I’m very excited that author Lydia Lukidis is joining us here today! Lydia’s newest picture book is a creative nonfiction title, DEEP, DEEP DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2022), and I wanted to share news about it before the end of the year rolled. (We’ll also be giving away a manuscript critique at the end!) It’s not a poetry collection, but it is a very lyrical exploration of the deepest part of the Earth and I think readers will enjoy it.
Welcome, Lydia, and congratulations on the new book! It’s beautiful all the way through, from your lyrical text to Juan Calle’s gorgeous illustrations. As a child (heck, even as an adult), I was fascinated by the possibility of life in outer space – and I feel like we can get a glimpse of what might be out there simply by investigating the bizarre life forms in the deepest parts of our oceans. (As Ian Malcolm said, “Life finds a way!”)
I know you mention at the back of the book how you became so fascinated by the Mariana Trench, but what made you decide to write a book about it?
Hi Matt! In 2019, I read an article about how scientists found a plastic bag floating in the Mariana Trench. They also discovered plastic in the belly of various marine animals. My heart sank and I wondered how we human beings managed to start damaging one of the most remote places on the planet.
At that point, I had heard of the Mariana Trench but knew very little about it. The article made me curious and I began my research. I discovered that the conditions in the trench are extremely hostile; there’s no sunlight, food is scarce, and the pressure is crushing. I wondered; what creatures could survive such an environment?
My goal in writing this book was twofold: firstly, to educate children on the deepest ocean of our world and debunk the myth that “scary” creatures live within its depths, and secondly, to talk about ocean conservation and the importance of this fascinating ecosystem.
To follow up, the question I always ask everyone – the question I ask myself before beginning a manuscript – is, why did this particular book need to be written?
That’s a critical question to ask yourself!
As I sank deep, deep down into my research, one of the first things I did was look up other kidlit books about the Mariana Trench. And it turned out there were hardly any! There were many books about the deep sea, of course, but none specifically about the Mariana Trench. This was a green flag for me since there was a small hole in the market.
But that alone could not be enough to warrant writing a book and investing years in a project. The second question I ask myself is; how much passion do I feel for this topic? I have an excitable personality and find almost everything interesting. (Literally!) I have a document filled with ideas, but most don’t make it to the development stage. I do feel a special affinity for anything space or ocean related, so that sustained me through the very long process of rewriting the book over 55 times.
DEEP, DEEP DOWN is very different from your other books, like the MYTHOLOGY MATCHUPS you’ve also written for Capstone or your American Industries series of nonfiction books. What made you decide to use this very poetic, lyrical style of writing?
As I emerge as a writer and my body of work grows, I’m starting to realize that my style is varied. The goal is to create a specific signature and author style of course, but I never want to stop myself from pursuing a project I feel deep passion for. Cut to today, I write not only nonfiction but also fiction, not only STEM but also funny or poetic narratives. And why not put STEM and poetry together? That’s just who I am.
In fact, writing in a lyrical style for DEEP, DEEP DOWN was like reclaiming my roots in many ways. I studied English Literature and poetry in university and I’ve been writing poetry since the age of six. Poetry has always been my first love and it’s been a fun experience to reclaim that part of myself.
As I mentioned earlier, I love deep-sea marine biology, so the sidebars are especially cool because they provide context as well as fascinating information about your primary text. How did you decide which creatures to include and which to leave out?
Great question. I interviewed my experts and researched every single creature that lived in the trench (that has been discovered so far). I picked the most interesting, amazing, or weirdest ones that most children likely haven’t heard of and that would pique their interest.
Were there any you wish you could have included?
When I first started writing the book, I really wanted to include the anglerfish. What a fascinating creature! I also found an article claiming vampire squid lived in the trench. But when I interviewed my roster of experts, I discovered that neither of these (and many others I had found on the internet) lived in the trench. That experience led me to my hook, which is asking children to imagine what lives down there and surprising them with the truth.
I’m sure you were thrilled when you found out a former marine biologist, Juan Calle, would be illustrating your book – if anyone knows marine life, it’d be a guy like Juan! I know authors and illustrators don’t usually work together, but did you two have any sort of conversations during the revision process?
I was ecstatic that someone like Juan took on this project as I knew this would be a great match. Usually, picture book authors provide very little direction for illustrations, but it’s different for nonfiction. I was hyper aware of the importance of depicting the trench and its creatures in a realistic light and there aren’t many resource photos on the internet. Thanks to the many experts I consulted with, I compiled photos, video reels, and information and put together a resource guide for Juan. It took months to make but it was well worth it.
But I never spoke to or emailed Juan directly, everything went through my editor and I respected their process. I showed the first drafts to my experts and we did have many small revisions. I’m grateful Juan hang on as we went back and forth multiple times. I think it took about 8 tries to get the exact color of the sea cucumber. I imagine he was probably losing his mind at that point! But he kept going until it was just right and I’m grateful. My editor, Alison Deering, was equally fantastic as we went over each line and each fact in detail.
