SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Get to Know Our Writer – Lori Polydoros

 

How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI?

I have been a member for 25 years, I believe…oh my gosh, that’s a long time, and one of the first writers I met was our exceptional RA, Bev Plass!

What genres do you write?

Over the years, I have written in so many genres with work-for-hire projects (from fiction–picture books, middle grade– to non-fiction– PB, MG and YA, magazine/short story and educational.) I just published a MG/YA biography non-fiction (QUAKE CHASERS: 15 Women Rocking Earthquake Science) and with novels, I write MG–historical, magical realism, action/adventure, fantasy and my latest WIP is a YA speculative fiction.

What is your writing process like?

My life can get sort of crazy. I’m a full-time high school English teacher at Godinez High School in Santa Ana and I have two young adult children that still need me quite a bit. So, literally, I write whenever I can. I’ve gotten really good at sneaking away for even just 15 minutes, opening the laptop and diving back into my novels. I’m a pretty active person, so sitting is tough for me. Thanks to the advice of the SCBWI SoCal’s incredible Heather Buchta, I bought a used walking
treadmill desk during Covid (that I used to teach remotely during lockdown as well) and I wrote my latest NF while walking. I garden and my backyard patio is super peaceful to me as well, and
I love to write there in the mornings. I also love having my tea (chai with a bit of milk–very British, I know,) candles..YES!  And I love having my two rescue pups–Oliver and Addison–next to me. That’s the perfect recipe.

How long have you been writing? How did you first get into writing for children?

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was in 4th grade–my favorite teacher convinced me to enter a short story I’d written about a lost cat for a writing contest. I lost, but knew I wanted to keep writing. My best friend was going to be the illustrator, and me…the writer!  (My BF is still one of my BFs but she’s translated her creativity into being a park ranger.)  I wrote my first story for kids in college for a creative writing class. My narrator was a 12 YO girl who’d run away from home and met an older couple, truck drivers going across the country. I didn’t know I was writing for kids yet. I wrote a PB after my first rock climbing Unicorn Peak in Yosemite. I was the last one in our group. Every time I left the rock I’d been sitting on to start to climb, a marmot
would hop up onto hit. He was following me as I climbed, so during the trek, I brainstormed a PB called MARMOT DON’T FLY (which never saw the light of day.)

Did you go to school for writing or take classes?

I majored in journalism and minored in creative writing at CSULB. I’ve taken a ton of writing classes over the years–UCLA extension, Highlights, The Writing Barn, The Writing Pad, and I
had an amazing teacher–a fellow writer and fantastic human being, Marilyn Gould, who passed away a few years ago. I’ve learned so much from my fellow writers, though, and I can’t say or thank them enough for all the wisdom they’ve bestowed on me….

Do you have a dedicated writing space?

Yes. Pictures included.

What would be your dream book to write and get published?

Well, I think I’ve already written it. A while back, I wrote a MG historical that is dear to my heart. My father’s parents immigrated from a little town on the Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece called Nemea. They moved east to west, had five kids and lived in the Maravilla Projects in East LA in the ’40s. When my dad was 15, his mother (my yiayia Mary) passed away. A year later, his father passed as well, so that left the 5 kids, ages 9-19, to fend for themselves. Growing up, I
had heard so many incredible stories about their childhood (and they all turned out to be incredible people.) So I began to interview them about ten years ago. I fictionalized their story, made one of my aunties the MC and added threads of magical realism and a twist on a Greek
myth. Wrote it as a script first and then as a MG novel. It got the attention of Ann Leslie Tuttle @ DG&B and my dream is to share this story with the world. A way to honor the grandparents I never had, the ones I had to recreate through the memories of their own children and with my imagination. FALLING INTO ME is a book about finding your own identity, yet holding tight to family, your roots, and those people that make you who you are.  I hope hope hope that I can call
my father, who’s 87 now, and give him some good news. Fingers and toes crossed (and sprinkle a little holy water and basil like in my story.)

Are you working on any fun projects now?

I just finished a first draft of my young adult spec fiction novel. I’m excited to get it into good shape with a freelance editor I’m working with. It’s got everything I love. Unrequited love, time travel, beautiful places like Joshua Tree National Park, overtures of Shakespeare and golden retrievers. 🙂

Do you illustrate as well or have any plans to do so?

I actually majored in art at CSULB for two years. I switched to writing, but so wish now that I would have double majored. I paint just as a hobby–still love it, but could never illustrate–I just don’t have the consistency or talent! Artists RUUUUUUULE!

Any tips for writers that are starting out?

Oh gosh, just keep writing. Write every day, journal, brainstorm, as each piece you write is a stepping stone to the next. Focus on what you can control. I used to go to conferences thinking I would get noticed somehow, and when I didn’t, I felt like a tiny, talentless ant. Then I realized that I had no control over meeting a future agent or editor. But, what I could control was walking away a better writer. So that’s my goal now for every workshop, conference or retreat I go to. And take chances… say YES to everything!  I wrote freelance books on motorcycles, video games and even MMA fighting!  Things that are so NOT me. But I researched, interviewed and did the work and I got experience, got paid and built my CV that way. Lastly, just don’t give up,
which I know is cliché. But, if you’re writing for the right reasons, you won’t be able to stop– at least I can’t. Writing is beautifully painful. And most of us just want to share our stories with the
world. Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep believing. It will happen. Just keep swimming.

Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent?

In 2018, I participated in #DVPit with my middle grade novel, FALLING INTO ME. Ann Leslie asked for 50 pages and then the whole MS. Eventually, she passed on the book, yet I inquired about which areas I could work on, which were things I had already begun to revise. I asked if I could revise one more time and send to her… so I did. A week later, I got the magic phone call where she offered representation. I’ll never forget it. I was in my backyard, under our two huge mulberry trees and I felt like I was flying. It had been about 20 years of NOs and finally that one YES meant the world.

Have you won any writer awards?

I’ve won a few SCBWI conference awards for an early PB called DON’T LICK THE BABY, one for an early MG called SUPER NOVA & my MG FALLING INTO ME.

List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself. 

1.When I taught science at the elementary level, I had 30 animals I was in charge of in my science lab–even a Ball Python named Monty and a Great Madagascan millipede named Mili (My students named them!)
2. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 17.
3. I’ve used ASL to communicate with a chimp, tracked grizzlies in the Yukon and studied maneless lions in Kenya on Earthwatch expeditions.
4. My husband is a very talented BMX rider and announcer, and over the years, I did a bunch of books on extreme sports!
5. I’m obsessed with hiking and backpacking and one of my most favorite places in the world in Red’s Meadow in Mammoth, CA.

Where can people find you? 

website: www.loripolydoros.com
IG: @polydoroslori
FB: Loripolydoros
Twitter: @lori_polydoros
To see our Previous Get to Know Our Writers, click here.