Lisa L. Owens, Author of the Month: On Sharing My Writing Life with Young Readers

Love my office!

Kids always ask what it’s like to be a writer, so I focus one of my favorite talks on exploring that. The presentation works well for both in-person and Skype visits, and I can easily adjust the length and content for different ages and/or any curricular objectives a host school might request.

I start by giving students a peek at my office so they can picture where I work — then I briefly walk them through what they’re seeing to help reinforce the message that the writing I do to produce the books they read is my job. A fun job, for sure, but it does require dedication, hard work, and the mastery of certain skills and tools.

Yes, that’s me. Age 4.

Next, I take them back in time (way back!) to what I consider the beginning of my writing life. Some of the milestone activities I discuss as I track that life to the present include:

  • being read to, which ignited a deep emotional attachment to books 
  • learning to read, which expanded my world; helped me understand myself and cultivate empathy for others; exposed me to storytelling techniques; and developed my sense of language patterns
  • frequenting the library, where the possibilities for what to read next were endless 
  • learning to write, which freed me to experiment with words and all the ways one might try to arrange them
  • beginning a personal writing practice (I kept diaries for more than 30 years, starting as a pre-tweener; these days I write daily Morning Pages instead, as that practice better supports the writing I do “on the job”) 
  • studying the craft of writing in school and, to be frank, doing so forevermore
  • scoring my first publication credit, which led me to different jobs in the publishing industry before I wrote my first children’s book . . . which in turn led to my now having written upwards of 90 titles (and counting)

Only in hindsight did I recognize just how early those stepping stones on my path to becoming a writer started appearing in front of me. Is that destiny in action? I can’t answer that, but at this stage of my life, I can confidently say that writing is one of my body’s basic needs. I’d still do it even if I knew I’d never publish another thing. I’d have to.

Because writing is so much a part of me, I truly enjoy showing young people how I was able to turn something I love into a career. And I especially like helping them see the variety of ways writing, whether they do it seriously or just for fun, can enhance their lives now and in the future, no matter what paths they choose to follow.

For the privilege of doing all that, I am thankful indeed.

A few of my books, clockwise from the upper left: an early chapter book set during the Chicago World’s Fair; a graphic novelization of Anna Sewell’s classic tale; an in-depth study of the Great Chicago Fire for MG/YA; and one of the titles from my nonfiction picture book series on the solar system



Author: Laurie Ann Thompson

I write books for curious young minds and open hearts, no matter what their age. BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, a teen guide to saving the world, will be published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September of 2014. EMMANUEL'S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH, a picture-book biography, will be published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January of 2015. And MY DOG IS THE BEST, a heartwarming fictional picture book, will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers/Macmillan in May of 2015.

7 thoughts on “Lisa L. Owens, Author of the Month: On Sharing My Writing Life with Young Readers”

  1. No doubt my mom was reading to me just before the photo session! I thought books were just as fun as any toy, even as a prereader. Pictures to look at, stories to recall from being read to, words to trace with my fingers.


  2. Nice post, Lisa. Reminded me of similar experiences growing up. I, too, was lucky to have parents who read to me and my siblings and took us to the library frequently. Reading aloud to children is so important, and it's such a rewarding and fun thing to do!


  3. Love that photo of you at age four (with a book, no less). You can never underestimate the 'being read to' part. When a parent reads to a child, it not only fosters a love of books but it's a wonderful opportunity to bond. My mom used to read to me and with me each night and I so cherished that time we spent together. Priceless!


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