The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Lisa Rose
Lisa Rose lives near Detroit, Michigan with her daughter. She loves to swim - in fact, some people think she’s mermaid. She also likes to practice yoga and eat ice cream, though not at the same time. Lisa is also the creator of The Missing Voice Picture Book Discussion Group on Facebook.
Lisa's the author of 5 picture books including A Zombie Vacation (Apples & Honey Press 2020), The Pocket Picture (Rourke Ed. Media 2019), and Shmulik Paints the Town (Kar -Ben Publishing 2016). As well as a six book series – Star Powers (Rourke Ed. Media 2019).
Her newest picture book, The Singer and the Scientist, releases this Thursday, April 1st (really, no fooling!)
Welcome Lisa, tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? How did you get started? What is your favorite type of book to write?)
I’m a recovering first grade teacher, currently working as a reading specialist. I wanted to be a writer since second grade. I studied playwriting at the University of Michigan. However, my mother advised me to do something that made money so I became a very wealthy teacher. (haha) I adopted a daughter whom we later discovered was visually-impaired and had other special needs. So, I was unable to teach in the classroom for many years. During this time, I worked on my writing, every free second I had. It helped keep me sane—so did ice cream. Playwriting is a lot like picture books. Each turn of the page is like another scene of the play.
I really like your comparison of PBs to plays. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I’m really a mermaid. : ) Seriously, I swim with a mermaid tail, and I belong to the Great Lakes Mermaid pod. As a mermaid, I educate children about water safety and conservation.
Awesome! Now I can say I know a "real-live" mermaid! What was your inspiration for The Singer and the Scientist?
I was attracted to this story because it is about the friendship between the Jewish and African American communities. Historically, these communities have had many strong alliances. However in recent years, I believe our common mission for equality has been forgotten. I wanted to write a story that recognized what the two communities have in common and how that understanding could be the foundation of trust and friendship.
That's a great message. And one definitely needed right now. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
I always loved Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus. These books grow with me.
Thank you for mentioning this one. I was unfamiliar with it and am looking forward to reading it. Do you feel there is a common thread in your books? Is it purposeful or do you think it’s facet of who you are?
I think all my books champion the underdog. I never really set out a purpose…I just think it happens. When I was a child, a caricature artist drew me and wrote the caption: Everyone listen to Lisa. He was so spot on. I was shy as a child, but I really wanted the whole world to listen to me. I believe others need to be heard, as well. Through, my writing I can give myself and others the opportunity.
You do this in so many ways - through your books and the Missing Voice FB Discussion group. You are definitely getting your voice out there & amplifying others. One of your books, Pocket Picture, was a work-for-hire. Is there much of a difference between creating it and The Singer and the Scientist?
There is a lot of difference! In work for hire, you have very specific guidelines. Some writers may see it as confining. I see it as a puzzle. How can I tell the story I want to tell within these guidelines and rules? The Singer and the Scientist is non-fiction. I had to do a great deal of research. I didn’t have any guidelines. This was almost more challenging. It took me a while to find the right way to tell the story.
Interesting. What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (either as a child or now as a writer.)
I’m teacher. It may sound cheesy, but I always write for my students. I always picture reading my story aloud to class.
Not cheesy at all. After all, the books are written for them, right? As your first nonfiction book, did you find The Singer and the Scientist easier, or harder, to write than Shmulik Paints the Town or A Zombie Vacation? Why or why not?
Text © Lisa Rose, 2021. Image © Isabel Muñoz, 2021.
It’s harder. You have to tell the truth and back it up with several reliable sources. The story I told was widely backed up with several sources. However, Marian Anderson’s autobiography told a different story about how she became friends with Albert Einstein. I had to use all my years of watching Law & Order training to prove the event occurred the way I described in my book. I even had my findings certified with her estate.
Wow, that must have been a fun challenge. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I am really trying to focus on beginning chapter books for young readers. As a reading specialist, I believe there aren’t enough Early Reader books. I feel like publishers expect kids to go from picture books to middle grade. There is a huge step in between that publishers should pay more attention to growing. If kids don’t fall in love with reading at the early reader stage, they may never read middle grade or YA books. I do have some more non-fiction and serious subjects on submission. But, right now, I crave funny. I think we can all use some laughter. Also, kids are always ready to laugh and play.
That's for sure! Good luck with your submissions. After a number of book releases, and associated readings and school visits, do you have any advice for those just learning their book is to be published?
My advice is from Jane Yolen: Write your heart, but don’t let your heart break if it isn’t published.
If you are in this for money or fame, you will be miserable. This is a HARD and LOOONG business. Everyone’s journey will be different. Don’t compare yourself to others and trust you are right where you should be.
Wonderful advice to post near my computer. Thank you! Can you tell us a little about your Missing Voice Picture Book Discussion Group on Facebook? How did it get started?
Anyone can tweet #weneeddiversebooks. But is this enough? What are we as authors, illustrators, parents, and teachers going to do to increase the number of diverse books on people’s bookshelves? Many times people don’t buy diverse books because they lack awareness. I decided to help this change by making the community more aware.
I am Jewish, and I write Jewish picture books. I have a visually-impaired child. Also, I'm a reading specialist in Detroit where most of my students are people of color. I believe because of my experience, I have a unique perspective of understanding multiple communities. I observe how communities can lack an understanding of each other. Often, it is not because of hate, but simply because they haven’t been exposed to each other.
I believe the way to end ignorance is with knowledge. I call the group MISSING VOICE because I want it to mean more than just race, but also include religion, neuro-diversity, physical diversity, and little known historical facts and people.
We focus on one picture book a month.
As a member, I have learned a lot in the group and have enjoyed the author discussions after a month of studying a book. I can whole-heartedly recommend it. What is your favorite animal? Why?
As a mermaid, I would say I’ve had a lifelong fascination with dolphins (and The Loch Ness Monster).
However, I’m a new puppy and cat owner. I never had a cat or dog before. I really do enjoy the cat keeping me company as a write. However, I really dislike him sitting in front of my computer screen. As for the dog, he is always ready to play. He reminds me of the best parts of childhood. We all should be ready to play. If you aren’t ready to play at your writing, you should step away from the keyboard. Writing should be about play.
Absolutely! Thank you so much for coming by to talk with me Lisa. It was a pleasure getting to know you a better.
Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on The Singer and the Scientist.
To find out more about Lisa Rose, or get in touch with her: