Rising Stars continues in 2021! Hooray! The goal of this series is to highlight my fellow kidlit creators who are working their tails off to birth their beautiful book babies into the world. These interviews will cast a light on the wonderful work of these pre-published authors and author-illustrators who are destined to be stars!
Meet Rising Star
Author Lisa Trank
Lisa Trank began writing after many years as a performing artist – an actress and singer – and is happy to bring those years of crafting characters and storytelling into her writing life, as well as in her author consulting work. She’s a member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and a former recipient of a Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute Fellowship. Much of her writing focuses on the stories she grew up with as the proud first-generation daughter of immigrants. Her work has been published in the Saturday Evening Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Jerusalem Post, The Israel Times, University of Denver Journal, Salon, Gaia, Tablet, Kveller, Chiseled in Rock, and in a number of anthologies. When not writing, she practices as much yoga as she can and takes long walks in nature. She’s the proud mama of three wonderful adult daughters, dog mom to Callie, and married to poet and photographer Jack Greene. Lisa lives in Longmont, Colorado, with a constant view of the Rocky Mountains.
AD: Let’s start with a speed round…
AD: Okay, now down to the serious stuff….Please dish us the dirt on who you are and your journey into the fabulous world of children’s books. You are also recently agented and looking to get traditionally published. Can you share a bit about how you found your agent match?
LT: As a writer who mostly focuses on Jewish-themed subjects, I was pretty steeped in Holocaust literature. After reading a beautiful but really depressing title, I wanted to bring more joyous and diverse stories that represent much more of the Jewish American and Jewish experience. Writing for kids seemed to be the perfect fit for this shift, and I’m so thrilled I hated that book!
I found my wonderful agent, Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs from the Deborah Harris Agency, through #DVPit on Twitter! She fell in love with my PB and is now shopping it. The experience is wonderful and reminds me of when I went ziplining in Costa Rica. I was terrified of heights, but wanted to set a strong example for our kids, so I went for it! On every turn, there was a moment when I would slow down in the middle and it felt like I was suspended in space, but I always made it to the landing. That’s what it feels like to have an agent submitting my work - exhilarating and scary, but one I ultimately trust and signed up for, so why not go for it??
AD: Yes, it can be a scary new part of the journey but it's amazing to have someone else in your corner who can champion your work! Congrats on finding your match and best of luck with your stories that are out on submission!
AD: Did you always know you wanted to be an author? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?
LT: I spent the first part of my career in the performing arts and what I loved most about it was the craft of creating characters and sharing stories. I’ve always worked to support my creative life and have been in marketing, communications, and public relations, most currently helping to support a small charter school in Longmont, Colorado.
AD: What topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing? Favorite genres you like to write in or favorite techniques?
LT: I love the grandparent/grandchild dynamic. Having only known one of my grandparents and not during her best time (she was ill with dementia), I have always longed for that intergenerational relationship. I also love to focus on the immigrant experience and what it is like to be Jewish in a small town, all of which are my own experiences. I’m the daughter of two immigrants and both grew up in a small(ish) town with a small Jewish community, and have raised our three daughters in a similar environment.
AD: I totally relate to this. I never knew either of my grandfathers as they died before I was born. I loved spending time with my grandmothers and miss them dearly. I wish I took time to talk to them more about their life experiences. My mother's side is Jewish as well. I would've loved to learn more about their lineage and immigration story, too. It's beautiful that you've been able to capture your personal history and memories in your stories.
AD: Breaking into the publishing industry is not easy! What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far? What have you done to persevere?
LT: My years in theater certainly prepared me for the long game that the world of publishing can be, as well as how to deal with rejection. The biggest challenge is breaking through to the first book deal! A great teacher once told me that every rejection is one step closer to publication and I don’t take it personally when a work is passed on. I’m not saying it doesn’t sting, but I believe in my writing and continue onward. I also find that if I’m shopping a full manuscript, working on new projects keeps me balanced in the present moment.
