What Works for Me: Lisa Springer
(beat drops to Rocko's "Umma Do Me")
Imma do me, Imma do me You just do you, Imma do me,
You're a pantser, I'm a plotter You write liht stuff, I write dark stuff You type early in the morning , but I'm a night owl You like TikTok, but I prefer Insta You write 6000 in a session, I type 500 day by day
You just do you (and what), Imma do me, Imma do me, Imma do me
Wanna see how it's done? Watch me do me, watch me do
So you know what you can do, appreciated reader?
Read on for how Lisa Springer does her thing (in a way we can all learn from)!
1. Welp, the first question is something I’m sure you’ve shared many times! But, would you please share the journey of your publication journey?
My writing journey has always been in loops. A series of fits and starts but I always come back to writing. I’m a reader first and the writing sort of followed. I can’t talk about my writing journey without mentioning the national arts festival in Barbados. As part of the annual independence celebrations, NIFCA (National Independence Festival of Creative Arts) celebrates creativity in all its forms, dance, culinary, visual arts and literary. After a friend encouraged me to enter and to my shock (and delight) – I won a silver medal. It gave me the boost I needed to keep going. After moving to New York, I enrolled in a few writing classes and I discovered a joy in writing for young people.
My goal as an author is to feature Black kids in my stories, centering them in a myriad of experiences. Getting into Author Mentor Match in 2020 was a game-changer, I really started to take writing more seriously. The support I’ve received from the writing community and writer friends has been so affirming. I’ve had my foot on the gas ever since.
2. A little birdie remembers your DVpit pitch attracting the attention of many industry professionals. DVpit is also a very popular and respected pitch event amongst the many, many pitch events. If an author has a “blowup” pitch, what tips would you give in researching which agents to query? Are there any particular questions you would advise an author to ask in order to filter out possible true enthusiasm vs. enthusiasm because someone else wants it?
First of all, I’d say to humble your expectations. Even if a pitch blows up, the writing still has to stand on its own. Querying is exciting but my advice is don’t rush into it and don’t start before you’re ready. Take all the time you need to prepare your query materials. Ask for feedback on your query letter and synopsis. Pitch competitions are a great way to practice pitching and test the water but don’t get too caught up with agent likes. I had a really great response to my pitch and received multiple offers of representation but I ultimately signed with an agent I cold queried. As for questions, I would advise an author to ask an offering agent: ask them what excites them about your story, which parts resonated most with them, and ask them to share their vision about making the book even stronger. Take note of what they say, and also note what they don’t say. Does their vision align with yours? How do you feel about suggested changes to your book? Trust your gut.
3. In today’s market, many authors often wonder if they need to dabble in different age categories. As your focus is YA and MG what ways does this audience (and editors/pub houses) come with a different–or maybe similar–set of expectations?
I say write whatever you want to write. Don’t feel pressured into writing anything that doesn’t serve your artistic purpose. I’m really excited about writing stories for young people. Many authors create for both age categories and do really well in these spaces. I think understanding the YA and MG audiences can guide and manage the expectations for both. Especially in the MG space, publishers aren’t shying away from heavy topics so I think it’s a great place for authors to explore fun and joyful stories but also tactfully explore heavier topics to shed light on issues and strengthen empathy for kids dealing with tough situations.
4. Your debut THERE’S NO WAY I’D DIE FIRST, is a YA contemporary horror-comedy. Can you explain that genre a bit more? How does the writing or narrative of this diverge from traditional horror?
My debut is pitched as There’s Someone Inside Your House meets Get Out. It’s about a girl who hosts an exclusive Fright Night party at her family’s estate but soon finds the festivities upended when she and her guests are forced to put their survival skills to the test in a deadly game of tag started by the low-budget It clown she hired for the night.
Like traditional horror genre conventions, the horror-comedy taps into fear but also laughter. It considers the question of what scares you? What would make you laugh in a complex situation? It subverts the ordinary with the shocking and thrilling along with the hilarious and absurd. My debut infuses funny reactions into what is a really scary situation. In many ways horror and comedy really are two sides of the same coin. My debut leans towards social satire with its critique of privilege. It’s funny, scary, and a bit over the top! I’m writing about a killer clown after all.
5. Writing can be a lonely journey. It is also hard to explain its ups and down to those on the outside. How did you find your writing people? Why is it important to have them?
Writing is such a solitary experience and having a support system of people you can commiserate with, really goes a long way. Following #WritingCommunity on Twitter introduced me to a really supportive group of writers, as well as being part of the Author Mentor Match community. As a mentee, AMM did amazing things not only for my skill set as a writer but I made some writer friends and now we swap work and share feedback. It’s a big deal to have support as you venture into the query trenches, navigate agent relationships, and the entire publishing process. When rejections start to pour in, whether it be from an agent or acquiring editor, it can catch you in unexpected ways and having your writing squad at your back is really important, especially when you start to spiral emotionally.
6. What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Has this changed?
I am a plotter. I pantsed the first two books I ever wrote and never revised them because I didn’t know where to start or how to fix them. I use the Save the Cat method to outline my stories and I break it down into a four-act structure. This is always the starting point for me. I absolutely must have an outline, even though I don’t necessarily stick to it. The outline acts as a map of key moments in the story but I tend to explore a bit as I’m writing, but I always come back to the outline to get me back on track.
I don’t have a writing schedule or anything. I have a young child at home so writing happens whenever it happens. I love watching YouTube where writers go through their writing rituals, lighting scented candles and brewing tea. I don’t have that luxury. I just flip open my laptop and start writing until I get interrupted.
7. Do you know when you’re at risk of burnout? What’s your form of self-care?
I tend to set fairly modest writing goals but I’m a writer with a full-time job so burnout can creep in without much warning. I tend to get cranky when I don’t get my writing done so I really enjoy my writing time. I never want it to feel like a chore. I’m still learning how to set boundaries because I’ll berate myself for not doing enough because there’s always one more thing on the to-do list. For me, self-care is accepting that it’s okay not to be busy all the time. It’s okay to sit and think and brainstorm. I’ve learned not to force myself to write. Not even when I’m on deadline. Being patient with myself is the best form of self-care there is. I don’t watch much TV so I look forward to any chance to binge shows on Netflix.
Ok, now it’s time for the ‘fun’ questions!
8. Your publisher presents you with two ideas for a book launch. Which one do you choose:
A giant balloon of your main character followed by the book-inspired float with Rihanna as the emcee featured in the NYC Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade.
A carnival-style parade in Central Park with LL Cool J hosting a book giveaway event to a middle school of your choice
I’ll have to go with Rihanna on a Thanksgiving Parade float. That would be wild.
9. Unpopular book or writing opinion?
I don’t agree with the advice ‘write every day’. While it can build a consistent writing habit, it can also be a fast track to burnout.
10. Your author motto to-write-by is:
Sit down and start writing.
Growing up on the island of Barbados, Lisa has always loved books and storytelling. Bring on the adventure, the spooky and mysterious - she loves creating worlds readers can get lost in. When not writing, she's probably reading or dreaming about the beach. She currently lives in New York City with her family.