the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Lisa Papademetriou and A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic!

Posted by Tami Brown on Wed, Oct 07, 2015 @ 10:10 AM

Welcome Lisa Lisa Papademetriou! Today in the LaunchPad we're celebrating Lisa's new middle grade novel A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic. Lisa graduated in July 2014 and is one of the Allies in Wonderland. According to her mother Lisa is a really, really big deal and you should get to know her immediately. You can chat with her on twitter @axyfabulous.

Bestseller and author of the popular middle grade series Confectionately YoursLisa Papademetriou is back with a magical, page-turning adventure for readers of all ages—a touching tale about destiny and the invisible threads that link us all, ultimately, to one another.

9780062371218Kai and Leila are both finally having an adventure. For Leila, that means a globe-crossing journey to visit family in Pakistan for the summer; for Kai, it means being stuck with her crazy great-aunt in Texas while her mom looks for a job. In each of their bedrooms, they discover a copy of a blank, old book called The Exquisite Corpse. Kai writes three words on the first page—and suddenly, they magically appear in Leila's copy on the other side of the planet. Kai's words are soon followed by line after line of the long-ago, romantic tale of Ralph T. Flabbergast and his forever-love, Edwina Pickle. As the two take turns writing, the tale unfolds, connecting both girls to each other, and to the past, in a way they never could have imagined.

A heartfelt, vividly told multicultural story about fate and how our stories shape it.

Hi, Lisa! What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic was part of my VCFA thesis, and three advisors told me essentially the same thing, which boils down to: You don’t have to put every single good idea into your book. Simplicity is best. It took a lot of revising to winnow my ideas, and I still ended up with a very complex book.

Tell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work.

I have two special things on my desk. One is a large glass marble made by a friend of mine. Inside it are wispy clouds and blue sparkles, and sometimes when I get stuck, I pick it up and stare into it. It’s smooth and heavy and cool in my palm, and it always makes me feel calm. The other thing is a small happy Buddha that my daughter found on the beach in Miami. It feels like a harbinger of joy and good fortune, and I hope he smiles on my writing.

What was it like watching the illustrations/cover come together?

The cover for this book was very emotional for me, because it took me several moments to realize what the illustrator had done. A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic is set in two locations: Texas and Pakistan, and the illustrator subtly reflected both on the cover. The bottom edge contains a graveyard, a pickup truck, a factory, and other details from the Texas location. At first glance, the top edge appears to be an almost mirror image, but it contains elements from the Lahore, Pakistan location: a donkey cart, Badshahi Mosque, a parrot, and more. Every element in those edges is mentioned in the book. I couldn’t believe it. I have never had such a beautiful cover, or one that reflected such care and respect for what I had done. It was incredibly moving.

What unusual swag do you wish you could make for this book? 

I wish I could make a magic book!

Me, too! I'd love to have a book like Kai and Leila's! What is your favorite VCFA memory?

One of my favorite memories is of the very first moment I arrived in the dorm. My husband, Ali, and daughter were with me, and they dropped me off in my cinderblock room. Ali took a look around and said, “Wow. This program must be incredible, because people sure aren’t coming here for the facilities!” I actually adore the simple beauty of the VCFA campus, but it sure isn’t like some universities that have fancy gyms and—who knows—private valets, or whatever. And the fact is, Ali is totally right—people come to VCFA because they are dedicated to their craft, they come because the faculty is incredible, they come because the program is committed to helping people reach their full potential. Nobody comes to get pampered. 

What was special about your VCFA graduating class?

My class name is Allies in Wonderland, and we truly are each other’s allies, advocates, friends, and fans. I’m sure everyone thinks that his or her class is the best, but mine really is

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic is published by HarperCollins and is in bookstores now. You can find out more about Lisa and her books at and

Topics: Lisa Papademetriou, 2015 release, middle grade, HarperCollins

Lisa Papademetriou and HOMEROOM DIARIES!

Posted by Tami Brown on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 @ 11:08 AM

A warm welcome to one of Vermont College of Fine Arts' newest alumnae, one of the Allies in Wonderland, Lisa Papademetriou. Lisa's new graphic novel hybrid Homeroom Diaries (co-authored with James Patterson ((cool, huh!)) ) is just out and Lisa's dropped in to the Launch Pad to tell us all about it-


Margaret "Cuckoo" Clarke recently had a brief stay in a mental institution following an emotional breakdown, but she's turning over a new leaf with her "Operation Happiness". She's determined to beat down the bad vibes of the Haters, the Terror Teachers, and all of the trials and tribulations of high school by writing and drawing in her diary. And when life gets really tough, she works through her own moments of uncertainty through imaginary conversations with her favorite literary characters.

Cuckoo's also got a nearly impossible mission: she, along with her misfit band of self-deprecating friends (who call themselves "the Freakshow") decide to bridge the gap between warring cliques and "bring the Nations together". Not everyone is so willing to join hands and get along, but Cuckoo never stops smiling... until one of her closest friends, pushed to desperation by a Hater prank, decides that enough is enough. 

Welcome, Lisa! What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?

Jim and I reworked the opening approximately five jillion times before we were satisfied. Openings are, to me, the hardest thing to write. In fact, I almost always write a "placeholder opening," which I then rework or rewrite entirely after I finish the first draft.

What authors do you love for their sentences? How about plot? Character?

I love E.M. Forster's sentences. For plot, I always look at Dickens and Austen. I adore complicated, intertwined plots, and consider myself a plot writer. Character is something I tend to look at in the second draft. I love the efficient way Dickens and Austen create memorable characters--especially their secondary and tertiary characters. But I also love the nuance in Edith Wharton's characters.

Do you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack?

I always write in silence--except for this book. For me, this book has a one-song soundtrack: Let Go by Frou Frou. Jim had a very clear vision of the main character, Cuckoo, but it took a long time for me to connect with her. One day, while jogging, I heard this song, and I felt like I understood her instantly and completely. The feelings I wanted to capture are very, very present in that song.

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

I know that I'm a much better writer since attending VCFA. That did not surprise me. What did surprise me, however, is how much happier I am as a writer. I have been a working writer for about fifteen years, but my time at VCFA made me feel that I was finally doing the work I really wanted to do, with "my" people.

Lisa Papademetriou is also the author of the Confectionately Yours series, and a bunch of other stuff. Her next novel will be out shortly and we can't wait to see her back at the Launch Pad. You can read more about Lisa at

Homeroom Diaries was published by Little Brown and is available in bookstores everywhere.

Topics: young adult, Lisa Papademetriou, 2014 release, graphic novel, James Patterson, Little Brown

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