AD: As creators (and humans), we tend to focus on the flaws of our creations or areas for improvement. This helps us grow and develop, but we need not forget the many things we are doing well. With this in mind, what has been your biggest accomplishment or something you are most proud of thus far on your writing journey?
LT: Showing up to the work on the bad days, when I’d much rather be watching home improvement shows, or playing with our dog. I don’t really think of myself in terms of accomplishments - my life is really beautiful, from a long and passionate marriage, to three amazing kids, to good health, and living close to nature. Getting books published and into the hands of kids will be amazing and kind of like a cherry on top of an already delicious sundae.
AD: Yes! I love that comparison! Totally like a cherry on top of a sundae! A very, very yummy sundae :)
AD: In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author? What makes your writing unique to you?
LT: I write with humor and heart. I’m not afraid to go deep into the emotion of a moment, a relationship, or a situation AND I love to laugh, or find the humor in even dark moments.
AD: What inspires your work?
LT: My dad, who escaped Nazi Europe at 16, lost his mother, youngest brother, and was separated from most of his siblings for decades. Despite this, he built a life filled with hope and determination and taught me to appreciate who I have in my life, not the material things - although he liked those, too. My kids inspire me and our world inspires me, again, even with so much pain and suffering.
AD: Wow! What an amazing story, Lisa! Your father sounds like an incredible man. It takes a lot of courage to continue to look for hope and positivity after experiencing such dark and difficult times. I see where you get your own courage to "go deep" from.
AD: Tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck?
LT: Most mornings, I wake up at 5:30 am, feed the dog and make my coffee. I plop down on the recliner in the den and just start pecking away at the keyboard. I guess you could call me a pantser, but I think that term gets a bad rap - I like to consider myself an intuitive, empathic writer and love to enter into the emotional layering of a story. I keep a notebook by me to scribble down all the ideas that pop up. I find when I’m writing, the creative energy keeps flowing and I don’t want to be distracted, but I also want to find a way to honor those other beautiful ideas. When I get stuck, I take a walk, a hot shower, do yoga, move my body. I try to not get stressed about it because life is stressful enough as it is and I want to create from a place of mindful relaxation and joy. That’s why I love writing in the morning because my mind is softer - the day and all that goes with it hasn’t taken over.
AD: What sorts of things have been most integral in your growth as an author?
LT: Reading, reading, reading! Being an active member of SCBWI, specifically our Rocky Mountain Chapter. Taking workshops and learning from others. I was lucky enough to go to The Highlights Foundation a few years ago and cannot wait to go back. I definitely believe in investing in my craft and budget every year for conferences, workshops, etc. I also joined a small critique group, which is a blast!
AD: What advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?
LT: Trust your voice and let it emerge! Reach out and connect with other writers and illustrators. One of my dearest writing pals is someone I sat next down next to at a conference three years ago and we started talking and haven’t stopped! Get involved in your local SBCWI chapter and join a critique group. Writing is a lonely art and the support and connection make it easier to bear!
Some of Lisa's favorite things! Flowers and food can always brighten a mood :) Photo Credit © 2021 Lisa Trank
AD: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
LT: Thank you for asking!
AD: Thank you so much for stopping by the blog, Lisa, and congrats again on signing with Jessica! I appreciate you sharing a bit about yourself and contributing to the Rising Stars in Kidlit series We can't wait to read your stories! I look forward to getting a sneak peek into your Jewish history and learning more about your life experiences through your words. Feel free to drop a comment below to support Lisa and her work, and be sure to subscribe so you don't miss out and follow along on Twitter at #RisingStarsinKidlit!
Who Am I?
Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. Amanda is the author of the award-winning picture book, 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag, Moonlight Memories (summer, 2023) and a yet to be announced forthcoming title. She also has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology: Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. Amanda has over ten years of experience as a classroom teacher and was selected as Massachusetts Secondary Art Educator of the Year. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her family and her rescue pup, Cora. You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art.