Saturday, January 9, 2010

An SVP Exclusive: The Outing of Lisa Yee

Ever heard the term gaydar? In case you haven’t, it's short for gay-radar, and it is a special knowing that GLBTQ folks have that allows them to sense or recognize a kindred spirit nearby. I can’t even begin to tell you how handy this is in the world. You’ll be happy to hear that introverts have their own special knowingness, that one can learn to use out in the world. Viodar? Shrinkdar? Maybe Introdar? Whatever it is, Robin and I were both getting a missle-sized hit of it at the SCBWI National Conference in 2008 when we happened to notice the state of famed children’s author, Lisa Yee, in between sessions.

You know the proverbial look of a deer caught in headlights? It was like that, only the headlights were from an oncoming Ford F-650 filled with eleven drunken deer hunters. Both Robin's and my ears pricked up at her high-pitched distress signal. Danger! Danger! Must. Find. Solitude. Sooooooon. We both wanted to take her into protective custody. Fortunately, Mr. Husband Man was nearby and took the matter into his hands. (Note to self re future biz idea--Special Forces Unit for Introvert Rescue.)

But Lisa Yee-- an INTROVERT? Her travel schedule is enough to make you want to dose yourself good with Dramamine—between author visits, conference and convention gigs, she is burning some serious rubber. She maintains active and outrageously popular Live Journal, My Space and Facebook accounts. About twenty minutes ago she posted the following status update at Facebook: At a conference in Santa Barbara. Forgot my hair goop. Will toothpaste work? There are 20 responses already, friends and fans eager to help.

Lisa hit the parchment running in 2004 with a Publisher's Weekly Flying Start and the coveted Sid Fleischman Humor Award for Millicent Min, Girl Genius, which I think one of the funniest opening lines ever written. I often read them when I'm teaching writing because it is such a classic example of the ever-elusive "voice" that so many struggle with.

I have been accused of being anal retentive, an overachiever and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things. My disposition probably has a lot to do with the fact that I am technically a genius. Unfortunately, this label seems to precede me wherever I go.” -- from Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2004

Five novels and two anthologies have followed in Millicent's wake, and one gets the feeling that Lisa is just getting her game on. Her books have garnered rave reviews, strong sales, and numerous notables, hot summer reads, critic's pick, best books of the week, the year, and there seems to be no end to this meteor named Lisa Yee.

If you happen to have been in a vegetative coma since 2004 and haven't yet had the pleasure of her acquaintance, one very important piece of intel that I feel I must share concerns her yellow, long-eared muse named Peepy, who has accumulated more photo credits, travel chops, and celeb elbow-rubs than Angelina Jolie. Lisa and Peepy discuss Summer Reading here.

So without further ado-be-do, Robin and I are delighted to bring you this ::Exclusive:: Shrinking Violet Outing of Lisa Yee, Big Giant Introvert.

SVP: Lisa, on the day that this interview will be posted, there will likely be a collective, cosmic gasp as you are officially outed as an introvert. Has it been your life experience that most people just assume you are an extravert?

Lisa: Yes, it's so weird to me that people peg me as extroverted. True, I can be, and have been known to act strange and silly in public, but really, I am an introvert. That is, I love to be alone and am most comfortable that way.

People often confuse being an introvert with being shy. But those are two completely different things. I am not shy in the least. Oooh! Oooh! I just looked up my introvert affliction up and here's what Wikipedia has to say. "Introverts are less likely to seek stimulation from others because their own thoughts and imagination are stimulating enough. A common misconception is that all introverts suffer from social anxiety or shyness. Introversion does not describe social discomfort but rather social preference. "

SVP: Is Peepy an introvert or extravert?

Lisa: Extrovert. Totally.

SVP: Robin and I talk a lot at SVP about how helpful it is in marketing/promotion activities (signings & events) to have a "buddy" with you. Does Peepy serve that role for you? Does she help deflect some of the spotlight from you?

Lisa: Absolutely. Wherever I go people want to meet her. I like that because then I can hide in the background and she's the star. Like on my blog. Most of the photos are of her, not me. And it's fun for me to talk about where I've been or who I've met, but cast it via her POV. But that's what authors do, don't they? They really put their characters between themselves and their readers.

SVP: How would your husband and your BFF answer this question: "When Lisa needs to unplug and recharge, her favorite way to spend a day is..."

Lisa: . . . to be alone with a box of See's chocolates.

SVP: Your blogging/traveling/writing/family schedule seems to have you moving at warp speed. What are your biggest challenges in managing your schedule and keeping the proverbial balance?

Lisa: I don't sleep, and then three times a year I get really sick and collapse for a few days. I'm not kidding! Actually, I have very little time to myself, so when I am on the road, I like the solitude of impersonal hotel rooms, albeit with high-speed internet access.

Balance wise, the kids come first. However, I do a lot of out-of-state school visits, and one time my son was complaining bitterly about me leaving and laying on the ol’ guilt trip. So I said, “I’m on the road so we can go to Hawaii for vacation this year.” And he looked at me and said, “See you!”

SVP: Are there any marketing/promotion activities that make you so uncomfortable that you choose not to do them?

Lisa: Well, I can get all worked up before a booksigning, but I still do them. (I'm always afraid no one will show up.) The only thing I'm not doing at this very moment is Skyping but that will probably change soon. Although it's the tech part of Skype that makes me nervous.

SVP: Which promotion activities do you most enjoy?

Lisa I really enjoy blogging. It's fun to blather on and on with no constraints. The down side is that there's no proofreader, so spelling and grammar are tossed out the window.

It’s always fun to meet my blog readers in person, especially the ones who post comments. I feel like I already know them, and I guess I do.

