Friday, July 15, 2011

Lisa Yee
In Conversation with The Pen And Ink

The Pen And Ink Blog Management admires Lisa Yee – author of Millicent Min, Girl Genius, American Girl's Kanani books and Bobby books, and winner of the best decorated cake at Brightwood Elementary School in Monterey Park, California. She has a charismatic stage and online presence. She maintains a blog, LiveJournal, a website, a Facebook profile, a Twitter account, and the LisaYeeAndSon's video channel.

Her 14 year old son helps Lisa create and shoot the videos. He’s a filmmaker and directs Lisa. “It’s fun for him to boss me around. We collaborate.” For the Peepy YouTube video, Cautionary Easter. Lisa and her son hashed out idea, shot it in one day and her son edited the footage. Lisa and son have an upcoming video for the International Reading Association blog.

Lisa has a charismatic stage presence. For example, on Target stage at the 2011 Los Angeles Festival of Books, Lisa started speaking about her recent American Girl book, and then commented on her black boots.

“I’m more nervous about time and logistics. Do I need water? Do I need to go to the bathroom?” She doesn’t write prepared remarks for stage appearances. “I go off-topic. There’s no editor. It’s whatever it comes out of my mouth. Then I’ll say ‘what was I saying?’ Then the audience reminds me.” 

She visits schools, libraries and participates at conferences. “I travel a lot and enjoy speaking to promote my books.” During an appearance at the American Girl Place for her Kanani books at The Grove, “My son lasted five minutes. He gave himself a headache got a migraine and ran out screaming.”

For the book launch of Warp Speed, the publisher sent a blowup of the book cover. “I decided to do something with it.” Lisa propped a life-size cut-out of the book cover next to the podium at Vroman’s. People posed next to the cover and had their photos taken. During the book launch for Absolutely, Maybe, Lisa supplied pink wigs and photographed people.

“It’s fun. It’s gives people something to do while I’m signing.” 

Her learning curve about the business was high. Lisa’s first book, Millicent Min, Girl Genius came out in October 2003. “SCBWI was a great help. I would have floundered without it. I took workshops on the business aspects. I’m still learning.” 

Lisa hadn’t planned on writing Warp Speed. At a middle school visit in Colorado, a nervous boy stood up during the Q&A. “I need to know what happened to Marley.” Marley Sandelski was a minor character in Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time. “I was trying to figure what was the boy talking about. Later his teacher told me it was amazing that the boy spoke. He is Marley.” Also a girl had written Lisa about Marley, “He’s like me. I need to know he’s going to be okay.” Now she had to write the book. “I was taken by the phrase ‘I need to know what happened to Marley’.” She wasn’t writing to address the current “bullies in school” topic. 

Lisa is often asked, “Where do you get your ideas.” She says, “Those kids” like the boy in the back of the auditorium, standing up and asking questions. “I’ve heard from kids, teachers, parents about bullying.”

“I get a lot of mail from kids that starts, ‘I’ve never told anyone this before…” Lisa Yee urges the student to talk to someone, a teacher, a parent, a counselor. 

Lisa has an essay appearing in the forthcoming anthology, Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories, edited by YA novelists Megan Kelley Hall (Sisters of Misery) and Carrie Jones (Need). YA authors tell true stories that recall bullying incidents. 

No discussion of Lisa Yee is complete without mentioning Peepy, who according to her website, “…a.k.a. Peeps, is my travel companion and muse.” 

Lisa’s family has a definite opinion about her relationship with Peepy. “‘Nothing you do embarrasses us, except when you take out Peepy.’” 

Julia Andrews
Alas, there will be no book about Peepy. Peepy is “spoken for.” She is copyrighted by Just Born, Inc. The company is aware of Lisa’s blog. She once received a VIP invitation to the East Coast for an event. People bring their own peeps to meet Peepy. At the 2011 Los Angeles Book Festival, someone tried to buy Peepy. “Is this for sale?”

