Monday, January 5, 2009

Michigander Monday: Lisa Wheeler

This week I'm thrilled to welcome the fabulously talented Lisa Wheeler!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

Lisa: I grew up near Pittsburgh, PA but have been in Michigan since I was almost 16. Though I have written all my life, I didn’t attempt publication until the age of 32. It took nearly 4 years and about 225 rejections before I sold my first book.

With the support and encouragement of my husband, Glen, I took those first baby steps and have never looked back. I totally love the world of children’s books and cannot imagine any other life.

Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your latest book!

Lisa: My newest book is called Boogie Knights. It is illustrated by the wonderful Mark Siegel, (who is a genius I think), and published by the inimitable Richard Jackson at Atheneum. It is the last book I that I will be doing with Richard Jackson as he has semi-retired. He is such a terrific editor and this last book is bitter-sweet.

Boogie Knights is a picture book about a party taking place in a spooky castle at midnight. All the local monsters sneak in to attend the Madcap Monster Ball, awakening the ‘guards’. The guards happen to be seven Knight brothers (suits of armor) asleep in the upstairs hall. One-by-one each brother wakes and ends up joining the party. I’ve included two of the things my books are best known for…puns and a musical element.

Mark’s art is terrifically unique and has garnered the book 3 starred reviews. The book has also been optioned by Dreamworks. Very exciting!

Debbie: Other books, and projects on the horizon?

Lisa: In Fall of 2009 I will have Dino Soccer in book stores. It is the much awaited sequel to Dino Hockey. I get letters every week from parents and teachers asking if there will be a Dino Soccer and when it is coming out. Lerner has asked me for more Dino Sports and I just finished a revision of Dino Baseball.

Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Lisa: I am doing an informal Q&A session for people who want to write children’s books. This will take place on January 14, 2009 at 7 pm at the Trenton Veteran’s Memorial Library in Trenton, the town where I live. On Feb. 21 I will be doing a Picture Book Bootcamp in Nashville, TN for SCBWI-Midsouth. I will also be speaking at MRA in Grand Rapids next March and doing a storytime and book signing at Literary Life Book Store in Grand Rapids on May 2nd. Other than that, I have school visits scheduled and some out-of-state events.

Debbie: Your favorite places in Michigan?

Lisa: Since I travel so much, my favorite place is home. My husband and I have a weekly ritual. We walk over to George’s, our favorite little diner in Trenton, every Friday for fish. When I am traveling, I have to miss many Friday dinner nights. So when I get back home, I look forward to sitting in a booth, being waited on by our favorite waitress, Beth, and having rice pudding for dessert. That really feels like home to me.

I also love Big Manistique Lake in the upper peninsula. My mother-in-law has a house on the lake and my husband’s family all live in walking distance from each other up there. He has a great family so I enjoy visiting.

I can never forget to mention that I love crossing the Mackinaw Bridge heading north. Every time I do, I imagine those giant glaciers carving out the Great Lakes and the land. It gives me goosebumps.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Lisa: SPRING, SPRING, SPRING!! (I answered this questionnaire on a cold snowy December evening.)

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Lisa: I was going to say Ann Tompert, but I see Nancy Edwards beat me to it. Dang!

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state.

Lisa: It’s very nerdy, but did you know Michigan once had a large mastodon population? Mastodon bones have been found in many places around the state. You can visit Cranbrook Museum to see the bones and find out more.

Debbie: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Lisa: Michigander, of course! I have a collection of Mother Goose books and I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t get a goose pun in this questionnaire.

Debbie: Lisa, thank you so much for joining us today! It's been both a pleasure and an honor. I admire your writing tremendously, and count you as one of my writing heroes. I thank you for your willingness to be part of Michigander Monday!


Jacqui said...

Lisa, I love Boogie Knights. And I am amazed at the 225 rejections number -- so glad you stuck it out!

Boni Ashburn said...

Thanks, Debbie, for a MAGNIFICENT Michigander Monday. I'm sitting right next to you on the Lisa Wheeler Admiration Bench. She is an amazing writer, and so humble, and an all-around wonderful asset to the children's writing community. I just wish she had given us some insider info about her other 2009 book. I saw it listed on Amazon- Ugly Pie is the title- and I'm dying to hear about it :) Sounds very intriguing...