Lori finds inspiration for her stories in the most unusual places. Important people and animals in her life have often guided her to write some of her favorites. Here are a few “behind the scenes” facts.
The Donut Lady, Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Page, 2000
“One of my favorite people in the entire world was my Great Aunt Boody. She showed me that some grown-ups actually liked to play! Boody spent hours playing games with my brother and me-- Monopoly and Blackjack were their favorites. But the board game, Clue, was the most exciting. Boody had a special, who-done-it-knack for discovering whether it was Mrs. Scarlet with a rope in the Dining Room or Mr. Green with a lead pipe in the kitchen. No matter how badly I wanted to win, seeing Boody solve the mystery somehow made everything right in the world.
In her golden years, Boody’s passion for sweets lead her to a new career and to new friends at a job at Winchell’s Donut House. Back in the 1940s, Boody and her husband ran a drive-thru sandwich shop called The Maid Rite. Sandwiches sold for a quarter and a slice of homemade pie for fifteen cents! Winchell’s became her home away from home until the age of 75.
Watching Boody make donuts was a thrill. She added flour and sugar into the mixing machine that spun the powdery mixture into a thick, white batter. Boody stretched the dough out onto metal sheets and cut circular shapes with a round tool. To fill the jelly donuts, she poured the red, sticky filling into the jelly machine, stuck a donut onto a prong and pulled down the lever. I loved watching the red glop squirt into the dough! These trips to Winchell’s were one of the highlights of my childhood. An added bonus was the dozen donuts Boody brought as a gift every time she came to see us. Of course, jellies were our favorites!
These sweet memories were inspiration for "The Donut Lady.”
Before Aunt Boody passed away two years ago, she was so proud of “her” story that ran in the LA Times Kids’ Reading Page.
“It’s easy to write about your best friend, especially if she’s a dog. Mo was my best buddy for thirteen and a half years. She was a Back Labrador/Golden Retriever mix that I basically considered my first child. Mo’s favorite hobby was chasing her big, red rubber ball. She spent so much time with that ball in her mouth, that Mo’s teeth were worn down and rounded out in the shape of it! Hiking in the mountains and swimming in lakes were a few more of Mo’s favorite activities. One time, when she was only four months old, Mo retrieved my Chap stick that had been floating out in the middle of the lake!
When at home, Mo enjoyed her walks. But unlike most dogs, Mo knew how to walk herself. She’d grab her leash in her mouth and head on down the sidewalk. Mo had a built in compass!
I couldn’t have ever asked for a more amazing pal to share my days with. Mo stuck by me through about five moves, a new husband and two kids. And all the while, she smiled, gave big kisses and took herself on walks. Mo has inspired me to write many stories. She starred in my first picture book, Don’t Lick the Baby. Even though she passed away in 2005, in my heart, Mo will always be my muse.”
Mo and her big, red ball!
Tap Shoes for Yaya, Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Page, 2001
“Sometimes, writing helps you heal when you’re feeling down. My mom passed away in 2002 at the young age of 65. I still miss her everyday, but writing Tap Shoes for Yaya helped me feel less sad.
When my mom turned 63, my son and I decided to buy her tap shoes for her birthday. He was so excited to give them to his Yaya (the Greek word for grandma.) She was not able to get up and dance, but she would sit on a chair and tap those feet like crazy!
When Yaya was a child, she loved to go tappity, tappity, tap all through the house, even though her parents couldn’t afford to get her tap shoes, or send her to tap class. Even as a young girl, she stood up for what she wanted. She was a strong influence on me and taught me to never give up for what I truly believe in. Even now, sometimes I can still hear that tap, tap, tappity tap, and I know she’s still with me.”
Here is Yaya (Jean Polydoros) in her younger years!
A few years ago, we took my dad to Hawaii for the very first time. It was also his first plane trip. My son and I thought it would be fun to write a special story for my dad to give to him on the plane. They read it together on the plane, and we all had a blast together on the big island of Hawaii. Writing this story taught me that it is never to late to learn and try new things. You can conquer your fears, no matter how old you are!
Lori with her dad and son outside a lava tube on the BigIsland!
Back in 1993, I got up the nerve to go mountain climbing for the very first time. My best friend, Linda, was a park ranger in Tuolumne Meadows, in Yosemite National Park, CA. I drove all night to get there, just in the time for the climb. To get to the base of Cathedral Peak, it was a tough three-hour hike uphill for this sea level girl who had just arrived and not acclimated yet! Once we got to the base, I looked up at this 1,100 foot peak and my heart fell. Would I be able to do it?
Well, lucky for me, I had a group of very patient and skilled climbing friends who got me up safely (and I never even lost my footing!) Being at the tip of a peak over 9,000 feet high was exhilarating! I can still feel the chilly, high Sierra wind whipping through my hair.
At one point on the way up, I had been waiting on a big boulder down below. Once I got up a 100 feet or so, I looked down below me, and on that very same rock, sat a plump, fuzzy marmot (cutest rodent in existence!) It was at the moment, that my mind starting working out the story of a superhero marmot who used his spiritual connection with nature to save his family...by flying.
I did send it out to several publishing houses and got back a few nice comments, but as of now it sits in my file cabinet where it will probably remain forever. Sometimes your first piece is just a stepping stone. But I always think of my time on Cathedral peak how it inspired me to write about a creature that could do amazing things, even though everyone told him he couldn’t.