15 Days of Giveaways: Linda Ravin Lodding

This interview originally ran in October of 2011. Linda has two more picture books forthcoming: Hold That Thought, Milton! and The Perfect Yellow Rose. Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister. 

Congratulations Portia! You’ve won the copy of THE BUSY LIFE OF ERNESTINE BUCKMEISTER! Please email me with your mailing address and I’ll send the book out to you.

Creative Spaces is back, and today we’re going international!

Linda Ravin Lodding is celebrating her U.S. debut as a picture book author with this month’s publication of The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister, illustrated by Suzanne Beaky (Flashlight Press). Soon to follow will be her UK picture book debut with Hold That Thought, Milton!, illustrated by Ross Collins (Gullane Children’s Books) and Oskar’s Perfect Present, illustrated by Alison Jay (Gullane Children’s Books).

Originally from New York, Linda Ravin Lodding has lived in Europe for the past fifteen years and currently lives in The Netherlands. The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister is already earning praise and rave reviews. From Darrell Hammond, best-selling author and CEO of KaBOOM!, “This book is a joyful and funny reminder to kids and parents alike about the importance and power of play.”

To give you a taste of The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister, here is the book trailer:

Linda has two upcoming book events in the U.S. if you are interested in meeting her and learning more about Ernestine. She’ll be in New Jersey on Oct. 29 at The Town Bookstore from 2 to 4, and at Books of Wonder in New York City on Nov. 5 from 12 to 2.

To learn more about Linda, visit her website or follow her on Twitter at @lindalodding.

Describe your workspace.

I’m a fairly nomadic writer, but for the past three years I’ve lived in a tiny one-windmill town called “Wassenaar” in The Netherlands, outside of The Hague.

My village, Wassenaar — notice the policeman on bike!

Our 1930s house is a typical, 4-floor Dutch townhouse and my “office” is on the second floor. My desk faces glass doors that open up to a balcony overlooking a small brick-walled garden.  I put my desk in front of the window so I can see the birds gathering in the trees, watch the neighbor’s cat jump from roof-top to roof-top and gaze at the ever-changing Dutch sky.

The front of our house.

Family room which is the central hub-bub of our family life.

The back garden.

Sometimes, when I need a change of scenery, I’ll bike over to Bagel Alley or the local public library.

Our neighborhood hangout, Bagel Alley (notice that Oreo Cake. Heavenly sinful!)

In the summer, my writing workspace is in our summer house in a small fishing village on the west coast in Sweden. The room where I write was a later addition to the house and was previously used as a café for the summering guests that served coffee and “kanelbullar” (cinnamon buns) and fresh strawberries.

Describe a typical workday.

I don’t have very typical days, but most mornings involve getting my daughter off to school (which doesn’t require a lot of effort). Once she’s off, I usually grab a cup of coffee and head up to my desk while still in my bathrobe and my hair looking like a wigged-out madwoman (which is why I’m not submitting a photo of this. But, if you do notice the position of my desk, you’ll see that everyone else in the neighborhood is able to see me in my full wigged-out state).

After some quick emailing (who am I kidding? This is NEVER quick), I get on my “Oma Fiets” (Grandma Bike) for errands or to the gym.  I then scurry home to check and respond to more emails. Once I become thoroughly disgusted with myself for not having good focused work habits, I start to “work”.

My Dutch “Oma Fiets” — in Holland, the rustier and beat-up the bike, the better!

At the moment I’m spending time promoting my debut, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister, preparing for school visits, putting final touches on my second picture book, Hold That Thought, Milton!, and working on polishing other texts.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

1) Photos of my far-flung family and places that I’ve visited are some of the most meaningful things in my space.

2)  My handmade Ernestine doll that my friend Paulette Kingsbury-Quimby recently sent me. She made Ernestine with a gorgeous belted purple coat (which I wish came in my size!), sneakers, and a beautiful daisy crown just like the one Ernestine wears in the book.

3a) Wire head scratcher. It looks like a medieval torture device but it’s great at stimulating my brain creativity. But sometimes my husband goes running off with it.

