Getting to Know Lisa
I love words, pure and simple–reading them and writing them. My parents began reading to me and my siblings starting when we were very young. We had a lot of books–and I mean a lot! I still have some of them and, decades later, they bring back such warm memories.
I recall us five kids crowding around Dad on a Sunday morning as he read the funnies to us from the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune. We debated whether Dick Tracy’s Two-way Wrist Radio could ever be a reality. We decided it couldn’t…but then Steve Jobs was born…
Because of my burgeoning love for words, I started writing stories just about as soon as I could write anything. I am grateful to have been blessed with a natural talent for spelling, grammar, syntax, vocabulary—anything to do with language.
When I was a sophomore in high school, my English teacher, Mrs. Zumwalt, gave the class twenty new vocabulary words every week for the entire school year. I still remember some of them: lugubrious; turgid; disingenuous; lackadaisical; bombastic; mellifluous, obstreperous…those are just seven out of the hundreds we learned that year and were tested on each Friday. Some of my classmates grumbled and said they’d never use these words, ever, in “real life” (kind of like what students routinely say about algebra and geometry—both of which I have used since high school!). But I couldn’t wait to “use them in a sentence,” as Mrs. Zumwalt instructed.
It was at about that same time that I discovered 19th century British novels—the likes of Hardy, Collins, James, Trollope, Dickens, and others—and found that they contained a treasure trove of beautiful words that, alas (that’s one of them), are no longer part of modern English. I was in logophile heaven.
During my junior year of high school, we studied a unit on Shakespeare in Mrs. Harper’s English class. The final test included a lengthy essay question. I don’t recall the exact question, but the day we got the tests back, the teacher returned everyone’s but mine. She stood in front of the class and said, “I have here in my hand the best essay I have ever read written by a high school or a college student, for that matter.” I slid down in my chair and silently said, “Please don’t read it; please don’t read it…” But she did, further cementing my already well-established, scornful reputation as a teacher’s pet.
Thankfully I didn’t allow the label and derisive teasing to deter me from pursuing my passion for words. I continued to read, and to write. In my undergraduate schooling, I was asked to present my papers at conferences. In my Master’s program, some of my professors asked my permission to keep copies of my papers as examples to other students. And my doctoral dissertation advisor suggested that I seek publication for my dissertation, which explored addiction as an attachment disorder.
Between my Masters and Doctoral programs, I did something I had long wanted to do: I wrote a book. In fact, I wrote two. I submitted the proposal for the first one to Morgan Reynolds, Inc., a publisher of biographies for middle school and high school students. To my absolute delight, they accepted it and sent me an advance. The book is a biography entitled, “Cyrus McCormick and the Mechanical Reaper.” It was written under the name Lisa J. Aldrich. After its publication, the editor asked me to write a biography of Nikola Tesla. I had heard of him, but knew little about him, so dug into the research (another passion of mine). I submitted the first draft, which ended up also being the last draft; my editor said he didn’t need to change a single word.
Following the Tesla publication, Morgan Reynolds requested a third biography, but by then I was neck deep in my doctoral program, and didn’t have the time.
Since then, though, I have written a book about Prohibition, for which I have not earnestly sought a publisher, and am currently working on a Young Adult novel about a 14-year-old alcoholic
You might wonder if I am making an abrupt career change—whether I am giving up on “doing therapy.” Not at all!
I believe each and every one of us is given certain gifts, and it’s incumbent upon us to use those gifts to better humankind.
I am blessed with a gift for helping people and a gift for writing. Why not combine them, and enjoy the best of both worlds.
I am an active member of the following writing associations:
- Professional Writers Alliance
- Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
- Author’s Guild
- Children’s Book Insider
- Barefoot Writer
- AWAI’s Circle of Success
I regularly take educational writing courses and attend conferences. I will never know everything, and I seek to improve my writing—and myself—every chance I get.