SVP: Of all the characters that you've written, is there one that is most drawn from your own soul?

Lisa: I can't say there's just one. It's corny, but they're like my children and they're all a part of me. I do tend to worry more about my boy characters and what's going to happen to them when I'm not around. The girls, well, they're strong and I know they're going to make it.

SVP: Who inspires you?

Lisa: My kids are a great inspiration to me. I wrote the BOBBY series --BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY), BOBBY THE BRAVE (SOMETIMES), and more to come, because when my son was in fourth grade he said, "Mom, why don't you write a book with not a lot of commotion."

Sometimes when my teenager says or does something she knows is wrong, she'll look at me and say, "Oh no, that's going in one of your books, isn't it?"

So, yes, I steal ideas from my children. But mostly, I write to appeal to them and have them in mind as I ask myself, “Will Teen like this?” Or, “What will Son think about that?”

SVP: I wanted to touch on public speaking a bit, as it is something that comes up with our readers time and time again. There is a lot of fear about it this. I've seen you address a hotel ballroom full of people and I've seen you in a much smaller, intimate venue. In both, there is such a open and unguarded quality to what you share. Do you find one setting more challenging than the other? And, do you find it easier to speak to kids or adults?

Lisa: Although things like cocktail parties terrify me, I have absolutely no fear about public speaking. I guess because I am in a role as an “author” and I know what’s expected of me. I actually like speaking to large crowds because I can feed of the response and energy in the room.

Both kids and adults are fun to talk to, although with kids I know that if I say the word “fart” I’ll get a laugh. That’s only sometimes true with adults.

SVP: Would you rather be stranded on a desert island with a introvert or extravert?

Lisa: Introvert.

Ah-h-h, a woman after our own heart... Thank you, Lisa, for all that you've shared here! In honor of Lisa's Big Outing, we are in quite the festive moods. Taking a lesson from our own newly launched Irene Latham, we're going to put together a Lisa Yee Prize Package for our winner here today. Should you be the lucky Violet, you will win your pick of two Lisa Yee novels, one set of your very own marshmallow peeps, some special authentic "hair goop" like she uses (and sometimes forgets to take to conferences), and whatever else I feel like putting in your package! All you need to do to enter to win is to tell us one unique fact about Lisa Yee that is not already listed here. On your mark, get set, GO-O-O!

Have a joyous week, friends!



Irene Latham said...

I'm soooo fascinated by introverts who are NOT shy and can blather on and on with the blogging! Glad y'all used that introdar and picked up on Lisa! And yes, that first line of Girl Genius is brilliant. Bring on the prize pack! :)

jama said...

Fab, fab interview!! More than one cool fact about Lisa: she and Colin Firth are penpals, Peepy's got a book deal, she's a former Miss America. (One of the above is not true.)

EmilyR said...

Love Lisa's books! The fabulous Cheryl Klein is her editor.

Anonymous said...

What is it about introverts and See's Candies? LOL! I'm with you, Lisa!

- Julie

Anonymous said...

Great interview! I love the desert-island question. My first gut answer was, oh, yes, introvert--then I remembered my husband is an extrovert. And he'd be really good at getting me OFF the island, while I just sat up against the palm tree and read.

Rebecca Knight said...

Lisa Yee is a former hand model! :D

What a great interview. I'm also an introvert who gets mistaken for an extrovert on occasion. Cocktail parties terrify me, too. Any tips from anyone on how to survive a party with strangers?

Thanks for the insight, Lisa! :D

Sherrie Petersen said...

Great interview, Mary! Here's a fact about Lisa I remember from her blog last summer: She snuck off with Arthur Levine during SCBWI-LA for some greasy takeout, then her car smelled. From the takeout, not from Arthur Levine :)

kathrynjankowski said...

She had me at "See's chocolates".

Interesting fact about Lisa: She learned word processing on a WANG.

(And I used to work in a WANG center!)

Nancy Ancowitz said...

What a delightful interview!

Lisa Yee said...

Eeeek!!! Now that I've been outed, there's no going back into hiding.

Anonymous said...

Lisa Yee is a sucker for computer procrastination games; especially in the early am hours. I know because I am a major supplier.
AS ever,

Anonymous said...

Lisa used to have the second largest Pooh bear collection in the world which she donated to a museum. Also, I've never heard of an introvert that WASN'T shy. Strange.

Anonymous said...

Great interview!

Once when Santa Claus was down visiting LA, he ate dinner at the very same restaurant where Lisa was dining. :)

Anonymous said...

I always suspected and now I see the truth has been revealed. My introdar was correct:)

Kim Baker said...

Nice interview!
I can be kind of outspoken and silly, but I'm definitely an introvert. If I mention that I'm an introvert, people wait for the punchline. It's nice to see others like that.

Hmm, I know she often has computer issues.

madelyn said...

Thanks so much for posting this! So much better than Myers Briggs!!!

Elizabeth B. said...

Vertdar! I'm another seeming extrovert who's really an introvert. I need a LOT of alone time, and recharge from solitude, not from being social. It was amusing and not surprising to me that midweek at the Vermont College writing residency, we'd all have little meltdowns; I think it was because you had 125 introverts all forced into 10-day group contact. Aaaaugh! We all LOVED it, but it was exhausting.

Go, extra-intros!

Unknown said...

Coulda told you that about Peepy.

marce merrell said...

I loved how she pointed out the seeming incongruity between being intimidated at a cocktail party versus speaking to a large audience. My own little light bulb went on! Thanks.

Mary Hershey said...

Hey, everyone! Thanks for all the great comments and funny/strange/wonderful entries about Lisa! Winner posted tomorrow--