’d be off to grab another stack of books.
I’ve always been a voracious reader, too. But here’s a little secret. . . I don’t read adult books. I haven’t for the past 12 years or so. Children’s books and novels are the best literature in the world. (I find adult stuff to be a bit gloomy and depressing) Ah, but the children’s books are buoyant and hopeful and filled with light. I read the new releases, the prize winners, the old-fashioned books, and the classics. Browsing library shelves for that hidden gem of a book is one of life’s great pleasures!
You’ve shared with me before the fact that you’d hooked up with a wonderful writers’ group earlier in your career. How has this group influenced your writing?
I love this group of women! We’ve been together more than 10 years, and I depend greatly on their wisdom and guidance when shaping a story. They are my barometers on character, plot, story arc, and that all-essential ending. Now do I always do everything they suggest? No. Sometimes I use my author’s prerogative and stick with a section I’ve written. But more often than not, they are right on the money with their advice. On my last story, Perfect Soup, I had the mouse stick his head in a snow bank to show his frustration. Three times I submitted this story in different forms to my writing group, and three times they pointed out this passage. I liked it, though, and chose to keep it and send it to my editor. After Random House had purchased the story, my editor called up and said, “I think we should look at this snow bank scene. The mouse needs a different action.” Oh, my writing group got a real hoot out of that when I finally admitted what had happened!
My writing group is more than just a bunch of fellow writers. They have become dear, trusted, loving friends!
Let’s talk about your newest book, Kisses on the Wind. Firstly, what prompted your decision to name the main character after your daughter, Lydia, and how does Lydia feel about that? Secondly, when you shared with me that this is “the one,” what exactly did you mean by that?
Kisses on the Wind is the book of my heart. It’s based on my relationship with my Grandma Crockett. I loved her very dearly, but I only got to see her twice a year. So, leaving her was very, very hard. Grandma understood this and taught me how to love and remember someone from very far away. She helped take away the pain and replace it with all of the good and loving memories we had of one another. I wanted to share this incredible wisdom with others, and I wanted to write a story about how normal all of those feelings are. I hope by writing this book, I’ve shared my beloved grandma with the world. If I never write another book, it will be okay, because the book that I was meant to write is out there. Kisses on the Wind is hopefully bringing goodness to children and families in many places.
I asked my daughter for permission to use her name in this book. At first she was very reluctant, but I explained to her that I wanted to include her in this book because I wanted the story to reach from my grandma (her great-grandma) all the way to her. Grandma never got to meet Lydia, but the gifts she gave to me, I try to give to Lydia. I love the thought of this. The love we give to others will ripple down through the generations touching others and helping them along the way.
I love all your books Lisa. You seem especially adept at sharing insight into special relationships. Even the “monster” from The Monster in the Backpack is a character with whom we easily fall in love. Are you aware, as you’re thinking up subjects for the next book, how the relational aspect will come into play, or is this subconscious?
The characters seem to come alive on their own. The monster in The Monster in the Backpack was actually our dog, Hawkeye. I love to tell children that all of the naughty things the monster does in the book, Hawkeye did at our house. This includes eating all my fifth grade students’ homework as I was grading it! Yes. I actually had to go to school the next day and say to my fifth grade students, “My dog ate your homework.” They didn’t mind, though, because I gave them all A’s for that assignment. I think they secretly hoped he would do it again, too!
Squirrel in Squirrel’s World lived in my backyard, and I had fun watching his escapades one afternoon. And Lydia in Kisses on the Wind is actually me.
I end up loving my characters, and I write them hoping others will love them, too.
They say that every author has one message to share with the world. What is your one message?
Before I write, I always say a prayer. I ask God and Jesus to bless and guide me when I write so that my stories will always bring goodness to children. So, I hope my one message is, “Love one another.”
If you could offer one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
If you want to be an author, you have to read, read, read to write, write, write. And to be a children’s author, you have to read children’s books. I’m not talking about reading a bedtime book to your children at night. I’m talking about going to the library every single week and checking out a stack of picture books and a stack of children’s novels. Read them, study them, analyze them, and enjoy them. By immersing yourself in the literature, you will begin to have an understanding of how the stories are put together. Then it’s the simple matter of writing. Write without fear. Write with joy. Write the stories that live in your hearts.
Finally, how can readers find your books, and when is your forthcoming book, Perfect Soup, expected to come out? Also, can you give us a verbal glimpse of what it’s about?
Hopefully, my books are in your local bookstores, but if they aren’t you can always get them online. You can also connect to the bookstores through my website www.LisaMoserBooks.com
Perfect Soup will come out in the fall of 2010. I’ve seen the color art from Ben Mantle, and it’s absolutely amazing! The story is about a little mouse named Murray who likes everything perfect. He’s missing one ingredient to make Perfect Soup, and it leads him on a very exhausting quest. In the end, he discovers something much more important than being perfect.
Thanks so much for sharing, Lisa. We wish you all the best in your continued success in the world of children’s books, and look forward to all the stories that are sure to come from your imagination (and heart) in the future!