Peepy is always ready to break the ice with such luminaries as Julie Andrews, Sid Fleischmann and MT Anderson. Despite the many famous authors and illustrators Peepy has met, she stays loyal to Lisa. Though Lisa may be fearful in a public venue, Peepy starts a conversation starts and opens doors for Lisa. 

Amy Goldman Koss
There isn’t anywhere Peepy won’t go. “Peepy knows not to get into a microwave. She has her own fans. People make her clothes and sent presents. They want pictures with Peepy. Other plush animals come to visit. The whole world loves her.” 

Although, Amy Goldman Koss once attempted to eat Peepy as a sandwich. 

The Pen And Ink Blog would like to thank Lisa Yee for this interview. Proceed at warp eight to your nearest local book store and get a copy of Warp Speed.
Edited by Susan Berger
Images Courtesy of Lisa Yee

20 comments:

  1. Excellent. Lisa, you were my first SCBWI inspiration when you spoke and then taught me about revision. I am currently revising with gusto, still using notes from your class. Thank you for supporting Pen and Ink and writers of SCBWI. And thanks to Peepy too.

    All my best,

    Hilde

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  2. "Lisa has a charismatic stage presence."

    No kidding! She's hilarious. I could listen to her speak all day!

    But I have it on good authority that Lisa learned everything she knows from a little yellow furry rabbit. Only, the rabbit is too modest to tell you that up front. (Is that good enough, Peepy? Did I say it right?)

    Thanks for a great interview PIB.

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  3. Among Lisa's many talents, she speaks fluent Klingonese.

    Sincerely,
    Star Trek Fan

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  4. I can't decide which of your books is my favorite. Currently I'm leaning towards Warp Speed because one of my sons is a Super Geek.

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  5. Thank you for interviewing Lisa Yee. I, too, see her as children writers' role model. This is one of Pen And Ink's best blogs!

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  6. Dear Anne,
    We hate to brag...but we will.
    We promise to bring you the constant variety in Children's Literature. From the thrill of publishing to the agony of rejection.
    Sincerely,
    The Management

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  7. If Lisa is that much fun her books must be even better.

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  8. How awesome! I love Peepy. He's so cute I'd probably want to eat him, too.

    Thanks for the interview, Lisa!

    Amy

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  9. Thanks for the great interview, Pen and Ink!!!

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  10. My pleasure, Lisa. Does Peepy like it?

    Sincerely,
    Lupe F.

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  11. Karol Ruth SilversteinJuly 16, 2011 at 9:26 PM

    Love...love...LOVE the pic of Peepy and Julie Andrews! Great piece all around, Pen and Ink peeps!

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  12. Lupe, I hate to break this to you, but Peepy was disappointed. She thought the entire blog would be devoted to just her.

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  13. Dear Peepy,
    The Management would like to apologize for not devoting the entire interview to you. As you are well connected within the publishing industry, we'd like state that the interviewer, Mr. Fernandez, acted on his own, so please place only him on your blacklist.
    Sincerely,
    The Management
    (sans Mexican In Residence)

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  14. I'm a big fan of Lisa's books, but also of Lisa who always has good advice, just like now, with her ideas of giving people something to do while she's signing books. Brilliant! I've also benefited from her tips on revision that I got at one of the SCBWI conference workshops. :)

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  15. After I interviewed Lisa, I listened to her encouraging advice, although Peepy was giving me the stink eye for not devoting my time to her.
    Lupe F.

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  16. Thank you so much for this! And yes....warp speed to the book store is a good, good plan. What an inspiration to see are character who clearly touched Lisa's readers!

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  17. LOL on getting the stink eye from Peepy!

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  18. Yes, Peepy put out the word to her friends to avoid me.
    Lupe F.

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  19. I just finished reading Absolutely, Maybe - and was delighted to read this wonderful interview with Lisa Yee. Thank you Pen and Ink for your great timing, and to Lisa for the fascinating insights.

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  20. Megan,
    We blog to please.
    Sincerely,
    The Management

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