Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.
LISA GRAFF is an associate editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, where she has worked for the past four years. She is particularly interested in middle-grade novels, but enjoys everything from picture books to YA, especially the funny stuff. In addition to working as an editor, Lisa is also a writer. Her first book, The Thing About Georgie, was selected for seven state reading lists, including the Texas Bluebonnet master list, and her latest novel, Umbrella Summer, is due out in June 2009. With the help of seven other children’s and YA authors, Lisa keeps a blog about the writing and the publishing world, The Longstockings. Her website is can be viewed here.
I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa at a recent SCBWI retreat. She was funny, insightful and charming. I’m so happy she agreed to answer some questions for us!
What is it like wearing both the author and editor hats, and how does this benefit each role?
I feel very lucky that I get to be both an author and editor—two awesome jobs, and I get to do both of them! The thing I like most about it probably is talking to other authors about their craft, and getting an inside look at how stories develop, which helps me tremendously as a writer. Just knowing that other writers face the same struggles that I do all the time, and yet somehow manage to be brilliant storytellers in the end is very inspiring. And there’s nothing that makes you want to buckle down and write more than being surrounded by good books all the time! I also think that being a writer helps me when I have my editor hat on because it makes me more empathetic to my authors and to aspiring authors—and hopefully helps me skew my thoughts and criticism in a way that is most helpful to them.
Another great thing about being both a writer and an editor is that I get to work on stories I would never be able to write myself. So far all of the books I’ve written have been funny, contemporary middle-grade novels (although I’ve just signed up a funny, contemporary chapter book—so you can see I’m branching out!). But as an editor I can work on anything from historical fiction to non-fiction to picture books, all of which I think I would write extremely badly myself. So I get a chance to learn about new genres and styles, which I really enjoy doing. Still, my favorite stories to work on are funny, contemporary novels (go figure), from chapter book up through YA.
The double-life can be a bit hard, too, though. I think it’s especially taxing when I’m in the throws of working on something really wonderful and tricky at the office, and also working on my own writing at home—trying to use the same part of your brain all the day long can be very tiring! Those are the days I think I’d rather be a welder. But it’s very satisfying, too, so I really can’t complain much.
Can you tell us about your latest book?
My newest novel is coming out in June, and I’m getting very excited about it. It’s called Umbrella Summer, and it’s about a ten-year-old girl named Annie who becomes a bit of a hypochondriac after her older brother, Jared, dies unexpectedly. It’s a weighty subject, obviously, but there’s a lot of humor in there, too, and some very fun characters that just a ball to write.
What is your favorite children’s joke?
My absolute favorite joke makes no sense written out, unfortunately, but I’ll give it to you anyway:
Q: What do you call a pig with four eyes?
A: A piiiig.
See? Totally not funny on paper. But for some reason every time I tell that joke it makes me bust up laughing. I am obviously very easily amused.
Thanks so much, Lisa!