Today’s Friend Friday friend, Lydia Lukidis, reminds us all of the power of persistence and of believing in one’s work. Though the road to publication for No Bears Allowed (Blue Whale Press) was neither smooth or straight, she hung in there to create a story that shows empathy in action. Read on!

Lydia Lukidis

No Bears Allowed (Blue Whale Press, LLC) was character driven right from the start. The characters came first, and story came after. It was not deliberate on my part, I just followed the flow. 

I knew I wanted to write about a big bear who looked menacing on the outside, but was sweet and naïve on the inside. Bear kept popping up in my consciousness. He was earnest, silly and comical all at once. Then I started to imagine a rabbit who was afraid of everything, especially bears. And what if…they somehow realized they had more in common than they thought?

I began to play with the idea of them developing an unlikely friendship. What would happen if one day, while Rabbit was going about his day, he came face to face with his worst nightmare: a bear? Would his fears come true? Or would Bear surprise him? I loved weaving the themes of overcoming your fears and not judging others into into the narrative. I knew I wanted to the book to cultivate empathy, which is a critical skill, especially these days.

Once I pounded out the first draft, I knew I was on the right path. But the editing process was long and sometimes painful. I went through countless rounds of edits, and showed it to a string of critique partners. Things were moving in the right direction, but I didn’t love the ending yet. It took several years for the ideas to fully germinate and for me to produce a polished manuscript.

I landed an agent at that time and assumed we would sell it within months. That’s not how the cookie crumbled. First off, the book received a slew of rejections. To make matters worse, I ended up parting ways with my agent. We simply weren’t the right match. 

Much to my amazement, I had three offers from prospective agents a few months later. I selected my second agent, but lo and behold, she didn’t want to submit No Bears Allowed because it was too “quiet.”

She gave me her blessing to submit the book on my own, which I did. I was *not* going to give up on this story. I knew I loved it and was determined to find a home for it. A few months later, Alayne Christian from Blue Whale Press sent me a positive note, asking for an R & R. I went back to the drawing board and produced a revised manuscript in a week, and much to my delight, she accepted it. A year and a half later (and that’s short when it comes to the publishing industry), I was holding the advanced copy in my hands.

Though the path to publication was long and challenging, the experience was well worth it. Certainly, there are times when you really do need to move on from a manuscript and shelve it. But then there are other books that are somehow magical, and that we are passionate about- these are the ones we shouldn’t give up on.

No Bears Allowed by Lydia Lukidis Illustrated by Tara J. Hannon

Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with a multi-disciplinary background that spans the fields of literature, science and puppetry. So far, she has 3 trade picture books, 33 eBooks, as well as over dozen educational books published. Her latest STEM book The Broken Bees’ Nest was nominated for a CYBILS Award. Lydia is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy. She regularly gives writing workshops in elementary schools across Quebec through the Culture in the Schools Program. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence. You can learn more about Lydia on her website, Facebook or Twitter. Here is also a link to purchase Lydia’s book.