TxSandS: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do, and who or what inspires you?
LesaB: The short answer – I multitask. The extended version – I work part time at a public library where I am fortunate to be immersed in the world of books and people who love them. I also work part time for a nonprofit organization in Houston called Writers in the Schools (WITS). Their mission is to inspire and enhance creative writing by placing professional writers in writing residencies within public schools. Throughout my writing career, I’ve found inspiration in lots of places, but by far working with WITS has outshined them all. Being with children, writing with them, witnessing those aha! moments when they realize they’ve written something amazing, well, it just doesn’t get more inspiring than that.
TxSandS: What were your goals when you first started working with kids and books, and how has that vision changed now that some time has gone by?
LesaB: In the beginning, I think I simply wanted to express my own creativity, and I had a strong desire to connect with others’ imaginations. After years of working in the classroom, I’ve grown more and more concerned about our creativity. Imagination is an invaluable commodity, and far too often, I see it turned off the minute a student walks through the classroom door. I don’t want to get into the politics of public schools and standardized testing, but I can’t help what I see. No matter what’s causing it, it’s very sad.
TxSandS: What has been the biggest surprise since you've entered the world of books for kids and teens?
LesaB: The greatest surprise I’ve encountered since writing for children would have to be the explosion of growth in that sector of the industry. When I started out, some viewed it as a “lesser” form of writing. It was as if you weren’t good enough to write for adults. It didn’t take me long to realize how ridiculous that was. Writing for children and teens is much more difficult. It can be downright hard. I still haven’t mastered a picture book! I believe the growth in children’s and YA books is testament to how badly we needed to fill that void.
TxSandS: How do you see reading changing for teens in the next couple years? What challenges do you see? And what can we do to help?
LesaB: Certainly, the electronic age has set reading and publishing on its head, so there’s still much to come as far as teens and how their reading habits will evolve. Working in a library, I see more kids wanting to listen to a book. Sometimes they check out the CD along with the hard copy because they like doing both listening and reading at the same time. With the increase of easy access to audiobook downloads, I think we’ll be seeing more of this kind of reading in the future.
Reading with Joe
TxSandS: Would you consider yourself a Sweetheart or a Scoundrel?
LesaB: I have enormously eclectic taste in reading. For instance, I’m reading Mark Lawrence’s fantasy series The Broken Empire that has a bloodthirsty scoundrel as its main character. Yet I’m reading the Lux series by Jennifer Armentrout with a hunky, alien sweetheart as its hero. Still, I love Hank Zipzer, the Count of Monte Cristo, and Ally Carter’s Heist Society series. So I suppose I’d have to say I am one sweet scoundrel!
TxSandS: Thank you again, Lesa, for being here and for all you do!
As a writer, I was passionate about YA story telling before it was called YA. Unfortunately, my cowardice kept me in the closet for a while. During those dark, cloistered years, I developed my craft by attending various workshops and conferences, notably the Highlights Foundation's Chautauqua and Founders Workshops. Then, after working for years in a middle school library and my students asking to read my work, I started Boot in the Door Publications and self-published YA novels AMANDA NOBLE, ZOOKEEPER EXTRAORDINIARE and AMANDA NOBLE, SPECIAL AGENT. Currently, I have another YA and a middle grade novel in the works.
If you know of someone who would make a great Featured Sweetheart, please let us know! The best part? If you nominate someone, we'll send you a $5 Starbucks gift card :)