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#GrowYourWriting Creator Interview: Author and Former Elementary Librarian, Lisa Rogers

Welcome to the #GrowYourWriting Creator Interviews blog series in 2024. I’m thrilled to feature talented kidlit creators this year and spotlight their beautiful work and inspiring journeys. 

Today, I welcome Author and Former Elementary Librarian Lisa Rogers. She welcomed two new books into the world in 2023: BEAUTIFUL NOISE: THE MUSIC OF JOHN CAGE (Random House Kids/Anne Schwartz Books), beautifully illustrated by Il Sung Na, and a Little Golden Book Biography of Ronald Reagan, and has several more forthcoming titles in 2024 and beyond!

You can connect with Lisa on X/TwitterInstagram, and her website.

Stay tuned to the end of the interview for your chance to win a Non-rhyming picture book critique (less than 700 words) from Lisa!

1 – What inspired you to pursue a career in children’s literature, and when did you start creating?

I love sharing books with children, and that’s what I was privileged to do during my career as an elementary school librarian. Kids are so smart about books, so perceptive, and so willing to share their thinking. I learned a lot from them, and from the excellent, beautiful, wonderfully sophisticated books available. I long had wanted to be a writer, and sharing books with kids inspired me to try writing them. Though I’d read a ton and had been a journalist, learning to write for children was challenging. It took seven years of false starts before 2016, when I earned a spot with my agent with the manuscript for my debut, and she sold it almost immediately.

2 – Can you share your kidlit journey thus far with our readers?  What writing/illustrating credentials, awards, contest wins, or other recognition would you like to share?

It was a long road from my first manuscripts to publication, but my debut, 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW,” received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, was reviewed in the New York Times, was a Crystal Kite Award finalist, won the Boston Authors Club Julia Ward Howe Award, and received several other honors. After persevering for so long, I was thrilled that this book was able to stand out among many other fantastic works.

For Beautiful Noise: The Music of John Cage, which released in 2023,  it took me years of research and revisions to get to what this manuscript needed to be–something as different as Cage’s music and worthy of mine and his own high expectations. It’s brilliantly illustrated by Il Sung Na–check out the endpapers to take in his incredible visual glossary of 60 sounds! This book has garnered three starred reviews, is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, and most amazing of all, is an SCBWI Golden Kite Award Finalist!

3 – What part of the process, from the first draft to submissions, do you find the most challenging, and how do you overcome that?

When I get the tone, structure, and emotion right in my first draft, that sets me up for success. But when I don’t, no amount of tweaking will fix my manuscript. I need to shake things loose, by setting it aside. Before I get back to work, I meditate on the heart of the story. When I’m ready to say something new, I write without looking at my earlier versions. I write by hand to keep myself in touch with the flow of my thoughts. Somehow that frees my creativity,. If it works for me, it might work for you!

4 – Can you tell our readers more about your journey from ideas to publication?

Because I basically lived in a fabulous library, I had so many wonderful books at my fingertips. It was simple to find mentor texts and study the best of the best, because I’d already curated a collection. But what genre to write in? I took part in Tara Lazar’s inaugural PiBoIdMo challenge (now Storystorm), came up with 30 ideas, and started writing. I tried funny, I tried silly, I tried fractured fairy tales, I tried rhyming. I joined the 12 x 12 Challenge (and am still a participant) and submitted work I thought was ready, but…it wasn’t. I needed to get my stories to a higher level. I almost gave up, but rededicated myself to my goal of becoming traditionally published. That’s when I did a mentor text study to really understand how the pros did it. I knew that I loved certain books, but I didn’t understand how the authors actually achieved what they did. I noticed how carefully crafted these books were, though they seemed to flow so naturally. I paid attention to rhythm, repetition, word choice, tense, and more. Something about that exercise helped me become more aware of why I was writing and what I was writing. I wrote my debut carefully, with the foundation of all that I’d learned. I kept emotion top of mind, and wrote with purpose. That made all the difference.

5 – What overall advice would you like to give aspiring kidlit creators to grow their writing?

A close study of books you admire is an excellent way to form a deep understanding of what it takes to get your work to the next level. You’re not copying; you’re simply noticing how the author draws the reader in, develops an idea, infuses the work with emotion, comes up with that satisfying ending, and creates a book that children will connect with, enjoy, and read again and again. Taking notes on what makes each book successful, you’ll begin to imagine possibilities of how you can grow your own writing!

6 – What’s next for you as a creator?

