Wanda Luthman Interview Published on: 11, Dec 2018

Where have you spent most of your childhood? What is the first book that made you cry?

The majority of my childhood was spent in the suburbs of St. Louis, MO. Even though we lived in a subdivision, our house backed up to a cow pasture. I dreamed of growing up on a farm and I loved watching the cows come and graze on the hillside as the sun was setting. Still to this day, if I drive through the countryside a certain kind of peace overtakes me.

The first book that made me cry was Charlotte's Web and I consider that my favorite children's book.

What has your experience in Mental Health Counseling taught you so far? What brings you the most satisfaction as a Mental Health Counselor?

I still hold a mental health license but I no longer practice since I have been a High School Guidance Counselor for the last 21 years. I loved being a mental health counselor and helping people. I love that about being a guidance counselor too. What counseling, in general, has taught me is that we all share in the human condition. Life is hard, yes, but it's also very, very good. If we come together in love and forgiveness and help one another and keep a thankful heart, we will have a great life.

What influenced you to be a guidance counselor? What is the most creative and innovative counseling technique you have used?

I mainly switched from mental health to guidance in order to have more of the same schedule as my daughter. I can't think of any innovation techniques I have used. I find listening to be the single most powerful tool a counselor or person has. So often in this busy world, people are not heard. If you really take the time to listen to someone, you can help them far more than you ever realize.

How do you divide your time between meeting the immediate needs of the people you counsel and keeping up with the writing work?

Dividing my time is THE biggest challenge! I always prioritize talking to students because I can only do that while they're in school. And if I need to stay after to get paperwork done, then that's when I take care of that part of my job.

What are the ethics of writing children's books? How do you think your experience as a counselor has helped you shape into an author?

What a great question about the ethics of writing a children's book. I think it is important not to portray a child in a book as doing something bad/wrong/dangerous without consequences. It's important to have positive yet real role models for children to help them understand right from wrong and what are positive choices vs. negative choices, etc. I think my training in mental health and guidance helps me better understand that (although any parent would know it too) but it keeps me in touch with the children and what they may need help with.

As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal - Flamingo, Turtle, Bird or Unicorn? If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

As an author my spirit animal would probably be the unicorn. I see unicorns as magical beings that help the less fortunate and that's what I feel my role is as a counselor and also an author to a large extent.

What inspired you to write "Little Birdie Grows Up?" What is your favorite childhood book?

My daughter was my inspiration behind writing Little Birdie Grows Up. I was bemoaning to a friend how much I missed my daughter after she went off to college and she suggested I write a book about a bird leaving the nest. It took me almost a year before I was actually inspired to write the story but after I did, I noticed there were many rhyming words and decided to write it more as a picture book than a chapter book. Wala--my first picture book was born and it won an award with Reader's Favorite, a silver medal! I truly enjoy writing in rhyme and often think in rhyme so it comes natural. Of course, I have an awesome editor who helps me fine tune it, but it's pure joy to write picture books!

My favorite childhood book is Charlotte's Web but my favorite rhyming book is any book by Dr. Seuss. Once my writing was compared to his and I was blown away! He's my hero!!

How has been your experience working with the illustrator, Mara Reitsma? What is the significance of the title, "Franky The Finicky Flamingo?"

I love working with Mara Reitsma!! She has gotten to know me so well. I can give her the words and once we agree on the main character, she takes it from there and I always love what she does. She's so creative and talented and adds that special something to the pictures that really brings my words to life. It's a great feeling to have a partner in the process of writing. You know, often writers work in isolation but on my picture books, I work with her as well as a woman called Claire Plaisted who does the actual formatting. They are both wonderful and very supportive and we share in the triumphs together. Like when Franky earned a Mom's Choice Award and a Reader's Favorite Bronze Medal!!

How long on an average did it take you to write the book, Gloria and the Unicorn? Who is the "Sir Louie" in your life?

When I sit down to write, the book usually comes together fairly quickly. Like maybe 40 hours. I don't do it all in one sitting. I usually have a nugget of what I want to say and then I start. Then, I walk away and come back to it and re-read what I've written and do a little editing. Then, I write some more and walk away again. I repeat that process until the whole story is on paper. Then, I let it be for awhile and let it "percolate" as I call it in the back of my mind. I return, re-read, and re-write/edit. Then, I let it sit one more time before a final polish and then off to my editor.

What an awesome question about the Sir Louie in my life. I would have to say my husband. When we met, we were both a bit broken. We had both come from broken marriages and were hurting. But, together, we helped to heal each other and make our lives something amazing!! He's my best friend and I'm so glad he's in my life. I don't know what I would do without him.

How did you come up with the character of Tad? What’s a body part that you wouldn’t mind losing?

Aww, sweet little Tad. Well, my daughter had a turtle that she named Tad which I know is a bit weird because when you think of Tad, you think of a tadpole which grows into a frog, not a turtle. But, his name was Tad and we moved him from one small aquarium to a larger one and gave him a little bridge that he could climb up on to get out of the water and rest. Well, he was so funny because he would climb up on that bridge and then dive off into the water. It was clear he enjoyed swimming!! Then, his shell hadn't appeared that beautiful in the smaller aquarium, but when we placed him into the larger one, we also had a better light and it brought out the sheen in his shell and it was absolutely beautiful!! We used to love to sit and watch him for hours. That's where the idea about not liking his shell came from both from how difficult it was for him to climb up on that rock and how non-beautiful it had appeared beforehand.

In regards to a body part I wouldn't mind to lose, it's not so much the limb as it is the size. My legs are a bit large for my liking. LOL

What would be a good theme song for your life? Are you a bathroom singer?

Well, I'm not sure if it would be a theme song but it's one I like a lot and it's Forever Young by Rod Stewart. Maybe it would be a good theme song because I do think I'm young at heart.

Haha! Yes, I'm a bathroom singer and car singer and really anytime signer that someone isn't listening. LOL

How do you take inspiration from the beauty of nature while writing stories?

I used to ride my bike every weekend and we have a beautiful area to ride right along the Indian River and it is very inspirational. There are all kinds of birds, manatees, dolphins, turtles, you name it. I have always loved the water and find it very relaxing. So, nature speaks to me and I can get very inspired for a story when I ride along and take it the scenary.

Which fictional character from your books would be the most exciting to meet in real life? Why?

I think I would like to meet Gloria. She embodies a fearlessly strong young woman. I love how she has overcome so much. She is really a hero for me. Also, Dreama, in The Lilac Princess is a hero. I wrote that book when my daughter was 5 years old and didn't publish it until she was 18 years old. I re-read it before I published it and really saw my life reflected in those pages, except that Dreama was very compassionate where I had been stubborn and it took me a long time to forgive my dragon. I'm happy to say that I have forgiven them. Once I did, I felt a new lease on life and am happy to healed.

What projects you are currently working on? Which project is going to release first in the coming days?

My current project is a Christmas picture book called Sophia the Christmas Eve Snow Bunny & The Real Gift. It's about a bunny who helps Santa by delivering presents to orphaned animals and how she learns the true meaning of Christmas. It should be available as an ebook on December 23rd. Paperback to come later.

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