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by Ann Rousseau Smith, SCBWI CenCal News Liaison

Lisa D. Kerr is the debut author of Wake, Sleepy One: California Poppies and the Super Bloom, illustrated by Lisa Powell Braun (West Margin Press, April 2022), a nonfiction picture book about the California poppy super bloom. The story includes details such as the life cycle and plant parts of poppies, the desert habitat and its food web, as well as some early California history.

Lisa was a Spotlight Speaker at SCBWI CenCal’s How to Pitch to an Agent event on July 10. She took a moment to answer some questions for Kite Tales.

ANN ROUSSEAU SMITH: Congratulations on your debut picture book Wake, Sleepy One: California Poppies and the Super Bloom. What a wonderful way to introduce little ones to the desert. What inspired you to write about California’s wildflower super bloom?

LISA D. KERR: The inspiration for Wake, Sleepy One was two-fold. First, I’m a big fan of being outdoors. Nature inspires me so when I took my children to see the super bloom, a story was born. Second, I was a fourth grade teacher at the time and I noticed a few curriculum gaps surrounding desert ecosystems and early people of California so I addressed both topics in the book. 

ARS: Wake, Sleepy One includes a lot of complex concepts. Any tips on how to express such ideas to a young audience?

LDK: That’s a great question. The book can be read as two books in one. The primary text is lyrical and simple, which is ideal for infants or preschool age and the secondary text is research-based and ideal for elementary students and adults. I’m a mom of four young kids, though, so I tend to write books that will appeal to them. I’ve heard from readers that crafts and acting out the text have helped young readers understand some of the plant parts and behavior, but the goal really is to get kids outside and exploring more so I hope parents and home educators will use the book as a tool for the curious. I think a lot of Montessori and Waldorf style educators will find the book really accessible for little ones.

ARS: How did you find your agent, Stacey Kondla at The Rights Factory?

LDK: I found my agent Stacey Kondla through my research while querying a middle grade nonfiction book. I was very impressed with her sales record, which is important because part of being an author means selling books. As I spoke to her other clients I was even more impressed with her reputation, and even more impressed with the types of really brilliant books she’d sold. I feel like she has carefully cultivated a group of authors who write books she really loves and I really enjoy working with her.

ARS: Any news or current work you would like to share with us?

LDK: I have a few upcoming readings and book signings listed on my website. I’ll be traveling throughout the state of California over the coming months so keep checking back there or social media to find out where I’ll be next. 

Thank you Lisa, for all your thoughtful responses!

For more information about Lisa and her book visit her website. Join her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


Mark your calendars for these upcoming SCBWI CenCal events:

  • County Mingles – various dates
  • Writers’ Day Agent Pitches (online) – Sunday, 10/16
  • Writers’ Day CenCal & LA (in person) – Saturday, 10/22
  • Working with Small Presses (online) – TBA
  • Retreat, January 2023 (in person) – TBA

For information on SCBWI-CenCal events (open to all SCBWI members!), go to cencal.scbwi.org.

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.

Images provided by Lisa D. Kerr and the SCBWI Central-Coastal Region.