Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is very happy to shine our Friday spotlight on children’s book author Kyle Lukoff. Kyle spent ten years as a bookseller, and then nine more years as a school librarian, which means that basically his entire life has always been books. He mostly write picture books, with some middle grade and early readers, and his work focuses on trans kids, wordplay, and social/emotional issues.
Kyle, my first question is, where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
Your favorite local bookstore BESIDES Annie’s!
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I’m on Twitter (for now) as @KyleLukoffWrites, and my Instagram is the same handle. Sometime I might have an email list but for now my website is kylelukoff.com
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from If You’re A Kid Like Gavin?
I write all kinds of stories! I have a whole series of early chapter books about a mermaid and her octopus-kid friend. My first picture book was about collective nouns, and my second was about poetry. I am most well-known for my books about trans kids, but I’m excited for books I have coming out in the next few years about friendship, forgiveness, and a few other topics. My most recent picture book, If You’re A Kid Like Gavin, is the first book where I collaborated with a real-life person, Gavin Grimm, to tell his story in my first non-fiction book.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
Most of my research for this book involved talking to Gavin, and learning more about his court case. I wanted to make sure that everything was true, and also that everything felt good for Gavin to put out in the world. My favorite part of researching this book is that Gavin and I became friends through it, and he’s now one of my favorite people. One of my favorite facts is that I get a tattoo for each book, taking one detail from an illustration, and the detail I chose for this book is a turtle that was also named Gavin.
What was the inspiration for If You’re A Kid Like Gavin? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
This book was inspired by four of my students. When I was still a school librarian, a small group of kids worked together to make the bathrooms more inclusive for nonbinary people, and in their research we talked a lot about Gavin’s case. I kept wishing there was a book that I could read to them, and decided to write it. The most important part was getting in touch with Gavin, but luckily I knew his lawyer at the ACLU who put me in touch with the main person there he works with, Chris. I kept telling Gavin that I could never promise it would become a real book, because publishing is such a tricky industry, and the day we got an offer was one of the proudest moments of my life.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m very excited about my next book. It’s a board book, also being released as a picture book, and it’s called “Awake, Asleep,” illustrated by Nadia Alam. It’s the shortest book I’ve ever written, 126 words, and half of those words are the word “A.” It’s a very simple story about the things that happen in a baby’s day, from waking up to falling asleep, but it is in a very intricate rhyme scheme that I think I invented. The easier a book is to read aloud, the harder it was to write, and this book proved it to me.
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
For a long time I thought that I could only write out at a coffee shop or a library or something, because being at home in the quiet felt too isolating. Then Covid hit and I wrote a whole novel sitting at the foot of my bed. Now I feel like I can write anywhere, but I get my best work done in my office, the morning.
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
As I am typing these very words, a 17-year-old black cat named Tux is sitting on my lap. His head is resting on my left hand, which doesn’t seem very comfortable because I am typing, but he’s been curled up here for several minutes. I don’t find it very helpful, but I do find it very cute so it’s hard for me to shove him away when I’m working. Chase, the other cat who lives here, is much more polite and is currently sleeping on the bed (ew, Tux just sneezed on my keyboard. He often has a stuffy nose).
Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re writing or editing a piece of work?
I love drinking coffee but I’ve realized that it’s not as good for me as I wish it was, so now I always have a cup of tea while I write (occasionally a seltzer or kombucha or something). I never snack while I write.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
I always thought that famous writers were simply a different category of human being than myself. I also thought that if I ever became a successful writer, I would stop feeling insecure or anxious or like everyone was better than me. I discovered, for better or worse, that famous writers are in fact the exact same as every other category of human being, and that a successful writing career wasn’t a magic wand that could make bad feelings go away. Oh well, maybe it’ll happen with the next book!
Thanks so much for answering our questions, Kyle. And lots of luck with Gavin!