Mentor Monday: Lisa Moser

Lisa Moser, author and mentor, shares her thoughts today. Lisa is Miranda Paul’s 2012 SCBWI mentor from the great state of Wisconsin. I’m hoping to interview Miranda at the beginning and end of her mentorship to learn all about her experience. After reading Lisa’s answers below, I am sure Miranda is in for a wonderful mentorship. Check out Lisa’s thoughts on two important components of mentoring and her website: http://LisaMoserBooks.com.

Please share a brief bio of you and your work.

My name is Lisa Moser, and I am very grateful to have five books for children published right now with three more coming out in the next few years.

*Perfect Soup by Lisa Moser, illus. by Ben Mantle (Random House, 2010)
*Kisses on the Wind by Lisa Moser, illus. by Kathryn Brown (Candlewick Press, 2009)
*Squirrel’s World by Lisa Moser, illus. by Valeri Gorbachev (Candlewick Press, 2007)
*The Monster in the Backpack by Lisa Moser, illus. by Noah Z. Jones (Candlewick, 2006)
*Watermelon Wishes by Lisa Moser, illus. by Stacey Schuett (Clarion Books, 2006)

Coming Soon:

*Railroad Hank by Lisa Moser, illus. by Benji Davies (Random House)
*Squirrel’s Fun Day by Lisa Moser, illus. by Valeri Gorbachev (Candlewick Press)
*Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope by Lisa Moser (Random House)

A long, long time ago, I grew up in the small town of Fairfield Iowa.  It was an idyllic childhood, filled with popsicle days and firefly nights.  Fairfield had the first Carnegie library west of the Mississippi, and many days I would pedal my bicycle across town to fill my bike basket with great books.

 I graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education and taught fifth grade in Worthington, Ohio.  It should be noted that I was never beaten in a footrace by any of my students.

When my husband and I moved to Wisconsin, I became a stay-at-home mom and began the great adventure of becoming a children’s book author. 

Why did you decide to become a mentor?

I feel so blessed to have received guidance from wonderful people in every stage of my writing journey.  I wanted to give back in the same way I received. 

How many writers have you officially mentored?

Well, if we use the word “officially,” I’d have to say that this is my first mentorship.  However, I have worked with many writers for many years.  

I’ve been in one particular writing group for about 15 years, but when my daughter was in pre-school, there were several other young moms who wanted to write for children, so I helped organize a second writing group.  It was such a joy to be part of their writing process.  I saw each member start from the very beginning of the learning curve, and now each and every one of them is a published author.  How lucky was I to be a part of that!  

 I also give critiques at the Wisconsin SCBWI fall conference.  While this interaction is brief, I do try to give the recipient everything I can in the written and personal conferences. 

What strengths do you bring as a mentor?

I hope I bring kindness and honesty to the table.  Both are vitally important.  

 Kindness allows authors to be vulnerable.  They can bring glimmers of ideas and know that they are “safe.”  Kindness allows authors to gain confidence in themselves and in their writing.  Kindness allows for mistakes, failed attempts, trials and errors.  For every published story, there is some kind of failure involved.  At least that’s true for me.  But failing isn’t so terrible, when it is met with kindness and encouragement.  It’s just a step in the learning process.

 Honesty, given in a loving environment, lets authors become better writers.  They need to know what is not working and why.  The competition for publication is stiff.  The successful authors are the ones that can hear honest criticism of a story and use it to make their story stronger.  Honesty leads to success.    

Have you been a mentee? If so, what from that experience helps you be the best mentor you can be?

Yes.  When we first moved to Wisconsin, I happened to be in the library and saw a flier for a class on writing for children given by the incredible author/illustrator, Gretchen Will Mayo.  I signed up immediately and took classes from her for two or three years.  During that time, Gretchen asked another student and me if we would join her personal writing group.  We’ve been together ever since and were blessed to add several talented authors along the way.  That writing group has helped me on every single story I’ve written.  But they’re more than writing colleagues.  They’re dear and cherished friends.  

 I think the valuable part of that experience is that my writing group has seen stories in every single stage.  They don’t flinch and turn away if I bring a bad first draft.  And first drafts are always bad.  They find the areas of strength, and they find the areas that definitely need work.  I’ve learned not to worry about being perfect, that writing is a journey.  Through hard work and perseverance, nuggets of stories can be unearthed from bad first drafts and turned into something quite lovely and shiny. 

If you could mentor any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?

Oh, gosh.  I am in such awe of other people’s talent.  Maybe my wish would be to mentor anyone who needed the gifts I could offer.

If you could be mentored by any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?

Beatrix Potter!  I adore her work, and it has stood the test of time with love, dignity, and charm.  But if we’re going down the path of imagination, let’s go all the way.  I would love to be mentored by Beatrix Potter at her Hilltop home in the Lakes District of England.  With a lovely packed picnic lunch, we’d traipse the country paths together.  We’d stop in a field overlooking a charming village. Beatrix would paint and talk of writing, and I would sit under a tree and drink it all in.  Then I would write, and write, and write some more. 

One day, I will go to Hilltop Farm in England.  Beatrix won’t be there, but all the things that inspired her will be, I hope. 

Thank you, Lisa!

I want to thank you, too.

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