3b) And when I’m writing at Bagel Alley, my favorite thing is the Oreo cake which drives me to distraction!

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

I don’t have any rituals but if I’m feeling creatively sluggish, one thing that is certain to get me in the writing groove is to read a big stack of picture books. Even though I don’t read Dutch, I love going to our local Wassenaar library to pour through their section of Dutch children’s picture books.  I become absorbed with the illustrations which usually tell their own story. (And the library is located right next to Bagel Alley. How convenient!)

Dutch children’s books which offer me inspiration (even though I don’t read Dutch 🙂 ).

What do you listen to while you work?

Seagulls, kids as they bike by the house, and the clip-clop of horses heading for an outride to the beach. For a New Yorker, these are very exotic sounds!

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

A crunchy apple with crunchy peanut butter. Green ice tea or coffee.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

It’s a constant struggle–so many things call to me–emails to read, Facebook statuses to update, Etsy things to buy, food to be eaten. But usually, two things work for me:  1)  A deadline! and 2) Being in the “zone” with a piece of work. There’s nothing more wonderful than to be sucked into a story and realize that hours have gone by (and I haven’t answered, purchased, or eaten any of those things that usually scream my name.)

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

Always on my Mac. It’s by far the quickest way for me to get my thoughts down “on paper” and, periodically, check on word count. I also love to highlight things in different colors and change fonts so in the end my draft can look like a crazy quilt (but when I send the draft to my editor it’s back to basic black text and Times New Roman).

Conversely, I like to edit in longhand. Printing out the draft and sitting with a pencil for edits helps me slow down and tap into another, quieter, part of my brain.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I have a file full of story ideas, possible book titles, character names, opening sentences–all of which I like to think are sitting and marinating in their own juices until they’re ready to be cooked. The difficult thing, for me, is turning those ideas into fully-developed stories with a beginning, middle, and satisfying end.

I don’t have any elixir other than just to start writing. At some point I usually hit the wall and have to put the story down. That’s when I live with the story off the page–mulling over plot points or word choice while I’m on the treadmill or chopping veggies. I’ll also bounce ideas around with my wonderful writing buddies.

Once the story is in reasonable shape, I find that making a dummy book from the text to be quite helpful. The dummy helps me see how the page turns work as part of the story and I can assess whether or not I have enough material for unique visuals on each page–key for picture books writers.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

My 13-year-old daughter, Maja. Fortunately, I usually am sharing my work space with her. She’s either doing homework at the big Parson’s table behind my desk or practicing the piano (to the right of my desk.) She’s such lovely company and great critique partner. (I think I’m going to have to move into her college dorm room!)

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

My picture book texts became exponentially stronger when I began to think visually. As Verla Kay says, every sentence, every phrase, needs to bring up a visual picture. Read all the great picture books and study the form–look at what the text “says”, and what the visuals “say”. Picture books, ultimately, are a dance between words and illustrations and it’s key to understanding how the two work together. It’s like learning to waltz alone.

11 Responses to “15 Days of Giveaways: Linda Ravin Lodding”

  1. Veronica Bartles

    I love the advice to "think visually" when writing picture books. My best critique on my favorite picture book manuscript came from an illustrator, who pointed out one section of the story that was really fun and cute, but would lend itself to boring illustration. I'll definitely have an illustrator critique all of my picture book manuscripts from now on! 🙂

  2. Anonymous

    Loved the book trailer! Ernestine's busy calendar reminds me of mine at times. 🙂 And I can certainly see how Linda's workspace(s) inspire creativity.

    Another great interview, Jenn!

    Amy C.

  3. Joanne Roberts

    I find it fascinating that so many of the writers you interview do all their editing in longhand. I do all my writing that way, but it is wonderful food for thought. Thanks for another great post.

  4. Jill Proctor

    What a wonderful interview. Linda's work spaces are indeed inspiring.She is lucky to live in such beautiful surroundings. Writing "visually" is such essential advice for writing pic books. The trailer for Ernestine was so, so cute. What a wonderful book!

    Thank you for sharing Linda's words.

    Jill Proctor