You’ve published three middle grade novels: A Good Kind of TroubleSomething to Say, and MapMaker. What initially drew you to writing for kids and what do you like most about it?

I originally imagined writing for adults honestly, but then I had kids and both were voracious readers. When my daughter started reading the same books that I had read as a young girl, it really bothered me that there weren’t books for her that featured Black girls like her. I wanted her to have books with characters that looked like her and had families that looked like hers so I started writing A Good Kind of Trouble. As soon as I started writing that book I realized that writing for that age was so satisfying! I enjoy bringing characters to life that have things going on in their lives that are so relatable–it is always something about change and getting older and starting to see the world around you in new and often unexpected ways. And everyone goes through that! I enjoy looking at friendship and all the ways it can go a bit off the rails, perhaps because I had a lot of complicated friendships growing up, but I am also someone who treasures my friendships dearly. But the primary connection for me with writing for young people is that I’m always learning something as I write and my characters are too and that makes for a good combination.

Can you tell us about the process of finding and working with your publisher and editor?

I am traditionally published so finding an editor meant first finding an agent. And that process was extremely long and difficult for me. I queried (wrote to agents letting them know a little about me and my book and provided sample pages) over 100 agents before finally receiving an offer of representation. Most of those agents never wrote me back, or I received a form letter saying “no thanks.” But I started getting requests for fulls (that’s when an agent wants to read the entire manuscript) once I started doing a better job researching what agents were looking for and identifying the ones that seemed to want exactly what I was writing. I received a few offers from really wonderful agents and picked one (Brenda Bowen) that more than anything I simply got along with well on our introductory call. Brenda then provided some small revision suggestions and created a list of editors to submit the book to. Alessandra Balzer from Balzer and Bray was one of the top choices and she got back to Brenda a few days after receiving A Good Kind of Trouble to let her know she was really liking the book so far. So exciting! A few days after that, she made an offer. I was thrilled of course, but the best part was finally working with an editor, because getting input from someone that you know is going to actually publish the book is such a different experience than working with notes from a critique group or partner. (Although I highly recommend those!) Alessandra had a strong vision of what she wanted and how to make the book stronger. What was surprising was after doing that work, your book then goes to copy edits and I thought that just meant someone fixing grammatical mistakes. But in reality copy editors are incredible and catch EVERYTHING. (Like pointing out that Ralph Waldo Emerson actually may not have originated a quote I had attributed to him.) All this to say the journey was long and hard but ultimately the fulfillment of a dream.

You’re teaching your first class at The Writing Salon this summer, Kidlit 101. What drew you to teaching, and what do you hope to offer the writers in your class?

I’m so looking forward to my class at The Writing Salon! I started teaching creative writing many years ago, well before I was published and I have always loved working with other writers. Probably because I have taken quite a few classes myself and I have learned so much. I have seen how the lessons I have learned from those classes have helped my writing and I want to provide the same sort of guidance to others. I hope that students in my class will have the opportunity to get answers to questions about publishing, but also learn skills that can help them be successful in whatever kidlit genre they choose to write in. And to also understand that genre fully. A lot of writers struggle to get a handle on what category/genre their project fits into. Is it Young Adult? Is it Middle Grade? Does it matter? It can be so difficult to put the puzzle pieces of publishing together. And writing for kids can be challenging because we have to find a way of finding a true kid voice without sounding like we’re trying or talking down to young people. You want readers to believe in the characters you create. So hopefully my students will walk away feeling they know what they are writing, and what the market is for that type of book and how to best polish their words.

Your most recent book, MapMaker, came out last September. What’s on the horizon next?

I’m leaving fantasy and going back to contemporary middle grade for my next novel. It will be out summer of 2024. It is about a girl who is about to start middle school but is a self-described crybaby. She knows she has to dry up the waterworks in order to prove to her friends and her parents and herself that she is mature enough for middle school and can handle the annual seventh grade trip. There is my usual friendship drama and hopefully humor and heart. It’s a lighter book in some ways but one I think will resonate with quite a few readers who have similar questions about what it means to be “grown.”

Lisa Moore Ramée still calls Los Angeles home even though she now lives in the Bay Area. She counts coffee as one of her best friends and is a devout believer in dreams coming true. Her debut novel, A Good Kind of Trouble, is a Walter Dean Meyers Honor book and an Indie bestseller. She is also the author of Something to Say and MapMaker. Her books have received multiple starred reviews. Visit her website at lisamooreramee.com.

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