What did you find most surprising about writing this book?
Everything!! As I mentioned, the first drafts I wrote were based on research I did on the internet which turned out to be largely false. Learning what the trench is truly like and what creatures actually roam its depths felt like an adventure. I learned so many things in the process.
Well, it’s really a wonderful book, and I wish you all the best with it! Any plans to write more books with this lyrical sort of style?
Yes! Now that DEEP, DEEP DOWN is out there, my love affair with poetry is reignited. I’ve already written a few books which are a mix of verse and prose and I have a new nonfiction narrative book coming out shortly that also has a lyrical feel to it. It will be announced “soon,” hopefully!
Thanks again, Lydia, for dropping by, and have a great holiday season! With each of us celebrating book birthdays on Jan. 1, it’s going to be an awesome, exciting day!
Thanks for having me and happy book birthday to you, as well!
Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children, as well as 31 e-Books. Her titles include DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2023) and THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award. A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books. Lydia is an active member of SCBWI, CANSCAIP, 12 x 12, and The Authors Guild. She’s very involved in the kidlit community and also volunteers as a judge on Rate your Story. Another passion of hers is fostering love for children’s literacy through the writing workshops she regularly offers in elementary schools. Lydia is represented by literary agent Miranda Paul from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~
And now, dear readers, it’s time for that GIVEAWAY I told you about!
Lydia has graciously offered to provide a manuscript critique for a fiction or nonfiction picture book! (non-rhyming, <1000 words) Just let us know you’d like to be entered in the random drawing by leaving a comment below OR by sharing this post on Twitter – just be sure to tag Yours Truly so I’ll see it.
I’ll announce the winner NEXT FRIDAY!
= = = = = = = = = =
My newest picture book, Everybody Counts! (The Little Fig, 2023), originally scheduled for publication Jan. 1, 2023, appears to be ahead of schedule as bookstores are already receiving their copies – so the publisher has told them to feel free to sell it!
Everybody Counts! features 12 animals of varying ethnicities teaching the reader how to count to ten in each of their languages, along with an ethnic name and food item.
Languages included in the book:
- Mandarin Chinese
Readers who want to learn more will soon have the opportunity to go the The Little Fig website to find links to pronunciation videos and more. You can order directly from the publisher, but you can also pre-order through Amazon, B&N, Indie Bound, and Target. (Or my local hometown indie bookstore, MainStreet BookEnds, which offers personally-signed copies!)
It was one of the more popular titles on sale this past Wed. at our state capital’s only independent bookstore, Gibson’s Bookstore of Concord. I had visited the store for a storytime/book signing with families and teachers from the Concord Family Center, and it was a lot of fun sharing my books, teaching origami, and making crazy faces! (I’m currently booking school/library author visits for winter/spring 2023, so scroll down just a wee bit for more details on that!)
Today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup can be found at Michelle Kogan’s blog, More Art 4 All. Ukraine has been on her mind lately and she shares some news and thoughts about the country and the war, as well as a new poem and artwork about the gift of a morning song.
I’m booking author visits for the 2022-23 school year!
I love chatting with elementary and middle school classes about writing: why poetry is fun to read and write, the importance of revision, and how one’s imagination and creativity can lead to a fantastic career! My presentations are tailored to fit the needs of the classes and students’ ages. One day I might be sharing details of how a picture book like Flashlight Night (Astra Young Readers, 2017) was created; the next, I’ll be discussing dinosaurs, tree ferns, or origami sea turtles!
Student presentations include:
- The Making of a Picture Book
- How a Child Saved a Book
- “Once Upon Another Time”
- The Most Imporant Thing about Writing Poetry
- “I Am Today”
Adult presentations include:
- The Making of a Picture Book
- Poetry: An Introduction to the Most Important Genre
- The Most Important Thing about Writing Poetry
- Free Yourself with Free Verse
- Tight Language, Loose Narratives: Crafting a Non-Traditional Picture Book
Learn more at MattForrest.com!
If you or someone you know might be interested in having me visit your school, library, or other organization, please email me
AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE (soon!):
(The Little Fig, LLC, 2022)
Order a PERSONALLY-SIGNED copy of this or or ANY of my books
from my local independent bookstore!
I’m very happy to be part of the BOOKROO family!
Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!
I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.
Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!
Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)
Thank you to everyone for your support!
- NY Public Library’s “100 Best Book for Kids 2017” AND “Staff Pick!”
- KIRKUS Starred review!
- Kansas NEA Reading Circle Recommended Books!
- “Best Reads of 2017,” Unleashing Readers
- Finalist, 2019 New Hampshire Literary Awards
- Positive reviews from Horn Book, School Library Connection, School Library Connection, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and Shelf-Awareness!
DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:
- “Rollicking rhyme!” – Booklist
Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right! (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day) . Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!