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Author Fernanda Lazzaro: “I would like children and adults alike to realize that we all play a role on this planet”

I would like children and adults alike to realize that we all play a role on this planet. Every creature counts and even though bugs may creep us out, they do serve a purpose in helping keep the balance in the environment and eco-system.It is natural to be afraid, but as we learn more about […]

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I would like children and adults alike to realize that we all play a role on this planet. Every creature counts and even though bugs may creep us out, they do serve a purpose in helping keep the balance in the environment and eco-system.

It is natural to be afraid, but as we learn more about them, we start to gain respect for them. They may be small, but they do big things.

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Fernanda Lazzaro. She writes a children’s book series about the importance of bugs in our eco-system. Her love of little critters began when she was a child growing up in the concrete jungle of Toronto, Canada. As she learned more about these small creatures, her respect for them increased. So, she decided to write about them.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

Thank you for inviting me.

I wrote lifestyle articles for my university school newspaper, and after I graduated from Broadcast Journalism, I wrote broadcast news for a Canadian TV station. But I always wanted to do more creative writing.

Then one day, many years later, my honeybees swarmed to a neighbor’s tree branch. The neighbor was obviously frightened, but she threatened to burn the branch! I realized that she didn’t understand the importance bees have on human survival. Luckily, a few hours later, the bees swarmed to their forever home. But in all the commotion, the idea to write, “The Swarm that Swarmed” came to me.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

I don’t know if this would be considered the most interesting, but it certainly was one of the funniest incidents. I was invited to do a book reading at a local elementary school. During my readings, I also showcase some of my beekeeping equipment. The kids were very interested in my smoker (which blows out smoke to help calm the bees). I told them that I use dried grass or dried leaves to help create the smoke.

One little girl asked what else I could put in and I said, “If I can’t find anything dry, I will just add chips.”

One little boy screamed out excitedly, “LAYS?”

Too cute! I should have said, “dried wood chips”.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

Challenge: Reviews. One review for “The Swarm that Swarmed” gave four stars, (still amazing), but it said something like I was stereotyping boys not liking school; and, the same person commented on how I promoted that girls were better than boys — something like that.

How did I overcome it? I was going to let it go, but I allowed my “I’m-sick-and-tired-of-political-correctness” side to take over.

I wrote to the reviewer and assured her that only MY character, Fil, didn’t enjoy school. Nowhere in the book do I generalize or stereotype that all boys don’t like school. And in response to girls being better than boys (I started to wonder if the reviewer even read the book), it was taken out of context. There is a point where there is some sibling rivalry in that the friends compare themselves to the worker bees and queen bee and tease each other about it.

What can other writers learn from this experience? You can’t please all readers. They will interpret your book based on their own experiences and project accordingly. Therefore, be true to yourself and be true to your writing. The right readers will follow.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This is one funny mistake, smack in the middle of my series title.

My series title follows this formula:

  1. Three best friends who always seem to get into trouble
  2. Each story features a new bug
  3. The name of the town is Tillsonbug

So, I naturally named the book series, Tillsonbugger Adventures.

My book was sent out to bloggers and one from the UK was interested in reviewing the book, but she thought she should tell me what “bugger” means in the UK. I was horrified. Not in the act itself — I mean, to each his/her own. But I used that word as the main title of my children’s book series!

What did I learn? Well, I was going to change the series title, but my publisher made a point: I didn’t use the word in a derogatory sense, and bugger does have other meanings. So, again, lesson learned — you can’t please everyone.

PS. The blogger did write an amazing review, though.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am finishing up the third manuscript in the Tillsonbugger Adventures series and thinking up the fourth book idea.

My boyfriend, who writes the introductory poems in the series, suggested I create a young adult sequel, where the kids are now teens and run into other mysterious problems, maybe still involving bugs. I am thinking about it.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

The characters in the series, after all their mischief, eventually learn about the bug that has given them so much grief. One thing I found interesting as I was researching centipedes for “The Case of the Missing Moustache”, is that centipedes are not really classified as insects because they have more than six legs; they’re actually part of the shrimp family.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

I would like children and adults alike to realize that we all play a role on this planet. Every creature counts and even though bugs may creep us out, they do serve a purpose in helping keep the balance in the environment and eco-system.

It is natural to be afraid, but as we learn more about them, we start to gain respect for them. They may be small, but they do big things.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.

I recorded and uploaded the video. Please let me know if it’s okay, if not, I can reshoot it.

  1. Join a book club
  2. Read, read, read
  3. Write, write, write
  4. Be objective; observe surroundings
  5. Step away

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

I think discipline is a crucial habit if you want to be a great writer. The art of writing is creative and wonderful, but it’s still a job and needs to be scheduled and deadlines need to be met. Without the discipline to write, all the creativity and ideas trapped in your head will never be realized.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I would have to say, “The Great Gatsby”. It has everything that makes an exceptional book. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing is supreme, but the story has everything I love in a novel: money, love, mystery, and murder. I know this book has nothing to do with writing children’s books, especially ones about bugs, but Fitzgerald’s masterpiece gives me the inspiration to write my best and to write succinctly.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I feel that I have already started this movement by writing books about creatures that don’t normally get much airtime. Books can reach so many people, especially through free resources like the public library.

My message? Play, explore, make mistakes and learn, and have fun; appreciate and respect the little and big critters with whom we share this earth; let them be and they will let you be. We all play a part and can share this world together.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

For me, social media is the forbidden “s” word. I have tried social media — well, only Twitter, but it didn’t last very long. I stick to the basics: website (www.tillsonbugger.com) and LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

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