Besides BEAUTIFUL NOISE: THE MUSIC OF JOHN CAGE, 2023 saw the release of my first Little Golden Book!  RONALD REAGAN: A LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK BIOGRAPHY (Random House Children’s Books), came out on Election Day. I’m thrilled that in 2024, ELVIS PRESLEY: A LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK BIOGRAPHY, will rock ‘n’ roll nto the world! 

In 2025, expect two new picture book bios, including WOODY’S WORDS: WOODROW WILSON RAWLS AND “WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS” (Astra/Calkins Creek). I’m fortunate to have a poem selected for Irene Latham and Charles Waters’ anthology, IF I COULD CHOOSE A BEST DAY (Candlewick, 2025) and for The Writers’ Loft Press’s GNOMES & UNGNOMES: POEMS OF HIDDEN CREATURES (December, 2023) Plus, there are more picture book biographies to come!

Guess What? It’s giveaway time! Lisa has graciously offered to giveaway a Non-rhyming picture book critique (less than 700 words)

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post below! The entry period closes on March 3, 2024, at 12 am PST. One Winner will be announced on March 4, 2024.

1 Bonus entry is available for anyone who shares this post on X/Twitter, follows, and tags @LisaLJRogers and @C_Alemshah on X/Twitter.


  • Lisa

    Great interview! I can relate to when the first draft gets things right it’s easy, but when I look back and know things are off I have to distance myself too. I love the idea of writing by hand after that. I haven’t tried that before. I’m going to give it a shot!

  • Mariana

    Thanks for such a wonderful interview and congratulations on your success. I loved what you shared about writing by hand, I’ve never tried that but I’ll give it a go. Also I’m glad to see mentor text study is something you recommend, I’ve noticed the importance of this too. Thank you!

    • Lisa Rogers

      Hi Mariana! Thanks for your kind words. I was so lucky to have chosen the books for the library and then to have been able to share them with children. It was when I really studied them that I learned so much about what makes a successful picture book. Yet the key is finding emotion in your own heart and bringing it to the page. Best wishes with your writing!!

    • Lisa Rogers

      Hi Katie!!
      Yes–perseverance and continual study. I love taking workshops because when I least expect it, I hear something that totally relates to something I’ve been stuck on, and I immediately scribble down my breakthrough so I don’t forget it!! Best wishes with your writing!

  • Yolimari

    Thanks for sharing your journey and tips! I’m glad your are receiving starred reviews and awards after all your determination. Perseverance is everything! Also, thanks for the excellent advice regarding mentor texts.

  • Becky Walker

    “Taking notes on what makes each book successful, you’ll begin to imagine possibilities of how you can grow your own writing!”

    I love this because I live in the library studying the books I love trying to find their magic sauce! Great interview and congratulations on all your achievements! Thanks for sharing with us!

    • Lisa Rogers

      Hi Becky! That magic sauce–different for everyone and universal at the same time! Best wishes with your writing!

  • Shana Aborn

    Fascinating read! I especially appreciated the advice on author study and on “writing with purpose.” Many of the best books are ones in which we can feel the author’s personal passions. Thank you for this!

  • Claudine Pullen

    I love this. Thank you Lisa. Such an insightful interview. I love that you studied mentor texts as I’m beginning to do this.

  • Susan Carroll

    Lisa thank you for sharing your journey. It is inspiring and a reminder that the struggle is real, as with the butterfly in this story. 🦋

    The Boy and the Butterfly: The Struggle Makes Us Stronger

    A young boy came across a butterfly cocoon and brought it into his house. He watched, over the course of hours, as the butterfly struggled to break free from its confinement. It managed to create a small hole in the cocoon, but its body was too large to emerge. It tired and became still.

    Wanting to help the butterfly, the boy snipped a slit in the cocoon with a pair of scissors. But the butterfly was small, weak, and its wings crumpled. The boy expected the insect to take flight, but instead it could only drag its undeveloped body along the ground. It was incapable of flying.

    The boy, in his eagerness to help the butterfly, stunted its development. What he did not know was that the butterfly needed to go through the process of struggling against the cocoon to gain strength and fill its wings with blood. It was the struggle that made it stronger.


  • Jessica Russo

    I absolutely love that you were a librarian! There is something so special about educators being able to put their books into the hands of children! ❤️

  • Christine Alemshah

    Hello everyone! Thank you for taking part in Lisa’s giveaway!

    Lisa – Thank you for coming on my blog and sharing your journey and gorgeous picture book, A BEAUTIFUL NOISE! A huge heartfelt congratulations on receiving the Golden Kite Honor Award for Nonfiction text for this book! You are an inspiration to us all!

    It’s time to reveal our giveaway winner — Katie Mahood!!!

    Congratulations!!! I will be in touch to connect you with Lisa shortly!

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