The following is a guest post by Elisabeth Wolf, author of Lulu in LA LA Land
Even before my daughter’s uniform changed from a jumper (K-3) to a skirt (4-6), she changed from wanting to hang out with me to wanting to play with friends. That’s pretty much a natural evolution.
Once in a skirt, my daughter, Emmeline, had more homework, more after-school activities, more plans with friends, and less time. But, instead of thinking that I had more time for myself, I thought of Lulu in LA LA Land.
Lulu, released in August, is the first in a series of middle reader fiction books. It’s the story of an almost eleven-year-old who lives a posh Hollywood royalty life. We all know about this world. We live in it, close to it or read about it. The problem for Lulu is that she’s the Not-Fitter-Inner. She’d rather pick her garden tomatoes than pluck her eyebrows. She’d rather bake lemon bars than buy Lululemon.
Lulu’s mother is a director wrapped up in making movies. She does not have a shred of time for her daughter. With her birthday approaching, Lulu decides it’s her mission to get her mother to her party. So, how’s a square peg kinda girl like Lulu supposed to get the attention of her glamorous, busy, mother? I asked my daughter.
I was working in a creative world and what better way to connect with my daughter than by tapping into her creativity. Emmeline’s help with Lulu started at the beginning. She visited the set of TV show Sonny With A Chance and watched an episode tape. Before she left, the producer gave her a copy of the script signed by the actors. For the next week, she sat in bed reading and re-reading the script.
Late one night, prying it from her hands, I had my Eureka moment! The screenplay format allows pages to look less dense and intimidating. That’s key for readers leaping from picture books to chapter books. So, Lulu in LA LA Land is written in screenplay format.
Next there were clothing stores, restaurants, hotels, bakeries, even a pet store, surf shop and monogram place. In addition to Lulu’s stories, the books are guides to the cities in which they are set. So, what better way to know where a tween girl would want to go in LA than to go there with my girl? A
ll the places Lulu visits in the book, I went to with Emmeline for lunch, dinner, dessert or just checking out. We had tons of laughs. Like the time we dared each other to eat cookies from the dog bakery at Chateau Marmont? Or, the time we had dinner at Mr. Chow’s and ordered way too much food. Emmeline snapped pictures everywhere we went. It’s much cooler for a twelve-year-old to take pictures around the Beverly Hills Hotel than me!!
Emmeline read and wrote suggestions on so many Lulu drafts, I feel like I should have let her skip her regular English homework most weeks. As we both learned, the process of writing is the ability to re-write. This means: changing ideas, like making a mean girl turn nice; scraping scenes already written, like deleting a visit to a store and making it a quarrel in a classroom; or adding parts, like making a dog dress like a kitty, but needing to cut others, like when Lulu has a sleepover. Each time my editor sent notes and I had to change the story, Emmeline read the new sections.
No matter how stuffed up with activities, homework, play dates our daughters become, they need time with their mothers and we need time with them. It can be hard both to find the time and the connections the older they get.
By including my girl in my work, I included her in my life. I gave her a sense of what I do when she’s at school and when she goes to bed. The connection deepened our relationship. No matter how far away from me she ever goes and no matter for how long, we have a mature and deep bond because at the time she got old enough to start drifting away, I tethered us by sharing a part of my life I do as an adult.
Lulu in LA LA Land is available online through Amazon.