Meet Lisa Moser, an author you should know. Her picture book, Kisses on the Wind, was released by Candlewick Press earlier this month. She joins Read, Write, Repeat to talk about her writing process and how this book came to be.
What inspired you to write this book?
I call Kisses on the Wind the book of my heart. I think it was the one book that I was meant to write, and I hope it goes out into the world and brings goodness to children and all who read it.
Kisses on the Wind was inspired by the feelings I had as a child whenever I had to say good-bye to my Grandma. I loved her dearly, but she lived in Florida, and we lived in Iowa, and I only got to see her twice a year. We did write letters back and forth every week, though. Anyway, she helped me cope with the grief of separation and taught me how to love someone from far away. I think that was one of her great gifts to me, and I wanted to share her wisdom with others.
At first when I was writing it, I had the story set in contemporary times. Something was just not clicking, though. I used to teach the Oregon Trail history to my fifth graders in Ohio, and I was always fascinated by the pioneer families who could leave everything behind to start a new life. So, one day when I was particularly frustrated with how the story was developing, I thought, “Why don’t you change the setting? Why don’t you make it about a little girl leaving on the Oregon Trail?”
I started writing, and the story seemed to just spill out of me and onto the paper. After months of research, to make sure I was absolutely accurate, I had the book of my dreams.
Kisses on the Wind was inspired by my Grandma, and I tried to relate how much she meant to me in the dedication below.
“She loved me so well, and I loved her right back.”
Where and how do you write?
I always start my writing day with a prayer. I ask Jesus to guide and bless my writing so that I may always bring goodness to children.
Our dog, Coach, has to be walked in the morning, so while we hike our four or five miles, I think very deeply about my stories. Usually, I’m working on a major problem, and the fresh air and good exercise helps me. The beautiful part is that when we get back, Coach is worn out and will nap the rest of the morning, freeing me up to write without interruption.
For every story I write, I keep a notebook. I write down thoughts and ideas. I play with different plots, conflicts, and resolutions. If you read the notebooks, it sounds like I’m talking to myself, and in essence, I guess I am.
Then I sit down with my trusty laptop and begin writing. When I do school visits, I love to tell children that I have atrocious handwriting. Then I say, “But my handwriting has nothing to do with my ability to write.” Children often think that if it’s not neat, it’s not a good story, so I love to use myself as an example of how that isn’t true.
When the story is written, I trot it off to my wonderful writing group. I love this group of talented, smart, giving ladies, but I will say that they have never given me the go-ahead sign on any of stories the first time. Hope as I might, they always find something that needs more work. After their insightful input, it’s back to revising.
And then, when I think I’ve done the best that I can, maybe 20 total revisions, I send it off to my editor with a little prayer that she will like it as much as I do. The next day, I turn to my next story. There’s no sense waiting around for word on the story. That will take months and months, and there’s work to be done in the meantime!
Favorite picture book author:
I think Patricia Polacco’s books are extraordinary.
Favorite picture book illustrator:
I love Elisa Kleven’s work. Her pages are filled with color and tiny, little stories in and of themselves. In her book Sun Bread, I love to look in the windows of the little houses and see what each of the characters is doing.
Which picture book do you read for inspiration?
Oh, as I sit here and think, I’m overwhelmed by the many, many wonderful books that have touched my life in an extraordinary way. It depends on the day, and it depends on the season. Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant moves me to tears every time. What a book! It’s perfect for the Christmas season. Then there’s The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats which was my favorite childhood book.
Can I mention a couple of novels, too? Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.
How did you go from aspiring writer to published author?
I call that journey, “Seven years and a good pair of shoes!” I was a fifth-grade teacher before I became a stay-at-home mom, so I was always surrounded by literature. And it had been my dream since I was a little girl to write books. My grandma used to write stories for my sister and me. She’d write the story, draw the pictures, and bind them up in bright yarn. Then on some golden days, some treasure days, my sister and I would go to the mailbox and find her gifts. That was when I began dreaming of becoming a children’s book author.
So when I had our daughter, I began to seriously write. I took classes from a wonderful writer and illustrator named Gretchen Mayo who has become my dear friend and mentor. And then I did what everyone has to do. I wrote. I submitted. I was rejected. I wrote more. I submitted more. I was rejected more. But each story got a little stronger. Each story got a little closer. When my first book The Monster in the Backpack (illus. by Noah Z. Jones, Candlewick) was finally accepted, my stories were significantly better than when I started. It’s a learning curve that can’t be skipped.
Advice you’d give someone just starting out:
Immerse yourself in children’s literature. And I’m not talking about a picture book here and there. It’s not enough to read a book to your children at bedtime. You really have to take home stacks of children’s novels and picture books every week from the library to study, analyze, and enjoy. You have to read the classics, this year’s prizewinners, and everything in between. Personally, I haven’t read an adult book in over 10 years because I’m so busy staying current in the children’s market. To tell you the truth, I think adult books are extremely gloomy. Children’s books, on the other hand, are filled with hope. I think children have the greatest collection of literature in the world!
Favorite part of writing:
I love when a story starts playing like a movie in my head. This is when I know it’s time to sit down with my computer and actually write the story out. Of course, this comes after months and months and months of thinking and writing. When the story actually clicks, it’s the greatest feeling of joy as I write!
The coolest library you’ve ever visited:
I grew up in the small town of Fairfield, Iowa, and we had the first Carnegie Library west of the Mississippi. It was this beautiful four-story, stone building, and when you walked in, it smelled like books! Once or twice a week, I’d pedal my bike all the way across town, stopping at the Handy Pantry for a quarter sack of candy. I’d spend a cool afternoon, out of the hot Iowa sun, searching the shelves for just the right books. I loved that library!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I do have a Web site, www.LisaMoserBooks.com
Finally, write because you love to. Don’t do it for the publications. That will come in time. Write because it brings you joy. Write, because if you don’t, those wonderful, unique, incredible stories that only you know, will be lost. Write because there’s a part of you that blossoms when you do. Write. That’s what writers do.
Want to read more by Lisa? Her other books include:
Squirrel’s World (Candlewick Press, 2007)
The Monster in the Backpack (Candlewick Press, 2006)
Watermelon Wishes (Clarion Books, 2006)