Critter Lit

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Interview with Debut Author Lisa Rogers

Authors, book release, debut interview, InterviewsLindsay Ward9 Comments

Happy Thursday Critters! This will be our last interview post for a couple weeks until October 3rd, as I’m about to have baby no. 3 any day now…!!! BUT today, I’m thrilled to be featuring the work of debut author Lisa Rogers, whose new non-fiction picture book, 16 WORDS WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEEL BARROW”, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, releases on September 24th with Schwartz & Wade books! So exciting! This fantastic book has received multiple starred reviews and is a must read for any picture book or poetry lovers out there! I’m so happy Lisa could share her work and process with us today…so without further ado, please welcome Lisa Rogers!


Where do you live?

Just west of Boston, at the halfway point of the Boston Marathon. It’s the place to be each year on Marathon Monday, cheering on all of the participants—my hands always are sore from clapping. Actually running it—which I’ve done four times—is even better. What a thrill and honor! 

When did you know you wanted to write picture books? 

As a child, I was a huge reader, fascinated by folktales, fairytales, and poetry, and the illustrations that accompanied them. My goal was to be a writer and artist. I wrote poems, drew all the time, and started a little family newspaper. I grew up to become a news reporter and editor. Then, when I thought it wise not to be working on deadline with a small child on my lap, I changed careers and eventually became an elementary school librarian. After years of immersion in children’s literature and learning from my students, I realized that writing picture books was what I had to do.

Tell us about your road to publication, what did that involve for you? 

You would think that my two careers would set me up perfectly—and they have—but I had so much to learn! Writing for children is incredibly complicated. This year one of my students wrote to me, “You taught me that a book is not just for reading, it is more.” Getting to that “more” is my goal. For me, it means writing about a topic close to my heart. I was lucky to submit the manuscript for my debut to an agent who saw its potential, and she sold it very soon after we signed. In the meantime, a committee of writers also chose that manuscript for a Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. That award was a wonderful boost as I pursued publication. Groups like SCBWI, the 12 x 12 writing challenge, and The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, Mass. have been crucial to supporting me in my learning.

Can you share a bit about your process?

I don’t have a standard routine, partly because it’s hard for me to sit down. I do most of my writing in my mind while I’m doing something else. A phrase or sentence comes to me and that starts the whole process. I can sit down and set goals and get writing and revisions done (that’s where my deadline experience kicks in), but the inspiration really has to be organic. My favorite spot to get words down is on my patio where hummingbirds sometimes mistake me for a flower.

What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas? 

I live on a beautiful pond, and love to take a break on a late summer afternoon, hop in my kayak, and boat over to our little town beach for a swim. The combination of exercise and quiet boosts my creativity. If it’s blustery, I get out a canvas and do some painting.

Anything you can’t live without while you write? 

A pencil and any scrap of paper. Writing for me needs to be tactile, at least when I’m beginning a story, but also when I’m trying to find the heart of it. I’ve even written in the sand while on a run at Goose Rocks Beach, Maine, because I didn’t want to forget my thought. 

My daughter gave me a Moomin notebook with an attached pencil, which I adore, and which I used to write my next book, HOUND WON’T GO. Speaking of which, a big dog is essential to get me moving after I’ve been sitting too long. 

Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?  

So many! I adore picture book biographies and nonfiction, and so do my students. When we read a great biography, they are so absorbed that they can’t believe it’s true. I look for that sense of wonder in any book, like Sophie Blackall’s Hello Lighthouse, Jessixa Bagley’s Boats for Papa and Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead’s collaborations. Margaret Wise Brown has been a longtime favorite, and I love Mac Barnett’s new biography of her. Illustrators: Shane Evans, Juana Martinez-Neal, Christian Robinson, Melissa Sweet and of course 16 WORDS illustrator Chuck Groenink! When I find a picture book that resonates, I want to live in that world.

Dream project to work on?

16 WORDS has been a dream project from beginning to publication! I couldn’t be prouder of this book.

Tell us about your debut book.

My debut, 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW” (Schwartz & Wade Books) is about the inspiration for Williams’ favorite, and most famous poem. He wrote those sixteen words after noticing Thaddeus Marshall’s wheelbarrow outside in the rain and felt it was the most profound, moving image he had ever seen. 

Williams was a doctor as well as a poet, and Marshall was his neighbor and patient. The book parallels their lives of work and caring. The poem was written nearly 100 years ago, but Marshall’s role was only recently identified. When I learned about him, I had my own inspiring moment, and that’s what started this whole adventure!

What’s up next for you? 

I’m excited about HOUND WON’T GO, inspired by my incredibly stubborn, lovable, gigantic rescue hound. He’s brought so much fun and joy to our lives. One day when he, as is typical, refused to move because he wanted to go one way and I the other, the first few lines ran through my mind. My editor, Christina Pulles at Albert Whitman & Company, loves the manuscript as much as I do. HOUND will be unleashed, with delightful illustrations by Meg Ishihara, in spring 2020.

And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?

Working Girl! That puffy hair, those padded shoulders! Sneakers with office wear! I love it for its iconic 80s fashion. You’ll never see me in shoulder pads, but that was one empowering movie. 

Huge thank you to Lisa for stopping by Critter Lit today! Congrats on your debut! We can’t wait to see HOUND WON’T GO next!

LISA ROGERS is an elementary school librarian and a former newspaper reporter and editor. She grew up in West Long Branch, NJ, not far from where Thaddeus Marshall, the inspiration for William Carlos Williams' poem "The Red Wheelbarrow," tended his garden. 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW,” (Random House/Schwartz & Wade Books) is her first book for children. HOUND WON’T GO, illustrated by Meg Ishihara, will be published in 2020 by Albert Whitman & Company. Lisa lives near Boston with her family and hound dog.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Lisa Rogers visit her online or follow her on social media:

Twitter: @LisaLJRogers

Facebook: LisaLabancaRogers

TO ORDER Lisa’s book, ring up your local bookstore or click here.


Want a chance to win a copy of 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW”?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, September 26th! US addresses only please.