I grew up at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder Colorado. My father told me fantastic stories about Freddy Fillet, a good and decent fish, who always saved the day. My mother took me to the library to check out stacks of books that she patiently read to me night after night at bedtime. Before long, I was scribbling away on my own little books.
I Tagged Along With My Big Sisters
I was born Melissa Anne, but everybody called me Lissa. I tagged along with my big sisters, Jennifer Jane (Jenny), and Emily Louise Elisabeth (Emmy), who were always doing these make-it-up-as-you-go-story-plays they called ‘act-outs’. The ones I remember the most clearly were about things like angry hands from other planets that dragged themselves across the ground, moaning, “I’m going to get whoever stole my body!” I spent a lot of time screaming at the top of my lungs and running as fast as my little legs could carry me. Those childhood memories certainly helped inspire the adventures of Hot Dog and Bob, in which Bob and his best friend Clementine spend a great deal of time screaming and running away from scary stuff.
Our yard was filled with millions of squirrels named Charley. Our house was filled with cats, hamsters, finches, fish, frogs, newts and a gigantic German Shepherd who played with a little grey rabbit who hopped around in training-pants. Once I found a tiny baby bird that had fallen out of its nest. Moonshadow woke me up every morning at the crack of dawn for breakfast. Eventually he could hop around my room and my mother convinced me it was time for him to fly away. Now I live with a lovebird who thinks he’s a dog. He barks whenever our dogs, Guppy and Sophie bark. He hops into the kitchen to get a treat whenever the dogs do. He even likes to play chase. I’d like my next pet to be a baby elephant.
I was a reluctant reader in elementary school with terrible spelling and penmanship, but those things never got in the way of love of writing. My wonderful fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Arlington, was very understanding. She couldn’t wait to see my latest stories, (no matter how difficult they were to decipher).
When I was in high school, my English teacher, Mrs. Goeldner was equally forgiving and inspirational. These days, I love helping kids see that even if they struggle with reading and writing, they still have incredible stories that only they can tell.
Sometimes I’ll write a story over and over again. And even though it can take a lot of time, I love watching it get better as I go. My favorite part is when I’ve really gotten to know my characters, and all I have to do is sit back and type while they tell me what happens next. Everyone gets writer’s block once in a while. When you get too worried about making your writing right, it stops being fun. Sometimes, when getting the perfect words to come out feels nearly impossible, I think of James Thurber’s quote: “Don’t get it right – just get it written”. If you can just get your pen moving, or your fingers typing, words will come out. And it’s okay if those words aren’t fantastic. In fact it’s okay if they’re no good at all. Sometimes you have to get the really bad stuff out first. If you just keep on writing, the good stuff will come – really!book-list
School, Work, People
I got my BFA in Communication Design from Parsons School of Design in New York City. I also studied at the New School for Social Research in New York. My favorite class was with the wonderful neurologist and behavioral biologist, Robert Sapolsky. I went on to study art in Paris. Then moved to California where I wrote and illustrated a book for Barbara Bottner’s great children’s book class at Otis College of Art and Design. Meredith Charpentier at William Morrow took a chance and published Trigwater Did It. The daring Sharyn November bought the paper back rights for Puffin and edited my second book with Viking.
I’ve been so lucky to work with lots of brilliant art directors and illustrators including Bob Barner, Victoria Rock, Patricia Lee Gauch, Michael Green, Heidi Kilgras, Amy Novesky, Summer Dawn Laurie, Andrea Cascardi, Lynn Gutknecht, Heather Delabre, Debby Pool, Lisa McGuinness, and the great Highlights gang; as well as several brilliantly talented illustrators including Bob Barner, Shannon McNeill and of course, the unforgetable Martha Weston – all of whom have helped me immeasurably with 22 books and over two hundred magazine stories for children. See All of Lissa's Books.
Thank you to my amazing children Kia and Niko, for inspiring characters, dialogue, rhymes and ideas; and for suffering through boring old leftovers all those times I was racing to meet deadlines. To Bob Harper and Christine French Clark for their incredible generosity and kindness. Thank You to Nion McEvoy, Victoria Rock, and Lisa McGuinness at Chronicle Books, Michael Green, Patricia Lee Gauch, Cecilia Yung, and Richard Amari at Penguin/Philomel, Kent Brown, Judy Burke, Marileta Robinson, Carolyn Yoder, Joelle Dujardin, Kim Griswell and Cynthia Faber Smith and Christine French Clark at Highlights, and Bob Harper and Debby Pool at Kidesign for all of their incredible generosity and support. To Emaginate for making my Hotdog video, Good Dog Design for creating my awesomely cool website, and to Stephen Roxburgh at Front Street for his incredible patience and faith.
Lissa is the SCBWI (Society of Childrens’ Books Writers and Illustrators) Illustrator coordinator for the San Francisco Bay Area's East/North Bay Region.
And is proud to support
- Northern California Children’s Booksellers Association
- Left Coast Writers
- 826 Valencia
- The Highlights Foundation
- and The National Tourette's Syndrome Association