(The winner of the book give-away was chosen by my cat Sophie. Jilanne Hoffman, you are the winner! Congrats!)
GROG: Tell us a little bit about your writing journey.
LYDIA: I'm never low on inspiration, that's for sure. I get ideas all the time and my creativity is always spinning wildly. Sounds great, right? But the issue is that with so many ideas, I get pulled in many different directions. I'm learning the art of being selective, and of spending more time developing the best ideas.
When the inspiration behind NO BEARS ALLOWED was sparked, I knew it was a keeper. But it remained in my "ideas folder" for at least a year before I sat down and actually pounded out the first draft. The concept of the story was 100% character driven. At first, I didn't necessarily know what would happen, but I knew who it would happen to. Rabbit, who spends his time worrying and being afraid of everything, was the starting point. Soon after, a big, oafy yet lovable Bear was born.
GROG: Where did the idea come from for your cute story? What do you want the take-away to be for readers?
LYDIA: Believe it or not, the idea came from an inside joke.
Admittedly, it makes little sense, but somehow I always felt there was something there. My inspirations are varied; they can be sparked by an image or a word, or in this case, the phrase "no bears allowed."
I wanted the story to be about the power of friendship, and the importance of not judging others or letting our fears govern our actions. Bear and Rabbit are different, to be sure, but they eventually learn they have more in common than they ever thought. These themes directed the flow of the entire story.
GROG: How did the story change from your first draft and do you have any idea how many drafts it went through?
LYDIA: Writing NO BEARS ALLOWED was a process. It took time, patience, and multiple drafts! I wrote about 30 drafts initially, but kept getting stuck on the ending. I had to shelve the text for a while so I could get the creative juices flowing again. I always knew I would go back to it. And when I did, I sent it out to all my critique partners to help me whip it into shape. When I was ready to query, I was overjoyed when Blue Whale Press saw its magic. And then, of course, it was edited further. I don't always feel this way about my books, but with this one, I'm happy with the final product and wouldn't change a thing.
GROG: What do you think about the illustrations? Did anything surprise you when you saw the art work?
LYDIA: Blue Whale Press was generous enough to allow me to have a say in who we chose as an illustrator, so that was a real treat. I was immediately drawn to the whimsical, unique style of Tara J. Hannon, and I was over the moon when she agreed to take on this project. She exceeded my expectations. She put her on spin on things. I can't express enough how critical a role the illustrator plays, especially with picture books.
GROG: Is there one spread or page that you particularly like?
LYDIA: For the first spread:
I love the start of the story, and how Tara captured Rabbit's fearful personality by having him hide beneath the burrow. Suspicious of the world, he inspects everything around him with his binoculars.
And then for the page with bear:
Here's an example of how important the illustrator can be. I never gave Tara directions to make a poster of Bear, or a survival list. That was her own idea, sparked by my story. And that's the magic of a true partnership: when you give space to the illustrator for his-her own creative visions. The book ends up including things you may have never imagined!
GROG: Are there other projects in the works you can tell us about?
LYDIA: I just released my third STEM book, THE BROKEN BEES' NEST, published by Kane Press. It's part of the Makers Make it Work series that encourages young readers to not just think critically, but also engage. I do a lot of WFH projects as well and have some new books coming out this year on varied topics ranging from ghost hunting to the immune system.
I'm also hard at work on a slew of other trade books. I'm currently developing several picture books, and I seem to be drawn to the world of nonfiction as of late. And, I'm excited to be working on my first middle grade novel based on Greek mythology. Stay tuned for more details!
GROG: Any writing advice for our GROG readers?
LYDIA: Being a writer is a wonderful journey, but it's also filled with ebbs and flows. I've learned, through the years and the huge pile of rejections letters, to not take anything personally. Not every editor or agent out there will fall in love with your work, and that's okay. As long as YOU love your work and are committed to learning your craft and becoming a better writer. Another thing I learned, through some hard times, is to NEVER compare your path to someone else's. You are on your path, and they are on theirs, so you need to honor that. It's not a race to get published; everything will unfold in due time. Work hard, research the industry, and persevere. And most of all, keep writing. That's where the true joy is, so don't forget to connect to that!
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. Her latest STEM books published by Lane Press include The Broken Bees' Nest
and The Space Rock Mystery.
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 their self-confidence.
For more info, please visit here.