Monday, May 7, 2012

Meet the Author: Lilia Nickerson

Meet Lilia Nickerson and read an excerpt from her unpublished young adult  manuscript Daredevil.

1   Why do you write for children?
When I was a kid my mom drilled one important thing into my head: there are two ways to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious*. My mom was a copy editor for Scholastic in the 70s, and she was very proud of the fact that one of the books she edited was Mary Poppins. She was passionate about children’s literature and she loved sharing her passion with my sister and me. Of course, we didn’t really care. We thought she was weird. But then one day when I was twelve or so I found my copy of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. I knew it was just a “kid’s” book but I wanted to look at it, so I started flipping through the pages.  Then, out of nowhere, my mom walked in. I tried pushing the book under my pillow, but Mom saw and her ears perked up. “What are you reading?” she asked. I hung my head and showed her. I told her I knew I was silly for reading a picturebook. She made me look her in the eyes, which meant I better pay attention.  “You’re never too old for picturebooks,” she said. She told me that children’s books aren’t written for children as in young humans. They’re written for the child in all of us. I know that’s super cliché, but my mom talks in clichés. And usually her clichés make a whole lot of sense. I write for “children” because I want to write for the child in all of us. I want to bring anyone who reads my books back to the excitement, wonder, and magic of childhood.(*Supercalafragilisticexpialadoshus)

What’s the most challenging part of crafting a story?
Crafting a story is the ultimate juggling act. There are so many elements to keep in mind when writing: pacing, word choice, setting, character development, voice, point of view, tension, etc.; and I always seem to let most of them drop to the floor, even when I’ve tried so hard to catch them. I’ve discovered that this is because I haven’t taken the time to figure out what my story is about before I begin writing.  So now, I try to utilize as many writing exercises I can. I have volumes of character interviews, setting maps (which are important to make even when writing realism), and photographs of what my characters look like. Once my characters feel like real people, living in a real place, looking for something true, then I write. And it’s usually better because of it. 

How does your writing offer something new to the children’s literature world?

I don’t really know yet. I’m still trying to find my niche. So far I have worked on a picturebook about a boy named Felix and his guinea pig Gadget. It’s about how they learn to appreciate their friendship. My other project is a young adult supernatural thriller about a daredevil named Haven who wants to get out of his dumpy town and make it big as a stuntman, but the ghost of his dead sister meets him on the roof of the building he’s training to jump off. I’ve had fun writing both manuscripts, but now I want to try my hand at nonfiction. I’m also a teacher, and a nerd, so I think nonfiction might be my “thing.” I have an idea for a young adult book about Lizzy Borden that I’m just itching to write. I’m sure I have a lot to offer, but it’s still going to take some time to figure out exactly what.

Lilia Nickerson will receive her MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College on May 18, 2012. She attended Keene State College in N.H. and graduated in 2008 with a degree in elementary education. After receiving her B.S. she taught 4th grade in Franklin, N.H. She currently lives in Harwich, MA on Cape Cod. She still has imaginary friends.

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