Monday, October 17, 2011

Interview with Lisa Bullard- author of Trick-or-Treat on Milton Street

 Tell us a bit about you?
I wanted to be a writer from the time I first put the letters of the alphabet together to create real words. Then in 5th grade, a letter I wrote to the editor of our local newspaper was published, and I knew my dream was coming true! I practiced signing my autograph for a week. After college, I worked in the book publishing industry for many years. In 1999, while I was still a publishing employee, I finally got my first picture book published—a Christmas alphabet book called NOT ENOUGH BEDS! After a couple of years of working on both sides of the publishing equation, I decided to try freelancing, and I’ve been working as a full-time writer ever since. Along with picture books, I’ve also had lots of nonfiction titles published, including a book called YOU CAN WRITE A STORY: A STORY-WRITING RECIPE FOR KIDS.

What inspired you to write Trick-or-Treat on Milton Street?
NOT ENOUGH BEDS! had done well, so I decided to write another book along similar lines—but this time about Halloween. The problem was, I couldn’t make it work! After six months, I finally recognized that I was trying to force the story in a direction it didn’t want to go. I took a deep breath and let the book have its own way—and everything came together. It’s still a Halloween story, and a picture book, but it is much different than I first imagined. One of the things I love about it, though, is that it does contain elements from my own childhood Halloweens, from that same time when I had my letter to the editor published. For instance, we had a dentist in our neighborhood who always gave out toothbrushes for Halloween. He’s in the book, but I renamed him “Dr. Phang” and turned him into a vampire (that part is made up—as far as I know, the real dentist was just a dentist).

What do you hope your books will impart to children?
My hope is that my books will make kids love books and reading and writing as much as I always have—that kids will discover that “word play” is as much fun as other kinds of play.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on yet another revision of a mystery novel. It’s been an exciting challenge, because it’s for readers who are ages 10-14—a new audience for me. I’ve really enjoyed trying this new kind of writing, and I have to admit I crack myself up when I write the funny sections.

What do you do in your spare time when you’re not writing?
Good question—as a freelancer, I don’t have a whole lot of spare time! Some days I may get to work in my jammies, but I still have to work many, many hours. But when I can get away from my computer, I like to take road trips to quirky places, I enjoy photography, and I love to hang out with my nephews and nieces.

Who was your favorite author when you were young?
The answer to that changed almost every week. I did love the Dr. Seuss books, and the Little House on the Prairie books, and Louisa May Alcott’s books, but I loved a whole lot of others, too.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
My best advice is to read all the new children’s (or young adult) books you can—it’s really important to know the books that make up publishers’ current lists, and to immerse yourself in this world that you hope to become a part of.

Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you:
Well, I’m not sure they’re all that interesting, but they may be a little crazy:
1)      My two ears are shaped completely differently. Fortunately they’re fairly small, non-eye-catching ears, so most people don’t really notice that, but once in 9th grade biology the boy next to me announced it to the entire class and I was embarrassed for weeks!
2)      I live with a tailless, neurotic cat. It took me eighteen months to teach her how to drink water.
3)      I’m super careful around saws, knives, or anything with a sharp edge because I’m convinced that someday I’ll lose one of my fingers—it seems to run in my family (my Dad is the third generation in his family to have lost one or more fingers, so it seems to be a genetic predisposition).

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be? 
People tell me I should have been a counselor because I seem to intuitively know how people are feeling and have good ideas for how they can solve their problems. But I think it sounds like a really hard thing to do as work—I think I’ll stick to doing those same things for my friends (and for the characters in my books—those are really handy skills for a writer, too).

If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Jesus—I have LOTS of questions, and he was a great storyteller, too.

Where can people buy your books? 
You can get them online through my favorite local bookstore,  Red Balloon Bookshop , through, and other places online as well.

Do you have a web page or fan page?
Yes, please visit my website at I also have a blog that’s called “Writing Road Trip” where I share tips for teachers and parents who want to help kids become better writers. But lots of “grown-up writers” tell me they enjoy my tips, too! It’s carried by Children’s Literature Network at

Anything else you would like to share?
Thank you so much, Donalisa, for letting me share this space with your readers. I hope you all enjoy reading TRICK-OR-TREAT ON MILTON STREET—Charley is one of my favorite characters!

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