With Children’s Author, Lora Hyler
The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all.
My series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.
Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!
Yay! New middle grade author, Lora Hyler is our contestant today. She just released her debut middle grade novel, The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes.
Below is a list of Lora’s categories from A – Z and her answers off the top of her head.
APPLE: Honey Crisp
BOOK MADE INTO MOVIE: A Wrinkle in Time
DESERT ANIMAL: camel
EUROPEAN COUNTRY: France
FURNITURE STYLE: Contemporary
GENRE OF MUSIC: R & B
HOBBY: Travel (most recently, fixated on France)
ICE CREAM FLAVOR: chocolate
JUGGLE (THINGS YOU): Writing children’s books, marketing, spending time with family and friends.
KICK (THINGS YOU): laundry
LUNCH FOOD: A great chicken or shrimp salad. Great leftovers.
NOISE: I use noise as a buffer to facilitate writing at coffee shops, libraries and bookstores.
PICTURE BOOK: Anything illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
‘Q’ WORD: Quaint
RESTAURANT: A great Mexican restaurant with fresh foods and inventive twists on old favorites.
SYNONYM FOR GREAT: fierce, as in “Michelle Obama is fierce!”
THEATER: A place of creation
UNUSUAL PLACE: The Catacombs of Paris
VAMPIRES: I’m not much into vampires. There’s not much I like about them other than their ability to live such long lives!
WEATHER: Ideally, 75 degrees with a nice breeze
X-CITING NEWS: I launched my first middle grade novel on March 6th! I’m thrilled with the response from kids and parents, teachers, educators, reviewers, librarians, fellow authors and book lovers!
YOUTH IS: A time of many mistakes. The key is building resilience.
ZIPS (SOMETHING THAT): The family Russian Tortoise, Speedy. He got his name from zipping toward his food. Aren’t tortoises supposed to be slow?
ME: You had me at ‘The Catacombs of Paris’! Did you explore them and what fascinated you the most about them?
LH: I read about the Catacombs during one of the several French classes I took to prepare for my May 2017 month-long artist residency at Centre D’Art in Marnay-sur-seine. I had seven years of French lessons prior to college, and nothing since! Although I’m headed back to France next year, this time to a residency in the south of France, in Cassis, I doubt I will visit the Catacombs. Too spooky for my very vivid fiction writing imagination.
ME: The spookiness of them is what had me hooked. If you hear any stories about them, I hope you write about them. 😊 If the cultures of Fargo and France came together in a new place, what do you think life would be like there?
LH: Wow. That’s an interesting question! I envision bankrupt Frenchman paying euros to have his wife kidnapped, only to get outsmarted by a very pregnant National Police officer assigned to track down the culprits. She catches the bad guy red-handed, stuffing his fellow henchman in the Catacombs.
ME: I love how your mind works! If you write it, I will read it.
Animals are individuals and fierce at fighting humans stereotypes of them. Like your Russian Tortoise, Speedy. Please tell us more about him. 😊
LH: Who knew a Russian Tortoise is such a commitment? Unlike your furry animals, you have to bond enough with a hard shelled-creature to remember to feed them and clean their habitat. My husband and I joked that our son would have to take his pet to college with him. Fast forward eleven years later, our son is now 22 and Speedy is still going strong. Speedy races toward his bowl and sits on it when hungry. Otherwise, we are ignored in favor of sunning under the heat lamp and hiding from the world in a natural wood tunnel in his large glass enclosure.
ME: Animals like what they like and do what they want (for the most part), much like children. What’s one mistake from your youth that you overcame and demonstrated resiliency?
LH: I was an exceptional reader at a young age and was invited at age 7 or 8 to read at a statewide educator conference. Given my shyness at the time, it should have been no surprise to anyone when I stepped up to the microphone, took a look at the large audience, and bolted from the stage! Growing up, my parents did not speak of this.
As an adult, I became a radio news journalist for NPR and ABC affiliates, served as a weekly two-year guest commentator on a live television newscast on Today’s TMJ4 in Milwaukee, and became a sought after public speaker, a public speaking instructor for my PR and marketing company clients. I also love to encourage kids and young people to reach their highest potential.
ME: Encouragement is a wonderful gift to give; it has so many positive outcomes. Noise can go either way. Regarding using noise as a buffer to make writing in public places easier, are there any noises that aren’t conducive to your creative process while writing in public places?
LH: Screaming children! I could always crank up my headphones, but sometimes that defeats the purpose since I am there to write and plot.
ME: I am so excited for you that your new book kicked off in March and that I will be reading it this summer! Are any of your category answers connected to any upcoming projects of yours? If so, and allowed, what can you tell us about it/them?
LH: Vanessa Brantley Newton is an amazing illustrator, fantastic public speaker and a memorable individual. I had the opportunity to meet her at a SCBWI Fall Retreat in Green Lake, WI. I’ll always remember how movingly she spoke of Ezra Jack Keats, author of the Snowy Day, featuring a child of color on the cover. She saw herself for the first time in a book. This left a lasting impression on me. Here’s her Ted Talk.
I’ve become a voice for children. Let’s face it: it’s a national tragedy that the publishing industry has failed to keep pace with our nation’s changing demographics. Each child, deserves, and needs to see herself or himself within the pages of a book for healthy self-esteem and self-realization. Absence equals denial.
Each adult has a role to play. I’m speaking to teachers, educators, parents, grandparents, guardians, publishers, bookstore owners, and librarians. Seek out a book for a child in your life with an image that mirrors them, and seek out a book to provide a window into another child’s reality.
ME: You make excellent points, Lora, about the children of our world not having their voices shown or heard, and not seeing themselves in books. Happily that is changing. Godspeed the full inclusion so the norm will be beautiful, culturally-diverse books where the children of the world see themselves in them. The time of ‘diverse book unicorns’ is over. Ezra Jack Keats gave a wonderful start to inclusion; it’s about time the publishing world catches up.
Readers, thank you for joining us today. You can connect with Lora on the link below:
Have a fantastic weekend!