Week of May 8, 2011—An Interview with Lisa Wheeler
Thursday, May 12—Tips from Lisa and What She’s Up to Now
This is the third installment of a three-part interview with picture book author, Lisa Wheeler.
ROB: Lisa, you have written some fabulous picture books. In your opinion, what are the top five essential ingredients for a successful picture book?
LISA: Cows, cows, cows, cows, and romance!
Oh, wait, you were being serious. Well, there is no formula, but there are some things that are essential.
1. Economy of words—keep it tight.
2. A strong beginning or set-up. Draw the reader in.
3. Forward movement. In a picture book, every sentence needs to move the story forward.
4. A strong ending. Does your ending make readers want to read it again?
5. Have fun! Remember who you’re writing for and enjoy the ride.
ROB: I call you the "rhyming queen." We hear over and over that agents and editors don't want rhyming picture books. (Obviously that's not completely true!) What makes one rhyming book successful and another not successful?
LISA: Mad skills!
The rhyming writer must be able to tell a complete story with a plot, have terrific meter, engage in word play, and make the piece true poetry. As I said, mad skills.
ROB: Give us an idea of the scope of your writing, Lisa. How many books have you published and over what period of time?
LISA: My thirtieth book, Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children just came out. My first book came out in 2001. So that is an average of three books a year, I suppose. I am not as prolific now. I only get about two or three good ideas a year and they don’t always sell.
ROB: Besides picture books, have you published in other genres? Tell us about that.
LISA: I have an Easy Reader series with Simon & Schuster called Fitch & Chip. There are only four books in the series. I loved writing those guys and my hope is that one day S&S will ask for more.
ROB: What’s next? What are you working on now? What are the goals you still want to reach and what can we expect to see from you in the future?
LISA: When I grow up, I want to complete and sell a chapter book. I tend to be the type who is always looking beyond the fence . . . I always want to be better, stronger, wiser, thinner, healthier. It has long been my aspiration to finish and publish a chapter book. I just need to know where I can buy a longer attention span.
It’s Your Turn!
1. Today Lisa has inspired me to think beyond what I am currently writing. What do I dream to do? What do I want to do? What am I afraid to do, but need to do? What genres await you? What is on your horizon?