Happy Friday one and all! Today Lisa Greenwald is hanging out at Shelf Elf, sharing her thoughts about writing, favourite things and life as a debut author. My Life in Pink and Green is out right now, this very moment, in bookstores near you. I loved it (read my review) and so do lots of other folks, including Kirkus (starred) and Publishers Weekly and Indiebound, which just named Lisa’s novel as a Top 10 Pick for Spring 2009. I’m convinced Lisa’s book is bound to be a hit with all sorts of happy MG readers. Welcome Lisa!
What inspires you? (People, Places, Art, Food, Ideas…)
I think I am most inspired by people. I’ll see a mother and daughter on the subway and I’ll want to know their story. I’ll see a group of friends chatting over coffee and I’ll be so intrigued by what they’re discussing. I love to eavesdrop; I hope that doesn’t come off as creepy.
Describe your path to publication.
My first job out of college was in the BFYR editorial department at Farrar Straus and Giroux. I loved it and loved learning about children’s books. But then I realized that I wanted to be one of the people writing them! So, I started the MFA program in Writing for Children at The New School in the fall of 2004 and graduated in the spring of 2006. However, I didn’t sell MY LIFE IN PINK & GREEN until November of 2007. That probably doesn’t seem like very long, but it felt long to me. During that time I wrote many drafts of a different novel. When I signed with Alyssa Eisner Henkin, we worked on MY LIFE IN PINK & GREEN together and things have been going smoothly ever since. I owe so much to Alyssa; she is a fabulous agent.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I actually really enjoy writing in random spots like bookstores, department stores, the Long Island Railroad and coffee shops. I like to have noise around me, but not annoying noises like tapping or humming or a buzzing refrigerator or obnoxiously loud music. I like to have quiet conversations and quite music around me as I write.
I know that in addition to you writing, you also work in the library at The Birch Wathen Lenox School in Manhattan. How does that work affect your writing?
I love working at BWL. It’s so much fun to talk to the kids and help them find great books. I also think it’s helpful in terms of my writing because I can see first hand how kids act at lunch or during assemblies or in the hallway. I do remember middle school very vividly but it’s nice to see how kids are today.
What books are especially hot titles right now at your school’s library?
Of course the Twilight books are popular. TTYLand other titles by Lauren Myracle don’t seem to stay on the shelves. The students are also big fans of Caroline Hickey; she came to do an author visit at BWL last year.
How did the idea for My Life in Pink and Green come to you? Did it happen in a moment, or did it sneak up on you over time?
It actually began as a tiny idea at my brother’s college graduation from the University of Pittsburgh in the spring of 2006. I saw a little girl with who I’m guessing was her grandfather in the row in front of us and I got an idea about a girl and her grandfather and a family business. However, the grandfather in the story became a grandmother and the story evolved from there.
Setting your book in a pharmacy was an unusual choice. Why did you choose to make the Desberg family business a pharmacy?
My grandfather was a pharmacist and he was so proud of his work. He knew all the customers and my mom would work in the pharmacy during school vacations and weekends. Because of this, independent pharmacies have always meant a great deal to me and there are so few of them today. I thought it would be a neat setting for a story, a place that’s a huge part of the town but is also struggling in today’s economy with chain drug stores and one-stop-shopping establishments.
One of my favorite things about your book is that Lucy is such a go-getter. She’s fearless and creative and she thinks she can solve problems, big and small. This story really portrays how kids can make change in the world. I’m guessing this is something you feel strongly about, yes? Tell us more.
Thanks so much! Yes, it is something I feel very strongly about. Sometimes kids have great ideas and really want to help but they feel like they won’t be able to make a difference since they’re young. Kids also feel the stresses of their parents and take those problems seriously and adults don’t always realize that. I hope that kids realize that they can and do make a difference.
Imagine your book was selected for a book club. What would be some of the questions or themes that you hope kids would want to talk about?
I’d hope they would talk about friendship and what it means to be there for a friend. Also it would be great if they talked about places in their community that are similar to Old Mill Pharmacy and people they know that are similar to Grandma, Mom, Lucy, Claudia and Sunny. I just posted a quiz on the news page of my site (www.lisagreenwald.com) for readers to find out if they’re most like Lucy, Sunny and Claudia and I hope they check it out! I love those kinds of quizzes.
4 Favorite Things:
In no order of importance: sweatpants, having Barack Obama as our president, sushi, my husband Dave.
I know that one of your favorite things is New York City. Me too!
Your perfect New York City day: (places… restaurants… things to see…)
Oooh, such good questions! My favorite New York City day would involve staying overnight at The Ritz Carlton (I hope that’s not cheating since you said day and not night too,) eating brunch at Clinton Street Baking Company and not having to wait in line, shopping at Anthropologie on 5th Avenue with a gift card so I wouldn’t feel guilty buying things full price, eating a salad at Chop’t for lunch and during my dream day, my husband who hates vegetables would be happy eating one too, sitting on a bench in Union Square Park reading, people watching and talking to my husband, and then going to Sushi of Gari for dinner. Note: this was a dream day so magically, money wasn’t an object. ☺
Favorite pharmacy aisle and why:
The face products aisle, no doubt about it. I am constantly on a quest for the perfect skin and so I am willing to try any product to make that happen. My current favorite face wash is DERMADoctor Wrinkle Reducer from Sephora.
I’ll tell you a secret: I’m not a huge lipstick wearer. I much prefer lip-gloss and lip-balm. But my favorite is Burt’s Bees.
Favorite thing about being a debut writer:
Hearing what kids think about my book and seeing my book in stores. I know this will sound cheesy, but it’s honestly so amazing that it’s hard to believe!
Thanks so much for the interview Lisa!
My Life in Pink and Green is available right now from Amulet. Go get it!