By Agatha Rodi
Lydia Lukidis is an author and conceptual artist. Her passion for reading and writing began at a very young age when she composed poem after poem in her journals. She later acquired her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from McGill University and her love for the written word continued to grow.
Lydia fuses her creativity and skills to educate, inspire and entertain children. Her mandate as an artist is to provoke thought and feeling while having a positive impact on children. She has published over 40 children’s books and eBooks, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as over a dozen educational books with publishers such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Kane Press (a division of Lerner). She also composes lesson plans, activities and curriculum-based texts for children.
Lydia’s background is multi-disciplinary and spans the fields of literature, science, and puppetry. She has co-written and co-produced five plays for Panadream Theater, a company she co-founded in 2007. These plays for young audiences were told through the eyes of string marionettes. Her award-winning play Yorgo & the World was selected to be part of the prestigious 2012 World Puppetry Festival in China. Her plays were presented at many international festivals and she collaborated with companies like Cirque du Soleil for several special events.
Lydia also does school visits and gives writing workshops for children aged 5-12. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence while improving their literacy. She is currently part of the Culture in the Schools Program organized by the Ministre de Culture et Communications Québec. These workshops are subsidized by the Quebec Government.
How did you start writing/illustrating children’s books?
Actually, I started out as a puppeteer! That’s how I realized I loved working with children. I was writing children’s plays and touring them around the world with puppet shows, and then I decided to focus exclusively on writing children’s books. I feel like this is what I was always meant to do.
Which book is the one that influenced you to start writing?
When I was young, the book Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume impressed me. I can’t tell you how many times I read that book! It made me understand the power of strong character development and great writing. I have been writing since I was 6 years old, but when I discovered Judy Blume, I was even more inspired.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
Ideas are everywhere, from the mundane to the extraordinary. It could be something simple, like the first snowfall, or something remarkable, like a falling star. That said, a lot of my inspiration comes from my daughter and children in general. I work with children quite often by giving writing workshops, and they always amaze me.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Each book has its own artistic process. Some books are difficult to write, and take years for the ideas to germinate. In general, a picture book takes about a year to write, revise and get feedback from my critique groups. Chapter books take a lot longer (my first took 3 years and will likely never get published). But some books flow more easily. I recently wrote my best picture book in 6 months. It was a magical process, and everything flowed smoothly. That’s the first time that ever happened!
How do you ensure a picture book lends itself well to being read aloud?
The best way is to read it out loud, many times. It may sound obvious, but I never did that with the first books I published! This is a critical part of the process because when you read the book out loud, you understand the rhythm and cadence more clearly.
What about the process of editing and working with the illustrator?
Working with an illustrator can be an amazing experience. For example, working with Tara J. Hannon on NO BEARS ALLOWED (published by Blue Whale Press) taught me many things: namely, not to describe too much with words, and leave part of that to the illustrator. It’s important to give them space to come to with their own ideas because they can help bring the book to the next level.
How do you connect with your little readers and the writing community in general?
Connecting with your audience and the kidlit community is essential. To connect with children, I give frequent writing workshops in schools. It’s a great way for me to keep tabs on what engages them and what books draw their attention. I’m also part of many Facebook and LinkedIn groups that cater to the children’s publishing industry. They’re a great wealth of resources, support, and information. Also, professional organizations like SCBWI and CANSCAIP are also essential.
What Greek children’s books you wish you had written?
Greeks have a deep history of great storytelling and rich mythology references. I was happy to see books like the Percy Jackson series rise to fame because they brought Greek mythology to the forefront. I myself want to do that, in my own way. When I teach Greek mythology to graded 5 and 6, they’re always enthralled with the Medusa myth. So I’ve been working on a middle-grade novel with Medusa as the protagonist.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m excited because I just wrote an amazing nonfiction picture book, and have a few agents interested. I can’t say much more at this point, but I feel optimistic. I’ve also discovered I’m much more than a picture book writer. I’ve been working on several chapter books and also developing a new middle-grade novel based on Greek mythology. Stay tuned!
Do you have any advice for aspiring picture-book authors?
First off, become involved with SCBWI. It’s a must.
Next, READ a lot. You really need to read as many picture books (and other kidlit books) as you can. It’s essential and will inspire you.
Also, connect to your fellow writers. Through social media, that’s fairly easy these days.
And remember: this industry is subjective. Not everyone will fall in love with your book. It’s your job to find the right agent/editor who will. DON’T GIVE UP!
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*To purchase any of the books-