AN AUTHOR'S JOURNEY
I’ve taken many leaps throughout my career, confident that at the right moment, the net will appear.
I started my career as a radio news journalist (with NPR affiliate, WUWM and ABC affiliate, WISN), both in Milwaukee, WI. That was certainly the start of my writing career, which further developed as I worked in corporate communications for large media and energy companies. In 2001, I founded my own public relations and marketing company, Hyler Communications. I helped clients launch products and services to diverse retailers and companies, such as Schnucks supermarkets, Disney and Nickelodeon.
Creatively, I’ve shopped screenplays around Hollywood, wrote numerous short stories and an adult novel.
The launch of my career as a children’s book author
Inspiration arrived through watching my only child enjoying time with his friends. The friendly banter and raucous boy talk was amusing. The deal was sealed when I bought Will a nerf toy featuring a child of color wearing goggles. A superhero!, I thought. That was the genesis of my main character in my traditionally-published middle grade series featuring multicultural superheroes, working on CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology, who share a love of spy gadgets.
In my series, I also celebrate family love, touch upon the Civil Rights era, Tuskegee Airmen and famous historic Black spies.
The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes debuted in March 2018. The book has taken me on wonderful journeys throughout the country (nearly 40 appearances to date!) meeting kids, teachers, parents and educators.
A fairy tale?
Before you begin to salivate about what appears to be a fairy tale life, I should touch upon all of the research that goes into writing a book about CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology. I first read about it a couple of years before I wrote my debut novel and was absolutely fascinated by the technology described as having ‘the ability to edit our human species.’ My quartet of kids in my books are science whizzes helping to advance this technology in the world. STEM on steroids!
I did my research--thoroughly. Yet, it was a relief to get introduced to a source working in R & D in genome engineering for a major multi-national corporation. He’s my expert for the remaining books in my series.
How it all began
Taking a step back, I have to give a shout out to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) which I joined in 2015. I immersed myself in as many conferences and workshops as possible, and devoured THE BOOK cover to cover. It’s a children’s book publishing bible of sorts, with a wealth of information on how to deal with the difficult publishing industry.
These publishing industry workshops about what I call a secretive industry, were not all peaches and cream. Yet, viewed with a discerning eye coupled with my career experience, the information was very helpful. I observed obstacles and strategized how to work around, climb over and under, and bolster my skillset, not unlike what one has to do in any other career. Gatekeepers are plentiful. Dedication and perseverance is key to success.
Go public with your dreams
Speak it into existence. I went public in an August 2017 Writer’s Digest magazine article in which I proclaimed to a national audience, “I’m determined. The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes will soon rest on the shelves of bookstores, libraries, and retail stores everywhere…but, first I need an agent.”
In the December 2017 issue of the same magazine, I wrote, “I have an update. I’m excited to share that I have a publishing deal and my middle grade novel, The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes debuts in March 2018!”
Fast forward to present year
In March 2020, I received cancellations for six or seven events I had planned for the coming months. The coronavirus hit. In true investigative reporter style, I began to read, listen and watch every media outlet I could to learn about this pandemic and the best way to cope. Paramount was keeping my family safe.
In April, I stumbled across a competition by Emory Global Health Institute challenging authors to write a book to help children ages 6-12 cope with the effects of the virus on their lives. The book had to be completed in two weeks! I shied away for that reason, plus I was in the middle of writing book two in my multicultural superhero, CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology, and spy gadget series. I danced around the idea for a few days. I thought, “Who writes a book during a pandemic?” Then, I got to work.
I assembled my team: publisher, editor and illustrator. I knew I would get my book published, win or no win. I live in a lovely, wooded subdivision in a suburb in Wisconsin. I heard anguish in the voices of children, their parents, and concerned neighbors young and old, as they faced an uncertain future. Missed classroom schooling, missed playdates, social distancing-even from extended family members, and of course, the ever present fear of contracting Covid-19.
Our Bodies Stay Home, Our Imaginations Run Free was born
My coronavirus book for children, which I began in mid-April debuts globally on or near July 1. Yes, I learned to write fast. I intend to apply this technique in all my books moving forward. I can wax poetic about the challenges of writing a book in ten days. The truth of the matter, fellow authors and pre-authors, is that I didn’t have time to get in my own way. No time for second guessing, or re-writing until I was tired of my own story.
I kept my passion in front of me: I wanted to write this story to help children. Truly, lives are at stake as some children are facing mental health crises during this pandemic. Adults are struggling also. I like to think adults have learned some resiliency over our decades of living. Children are not in the same boat.
Advance reviews have been humbling. As I’ve participated in media interviews, I’ve reflected upon the double pandemic children are facing. I worry about the scars of coronavirus and the scars of racial trauma, which a Milwaukee medical professional warns causes “psychological symptoms whether covert or overt.” Children of color and their empathetic friends are suffering.
I urge you to listen to the dear children in your lives or community. Do more listening than talking. Read a book to them. Provide nurturing and comfort.
Artists, we have work to do
I’m a member of Nō Studios, a beautiful 40,000-square-foot space located just west of downtown Milwaukee. It’s both a workspace and social environment for artists of all kinds. Founded by Oscar winner John Ridley, born in Milwaukee, I’ve been able to take advantage of book and film events, and various programming. In a recent webinar, Ridley urged writers to “Take the thing you can do as an artist and activate it. We can only do as an artist what God has given us. We need you. Get your voice in the mix.”
Your time is now. Seize the moment. Art will save us.
About the author
Lora Hyler is a former reporter for NPR affiliate, WUWM and ABC affiliate, WISN, both in Milwaukee, WI. She worked for media and energy companies. In 2001, she founded her marketing company, Hyler Communications. She also worked in television for two years on NBC affiliate, Today’s TMJ4.
Her debut novel, The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes is the first in a three-part children’s middle grade series traditionally published. The novel has received several awards from the international Eric Hoffer Book Awards, and the Best Book Awards.
Writing book two was interrupted when she accepted the challenge from Emory Global Health Institute to write a book to help children around the world deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The book’s publication date is July 1. Suitable for children ages 6-12, the 40-page book is a work of fiction with facts about staying safe during an epidemic. We follow 7-year-old Maya, and her 10-year-old brother, Bryan as their lives are turned upside down. Ultimately, they learn how to cope, help their family and community, and look forward to the future. For more, visit: http://www.lorahylerauthor.com/