Author Spotlight: Lisa Robinson
We are excited to feature author Lisa Robinson and her recent picture book, MADAME SAQUI: REVOLUTIONARY ROPE DANCER, illustrated by Rebecca Green (Schwartz & Wade March 24, 2020).
Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Throughout medical school and my training to become a child/adolescent psychiatrist, I maintained a connection to children’s literature by reading children’s books. However, it wasn’t until I had my own children and watched their drive to create and tell stories that I realized that I wanted to tell stories, too. Since books had always been a central and vital part of my life, it made sense to me to try to create children’s books.
Congrats on your recent picture book, MADAME SAQUI, REVOLUTIONARY ROPE DANCER. Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
When Madame Saqui was briefly mentioned in a book I was reading about circus history, I knew her story needed to be told. Here was a daring woman who wirewalked over the Seine and between the towers of Notre Dame during the French Revolutionary era. Her feats occurred well before the well-known exploits of Philippe Petit who walked between the Twin Towers and Charles Blondin who walked above Niagara Falls.
Saqui’s story felt particularly compelling because of my family’s passion for circus arts. At our local circus studio we swing from the ceiling on aerial silks, wirewalk, juggle, and more.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
My road to publication was long and winding—for a more detailed description, follow this link to the story on my website. During my journey, I obtained an MFA in Writing for Young People, endured well over 100 rejections, and also wrote YA, MG, and chapter books.
You learned how to wirewalk to help promote this book. What's the hardest part about it? What is something about it or yourself that you didn't know before you started?
Before I learned about Saqui, we owned a low tight wire that lives inside our house or in the yard during good weather. We got the wire for my children who love circus arts and go to Circus Smirkus camp during the summer. It wasn’t until I discovered Madame Saqui’s story that I decided to learn to wire walk, too.
The hardest part about wire walking is the fear and the tedium; the fear of falling and sustaining an injury; the fear of not being able to handle the next challenge, like completing a turn or a new dance step; the fear of humiliating yourself in front of an audience. It’s not a forgiving art — one misstep and you’re on the ground. The tedium comes from the need to practice practice practice in order to progress. Once I decided I would wire walk at book stores to promote my book, I committed to walking on the wire for 30 minutes a day, every day, in order to build my confidence and skill enough to perform in front of an audience (which never happened due to the coronavirus pandemic).
What have I learned about myself in the process . . . I’ve learned that I have more determination and persistence than I’d ever imagined. Each time an experienced wire walker shows me a new skill (a new turn or leap or dance step), I am certain I cannot do it. But I try. And fall off. And try. And fall off. Until I finally learn the new skill. I know my limits, however, and don’t ever plan on attempting to walk on a high wire or do acrobatics like cartwheels on the wire.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m working on a middle grade novel while also tinkering with some fiction and nonfiction picture books. My biggest project right now is helping myself, my family, and my clients endure the chronic strain of this pandemic.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same advice you'd give to aspiring authors?
To my younger self I’d say: “Follow your heart and start writing now! Just get words on the page.” (I wish I’d starting writing sooner than I did!) To aspiring authors, I’d say the same, and also remind them the importance of dogged persistence with improving your craft, knowledge about the industry, and submitting your work. What kept me going while facing so many rejections was the idea that each one was leading me closer to publication. Although many authors cross the publication threshold faster than I did, I kept saying to myself: “You need to get at least 100 rejections before you get your ‘yes.’” That perspective helped me persist.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I was born in Kampala, Uganda. My parents were in the Peace Corps and had me during their two years of service there.
Where can people find you online?
You can find me at my website: Lisa Robinson,
Instagram: author_lisarobinson, or Twitter @elisaitw
Please visit Kirsten Cappy’s awesome Curious City website for a video read-aloud and physical and paper craft activities: MADAME SAQUI ACTIVITIES
Lisa Robinson is a child psychiatrist and children’s book author who lives in the Boston area. She works as a therapist for adults, teens, and children and teaches an elective course, Creativity and the Unconscious Mind, in Lesley University’s Creative Writing/MFA program. In her free time she reads voraciously and flies through the air on aerial silks at her local circus studio. Lisa has published two fiction books, a nonfiction picture book (MADAME SAQUI), and has two additional nonfiction picture books forthcoming (Fall 2020 and Spring 2021)