Lisa Frenkel Riddiough is a Northern California-based writer whose projects include picture books, middle-grade, short fiction, and poetry. She earned a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Writing from UC Berkeley Extension and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. Her books include Elvis and the World as it Stands (Abrams, 2021), Letters to Live By: An Alphabet Book with Intention (Running Press Kids, 2022), and the forthcoming Pie-Rats! (Viking, 2024) and Embarassed Ferret (Disney, 2025). Lisa is a former sales executive, an avid squirrel watcher, and a frequent baker of chocolate pound cake. Learn more at www.lisariddiough.com and follow on Instagram.
1. What was your favorite book when you were a child? Why?
My favorite book from my childhood is Pierre by Maurice Sendak. This book made me feel smart because it was a picture book story told in five chapters and a prologue. I absolutely loved that could read a book with chapters AND a prologue. How grown up of me! And then there is the refrain, “I don’t care!” I adored Pierre’s obstinance. And the rhyme! It is the perfect book.
2. Do you ever struggle to come up with your next project? Or do you have lots of ideas and find it a challenge to narrow down your ideas?
Sometimes I find it hard to turn off the idea faucet. My ideas usually come in the form of book titles and word play, and they pop into my head at all times of the day and night. For me, the struggle is all about focusing on one project. I write for a variety of age groups, so I often have multiple things going at once. But there is no doubt that the real work comes in finding a viable story (obviously) for all the ideas.
3. What kind of student were you? What were your favorite subjects?
I loved being a student. But I was very concerned about getting things “right.” This caused a problem for me when it came to reading and writing. The subjectivity of it all gave me anxiety, primarily because I was a slow reader. I had a horrible fear of standardized testing and phrases like “reading comprehension.” Because of this, I focused on math and science – where there was one correct answer and I could excel. This is why I endeavor to write stories that invite reluctant readers in with ease. I want kids to be excited to read and feel confident with a book in their hands.
4. What was the process or timeline for Pie-Rats, from idea to publishing?
I love this question because it underscores the thing I was born to learn: PATIENCE! If you are not a patient person, publishing will teach you to become one. Pie-Rats! was first written in the winter of 2017. It eventually became the book that got the attention of my agent, Jennifer Mattson of ABLA. I signed with her at the beginning of 2019 and she immediately sent the manuscript out to editors. It sold fairly quickly. Then the waiting began. The book comes out March 12, 2024, FIVE YEARS AFTER IT SOLD! In the meantime, I published two other books (and sold a few more). But Pie-Rats! is where it all began. I am ecstatic to see this book come into the world.
5. If you could tell readers one secret about this book, what would it be?
From a writing point of view, the most surprising “secret” is that the refrain of this rhyming picture book, “Pie, pie, pie, pie!” took an act of magic for me to find. It cracks me up now because it is so obvious. But when I was writing, I tried countless complicated phrases about pie. At one point, this pie-rat was ready to walk the plank. And then it hit me. It’s just pie. Times four! This is your friendly reminder to keep things simple.
6. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?
The Rolling Stones said it best: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” When you’re a pie-rat sailing the starry night, finding your bounty is not easy. Thankfully, pie-rats don’t ever give up and are always grateful! Protect your plunder and pre-order PIE-RATS! now!