Lori Alexander writes for young children and their exhausted parents. Her debut picture book, BACKHOE JOE, rolled out in 2014 from Harper Children’s, with a sequel to follow. Lori resides in Tucson, Arizona, with her scientist husband and two book-loving kids. She runs when it’s cool (rarely) and swims when it’s hot (often). She grew up in San Diego, where she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in psychology from UCSD and SDSU, respectively.
Lori is a member of SCBWI and can be found at www.lorialexanderbooks.com or on Twitter @LoriJAlexander
For what age audience do you write?
I write fiction picture books for readers 4-8 years old.
Tell us about your latest book.
BACKHOE JOE is about a boy named Nolan who is out collecting rocks when he happens upon a “stray” backhoe. When the backhoe follows Nolan home, he wants to keep it. But Backhoe Joe isn’t trained. He revs at the mailman. He digs in the garbage. Just when Nolan thinks he has his new pet under control, he sees a “Lost Backhoe” flyer. Joe belongs to someone else! Luckily, Nolan earns a generous reward, and maybe, a new pet of his very own.
Henry: “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was, and always will be yours. If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with.”
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I wrote it to feed the imaginations of young truck lovers. In my mind, it’s a friendship story. But when I share it at school visits, we talk a bit about responsibility and what to do when you find something that doesn’t belong to you.
Henry: Sell it on eBay?
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Coming up with a unique, marketable concept that will hook the reader. And then developing a story around that wacky idea that doesn’t feel too contrived. It’s tricky business! Word count can be a challenge, also. I’m finally feeling comfortable with the 500-word target (although I keep hearing 400 words is the new goal). Many recently published PBs are far shorter.
Henry: It’s a common misconception (at least among people who’ve never written a picture book), that writing a 500-word story is easy because of the length. Quite the opposite, since we still have to jam in a plot and character development (aided, of course, by the illustrations).
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
In general, school visits and book signings have been a blast. I love chatting with young readers about books, sharing my inspiration behind BAKCHOE JOE, and doing all kinds of construction-themed games and crafts with the kids.
More specifically, picture book author Corey Rosen Schwartz sent me a short video of a family member reading BACKHOE JOE with their young boy. He’s in that early, “pre-reading” stage where he can finish the last word of each sentence from memory. Watching the exchange between the boy and his proud mom, hearing him say the words I wrote, was priceless.
Henry: TV commercial?
Read the rest of this interview at Henry’s blog on KidLit, Fantasy, and Science Fiction.