Hi Mixed-Up Filers! Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Patricia Lakin, an award-winning author who writes both fiction and nonfiction for toddlers to middle-graders. We discussed Guitars, the latest book in her Made By Hand series from Simon & Schuster. It’s a fun book filled with great facts about how guitars are made and two activities that show kids how to make their own instruments.
Tell us a little bit about Guitars and the Made By Hand series? How did , or more broadly, the Made By Hand series, come about? Did you select the subjects? If so, why?
The story of how Made By Hand came about is a true tale of admiration. An editor I have worked with in the past has a great love of hand-made objects. She knew that I shared that same love. It was this editor, Karen Nagel at Simon & Schuster, who created the Made By Hand series and asked me to be the writer.
The editorial team decided they wanted to focus on two objects used for transportation—one of wood and one of metal and use the same materials for two musical instruments. And that is how the book on Bicycles, Skateboards, Steel Drums and Guitars was born.
Did you actually visit Coloma Guitars? Or do you have any fun stories from researching the book?
The story of how I learned about the oh-so-talented Meredith Coloma is, I think, a New York story. I happened to pass by Chelsea Guitars, a famous guitar store that is located at the equally famous Chelsea Hotel. I entered the long narrow shop and marveled at the guitars hanging on all the walls, from the ceiling etc. and asked the fellow behind the counter if he knew of a female luthier. [The three other books all had male makers and I wanted to highlight a woman for this book.]
The man behind the counter confirmed with another gentleman that I should contact luthier, Meredith Coloma—which is exactly what I did. She lives in Vancouver, BC. She was delighted to be a part of this project and so I put her in touch with the editorial department at Simon and Schuster.
Meredith and I spent a fair amount of time doing telephone interviews during which she shared her story—how she became a musician and decided to become a luthier—the latter all occurred because of a violin maker she happened to come to know. He only spoke Yiddish. His wife translated but he and Meredith spoke the language of music. It was that elderly gentleman who showed her the brochure of a luthier school not far from her home in British Columbia. I thought her story of becoming a luthier was magical and had to be included in the book.
We had extensive conversations and Meredith shared pictures of how step-by-step she creates an acoustic guitar as well as an electric guitar. I had no idea how complicated and how delicate the process is to create an acoustic guitar.
How did you approach the research and writing of Guitars?
I feel fortunate to live very close to New York Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. There, I found so many books in circulation that dealt with the history of guitars, guitar greats and the science behind guitars.
I was able to bring those books home to do extensive research. Between those books and the wealth of information I found on the internet from a variety of guitar periodicals, I had tons of material to read and educate myself on the history of guitars.
Most nonfiction writers tell us that they learn so much about a subject that not all of it can fit into one book. Are there any fun facts that you learned that didn’t make it into Guitars?
That is so true. Each evening I’d recount to my husband all of the fascinating facts I’d learned about the guitar. Although I will admit that, since I’ve never studied an instrument and can’t read music, some of the facts on the number of strings on an acoustic guitar and the sound differential was too confusing to understand…plus, I knew that would make the book too technical to include. What I did find I had to cut was the longer history on how electric guitars were really influenced by Hawaiian ukuleles but I was able to include a few fun facts.
Do you play an instrument? If so, what do you play?
As a child, I studied ballet and in college continued with dance classes, jazz and then tap and never studied a musical instrument.
If you could have a custom guitar made for you, what would it look like? Would it be acoustic or electric?
If I did own a guitar it would most likely be the guitar that Meredith made with a gorgeous tree inlaid on the acoustic guitar’s back. It’s on page 15 of the Guitar book.
I read on your bio that you’re inspired by movies. What is your favorite movie, and why?
Wow! I am such a movie fan that I don’t think I could pick a favorite. Going to the movies as a child, and now, even as an adult, is a special treat for me. Sitting in a darkened theatre, having those images up on the screen, larger than life—speaks to me in ways that I find totally magical.
Thank you for a fun interview! For more information about Patricia Lakin and her books, please check out her website. And don’t forget to check out Guitars and The Made By Hand series. For more information about, please visit Simon & Schuster’s Made By Hand page.