Friday, November 6, 2015

Writer Spotlight!

Today’s Writer Spotlight features long-time Michigan SCBWI member Lisa Rose! 

Lisa is well known around our Mitten as a lover of all things Detroit and an advocate for diverse books in the children’s writer community. She hosts the Missing Voice Picture Book Discussion Group on Facebook where members focus on a different diverse picture book each month, meet the author and ask questions. Lisa’s journey as a children’s author is inspiring, and she’s here to tell you all about it. Take it away Lisa! 

Mitten: Tell us a little bit about you. Where you’re from, your history in the State (were your born here or did you come from somewhere else, that kind of thing)

Lisa: I’m a life-long Detroiter! I grew up in West Bloomfield, but am related to Oak Park royalty. Seriously, I’m proud to be from Detroit and be a part of its comeback. Creative people are coming to Detroit from all over—even Brooklyn is moving here! I didn’t have to move—I’ve been here all along fighting for the city’s rebirth with both of Joe Louis’ fists.

Mitten: When did you start writing for children or otherwise, and how did you know it was something you wanted to do? 

Lisa: Originally, I wrote plays. At the University of Michigan, I had several produced. But my mother said I had to do something practical and something that would make money. So I became a really rich first-grade teacher….HA! Reading to my class made me fall in love with picture books all over again.

Mitten: How did you find out about SCBWI and how long have you been a member?

Lisa: I think I first heard about in a rejection letter. The editor/agent probably thought, “This is so bad—go see these people, learn, and submit when you know more.”  I’ve been a member since 2002.

Mitten: What genres are you most interested in and why? Picture books, middle grade, YA, chapter books, poetry, nonfiction?

Lisa: I love everything written for children 10 and under. Once puberty strikes, I really suck. I didn’t do very well when I was that age and never want to revisit it with my writing. I’m over 40 on the outside, but really I’m very much a 7-year-old on the inside

Mitten: Tell us about your publishing journey. Are you pre-published or published, and if so where?

Lisa: Oye—my journey has been a looong schlep! There have been many highs and lows. I wouldn’t have gotten through any of it without my SCBWI-MI family! People always ask me to help them write a children’s book—I tell them to run into a brick wall a thousand times and if they still want to write the book after all that, then I can help them. 

Right now I have two e-books published with MeeGenius/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They are: 


My debut picture book, SHMULIK PAINTS THE TOWN, will be published in January 2016 by Kar-Ben Publishing. Last week it finally felt real because it was posted on Amazon for pre-order.
From SHMULIK PAINTS THE TOWN, KarBen Publishing, January 2016

Mitten: Many of us have jobs other than writing for children. Tell us something about what you do outside of writing. 

Lisa: I care for my visually-impaired daughter. She is seven and in second grade. My daughter has some sight and very limited color distinction. She has taught me how to look at books differently. I look at the type, spacing and detail of the illustrations. For example: Eric Carle has very clear and simple style, but Jan Brett is a nightmare for my daughter. One of my new favorite books is RED: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. I love so much of this book—but the type is very tiny and scattered in some places. This is also challenging for her. If I were the art director (or in charge of the world) I would have tweaked a few things.

As a former teacher, I know children with ADD/ADHD or if they have been affected by drugs in utero, always crave a very simple style. They can’t handle all of the stimuli in some books.

Mitten: How does what you do every day inform your writing?

Lisa: As I mentioned earlier, I was a teacher. I also have a Masters in Reading. But the biggest influence was where I taught—Highland Park and Pontiac. Most of my students were African American and lived in homeless shelters. I wanted to tell their stories. I believed their voices needed to be heard. My middle grade work-in-progress is about a homeless girl living in Detroit. It led to me meeting Jeff Bass, who produced Eminem’s 8 Mile. He asked me to form a company with him and develop an app. It’s not every day that a person with several Grammys and Oscar invites you to form a company—so I said, “YES!” The app has been its own separate roller coaster…. I hope to share a happy ending for that story very soon!

Mitten: Where do you get most of your writing ideas? Do you write them down, keep them in a computer file or just store them in your memory?

Lisa: I get most of my ideas early in the morning—4-6 am—is what I call magic time. I’m on my elliptical in the basement and just let my mind play.

Mitten: We all have favorite writers that inspire us. Name two of yours and why you like them.

Lisa: I have to say that Judy Blume was my first love and I still have a crush on her. I also adore Jacqueline Woodson. However, Jay Asher really keeps me going. He faced so much rejection and still kept writing. Finally, he produced a book that was on the NYT list for several years!

Mitten: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer for children? Why?

Lisa: “No amount of sequins can save a bad script.” This was said by my high school drama teacher but applies to all writing and even real life. If your structure is weak, nothing can save the show/book.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Lisa! And be sure and stop by to preorder your copy of Shmulik Paints the Town. I promise, you’ll be glad you did!

Learn more about Lisa at


  1. What a fantastic interview. Lisa's comments are insightful and fresh. She's a funny, vibrant, energetic proponent of others and I know hard work underpins all of her successes. Watch for much more from her!

  2. Fun, Lisa! And way to go girl...hugs. I LOVE the illustration posted with this. Can't wait to get my own signed copy.


  3. So glad to be sharing this journey with you, Lisa, and fun to see the illustration page from your book here. Cheers!

  4. It was great to learn more about you, Lisa. You have so much going for you! Best of luck on your books and app.

  5. Congratulations on your upcoming book! I really enjoyed the post and learning more about your journey!