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  • Writer's pictureHeather Steadham

Zen Buddhism and Jazz--Inside the Kidlit Studio with Lisa Bunker

I first met Lisa Bunker in May of 2019 at the New England SCBWI Spring Conference. I (and my two besties who also run this site) traveled all the way from Arkansas to Massachusetts to improve ourselves as writers, to support others in that same mission, and to enlarge our KidLit circle with meaningful new acquaintances.

Lucky for me, Lisa Bunker was one of those meaningful new acquaintances.

My oldest kid is trans and, at the time, was struggling. When I texted her that the conference had pronoun stickers to put on your name tags, she was so happy. When I texted her that I'd met Lisa, one of the first two transgender folks to be elected as New Hampshire state legislators and author of the (at-the-time) upcoming release of Zenobia July, a middle grade novel praised by Kirkus and featuring a trans main character (while decidedly not focusing on trans-centered struggles of that main character), she was THRILLED.

Lisa is a great author and a fascinating individual. She had a thirty-year career in radio before becoming a full-time writer; she lived in New Mexico, southern California, Washington state, and Florida before settling down in New Hampshire; and she just this summer founded Crucinova, an indie subscription service dedicated to championing innovation in crossword puzzle construction. And even though she's shopping another middle grade (her third, including the critically-acclaimed Felix Yz) AND a YA fantasy AND an adult novel AND she's got a wife AND three grown kids AND she's still representing the great folks of her state, she took the time to answer our wild and crazy questions, which we can't wait to share with you.

1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I'm sure I'm not the first person to choose this answer, but I'm going to have to say my

two children, now in their late twenties. Parenting them has been the greatest

privilege, challenge, and achievement of my life.

2. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I'm an amateur Zen Buddhist, so my concept of happiness has to do with getting as

close as possible to existing purely in the present moment. Beyond that, I have a

fundamental belief that our lives matter to the extent that we connect with and make a

difference in the lives other people, so I would say I'm happiest when I'm riding the

wave of being useful to other humans.

3. What is your most treasured possession?

When my wife and I got married three years ago, we invited members of both our

families to share in the creation of a Jackson Pollock heart painting. It came out great

and now hangs in our living room, and I would be devastated if anything ever happened

to it.

4. When and where were you the happiest?

Answering aspirationally: right now, right here. :-)

5. What is your greatest extravagance?

My wife and I both love pistachio nuts, sprinkling them liberally on most of our

breakfasts and lunches. When you buy them shelled, those little kernels are pricey! We

also love to the past few years, pre-pandemic, we've been to New Zealand and

the Galapagos, among other places.

6. Which talent would you most like to have?

I would love it if I had a natural talent for playing jazz.

7. What do you most value in your friends?

One trait I particularly admire and enjoy in other humans is a lively and generous sense

of humor, especially if it comes with a side of the absurd or whimsical. Humor that puts

other people down turns me off, though.

8. Which living person do you most admire?

The version of this my wife and I play is, who in the world would you most like to have

a nice long conversational dinner with? I would absolutely love to have dinner with the

Obamas. I so admire the grace with which they conduct themselves in an often hostile


9. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I have a problem with medical anxiety. Whenever anything about my body or health

changes, I jump to the conclusion that I'm seriously ill. Definitely something I need to

work on as I get older.

10. What is your favorite--and least favorite--word?

I have been a total word geek my entire life, so I'll pass on the least favorite part of the

question, and I can't possibly pick one most favorite, but I will say that for a while now

I've been fascinated by words or sets of words with no repeat letters. Did you know that

the longest two-word phrase in English with no repeat letters is "gunpowdery

blacksmith?" No? Well, now you do. :-)

11. What is your perfect environment for creative work?

When I'm writing, the main thing is I don't want to be interrupted. At home I say to my

wife, "I'm going into the writing zone now," and she leaves me alone until I say I'm back.

I also like writing in libraries, as long as they don't have squeaky ceiling fans.

12. What is the weirdest thing about you that you're willing to share?

I once participated in a show called Naked People Reading, in which, yep....

13. What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?

Jazz musician.

14. What is the favorite book of your childhood?

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher read aloud to us every day, and one of the books

she picked was The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I was utterly transported

and I have loved the whole Earthsea series ever since. I reread them every year or so.

More about Lisa:

Lisa's website

Lisa on Gender, Identity, and the "Alien" Inside Felix Yz

Barnes & Noble interview with Lisa

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