Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Lydia Lukidis Dances Through Space ~Christy Mihaly

I'm very pleased to welcome Lydia Lukidis to GROG. Lydia has written 50+ children's books including her most recent, Dancing through Space: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights, illustrated by Sawyer Cloud. I had a few questions for Lydia:  

Welcome, Lydia! Please tell us about your writing life and why you write for kids. 

LL: I began reading at age 4 and writing at age 6. I loved writing poetry and was self-taught, it was my biggest hobby, though I didn’t consider becoming an author until years later!

I love writing for children because of their innocence, imagination, and wacky sense of humor. I somehow connect to children and I suppose my mind still thinks like a child's. I prefer writing nonfiction but I don’t want to put myself in a box either, and I still like writing fiction. I have a new early reader graphic series coming out next year based on a comic I created when I was 10. I’m lucky that my agent, Miranda Paul, allows me the freedom to write from the heart, wherever that may take me.

CM: I agree, I worry about getting tired of always sticking to the same genre -- it's fun to play around and explore. But I've noticed you love STEAM.

What do you love best about writing nonfiction?

LL: I prefer writing nonfiction because we live in such a wondrous world and I think children are naturally curious, just like I am. Having a degree in Pure and Applied Science, I love finding ways to make information about our world interesting and accessible for children.

CM: So you are a Serious Scientist, and also an Artistic Person.

How are you staying creative? What do you do to fill your creative well?

LL: I was always an artist first. I drew, made crafts, crafted jewelry, and wrote poetry. I studied science in college and I do have an analytical side. But I believe that to truly understand all facets of our world, we need to look at it through the lens of both art and science. Writing is a creative outlet for me, but I also love making graphics. I still craft in my spare time and make art with my daughter. Creativity is what drives me!

CM: Yes, making art with kids can be inspiring!

Okay, some questions about how you wrote this picture book biography of astronaut (and dancer) Mae Jemison.

How long did it take to get from inspiration to finished book?

LL: I began writing DANCING THROUGH SPACE in 2014 and it took TEN years for the book to get published! It went through many incarnations and I also went through several agents, it was part of my journey. I learned a lot about the kidlit industry and about myself as a writer with this book. Everything unfolded the way it was meant to!

A spacey spread from Dancing through Space

CM: Ten years ... but the book is better for it, right? Books often take a long time. I'm looking forward to the 2026 publication of a picture book biography that I started writing in -- wait for it -- 2012. Lots of drafts, many revisions, and a dose of publishing craziness.

In Dancing through Space, you highlight the twin passions of Jemison's life by telling a dual narrative. Tell us more about what sparked your story concept and how you made it work.

LL: I didn’t figure out the hook (the intersection of dance and science) for years. Yes, it took years to figure it out! My early drafts were probably terrible. But every time I read about Mae, I was drawn to the same thing; that she loved to dance and appreciated the arts. I finally realized that’s the hook I was missing! It brought the story to the next level and it felt right to structure this as a dual narrative.

Showing the dual narrative structure of Dancing through Space

CM: Anything you want to share about your illustrator, Sawyer Cloud, or the publisher, Albert Whitman?

LL: I’m really lucky because I felt that Josh, my editor at Albert Whitman, really understood what I was trying to do. The editing process was very smooth. I was equally lucky to be paired with Sawyer Cloud, whose mesmerizing illustrations captured both reality and magic.

CM: In reading your book, I noticed Mae’s parents were so supportive. Some of her teachers and peers were not. Can you tell us more? 

LL: Mae’s parents were instrumental in helping her discover her inner scientist. When she had a question, instead of answering that question, they would ask her to look it up. That helped her foster autonomy and confidence. Her parents encouraged her to study whatever she wanted, whether it was science or dance.

Unfortunately, girls were not encouraged to study science at that time, especially Black girls. Her Kindergarten teacher questioned Mae’s desire to be a doctor and asked her if she would like to be a nurse instead, which was offensive. And when Mae attended Stanford University, many of her professors ignored or belittled her, despite her brilliance.

But none of that mattered to Mae. The word “no” did/does not exist in her vocabulary. She doggedly pursued her dreams time and time again. She made history being the first Black woman to fly to space and accomplished whatever else she set out to do.

CM: Mae is amazing and kids are going to love this book.

For our GROG readers, do you have any wise writing advice? Recommended resources? Revision tips?

LL: Revising is not the easiest process for me. Sometimes, I know something is wrong with a manuscript but I have no idea how to fix it. There’s no specific equation that works for me each time, but here’s a breakdown of how I edit:

Once I pound out the first draft, I put it aside.

I revisit it and make any necessary edits, playing around with structure and voice (it’s important to experiment).

When I feel the manuscript is the best it can be, I send it to my critique partners (if you don’t have any CPs, get some!! They are an essential part of the process).

I take what critiques resonate, and then get back to editing.

Again, I put the work aside (for me, this is an essential step).

During this time, I read and write other books, this helps keep the creative juices flowing.

When I return to the manuscript, I may realize it’s still not working, in which case I shelve it indefinitely.

If I feel strongly about trying to make it work, I may pay an editor to take a look at it.

If I feel the manuscript is “amazing,” then I send it to my agent Miranda to get her feedback, and then we usually edit some more until we submit it to editors.

CM: Y'all, this is all great advice! Thank you, Lydia.

What upcoming projects are you excited about?

LL: I’m excited to announce UP, UP HIGH, a companion book to DEEP, DEEP DOWN published by Capstone. It ventures up high into the Earth’s atmosphere to uncover its secrets. Though it may seem like there’s nothing up there, readers will be surprised at what you can actually find. That book spins into our universe in 2025.

I also occasionally write funny fiction! I just landed a contract for a 2 book early graphic novel deal, GROUCHO THE GROUCHY GROUNDHOG, the first book releases in 2025.

Lydia, thank you for sharing about your book and your process today. Congratulations on all your writing -- and good luck with the writing (and revision) ahead.

Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her titles include DANCING THROUGH SPACE: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights (Albert Whitman, 2024), DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2023) which was shortlisted for a Silver Birch Express (Forest of Reading) award, THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award, and NO BEARS ALLOWED (Clear Fork Media, 2019). A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books.

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Purchase links:





  1. Dancing through Space is the best of science and art. Can't wait for the groundhog book!

    1. It is so fabulous! I'm looking forward to the groundhog book too (though in Vermont we say woodchuck!!)

  2. Nice interview! Congrats on this new book and sharing your process.

  3. Such a fabulous interview, more like a true chat between you, Christy, and Lydia Lukidis! Can't wait to read all of Lydia's newest books. "I believe that to truly understand all facets of our world, we need to look at it through the lens of both art and science." Perfectly said, Lydia!

  4. great interview! Thanks for sharing your writing process, Lydia.