Friday, June 11, 2010

Interview with author Lisa Umina

Lisa Umina heads a thriving book publishing business but also enjoys a successful career as an author, motivational speaker, missionary, and literary consultant. Umina´s company, Halo Publishing International, continues to flourish by strengthening the movement of words across the international borders in order to benefit cultures and society as a whole. She has been interviewed by countless newspapers, radio, and TV stations. She has traveled the world to teach children about their purpose and how religion can positively influence their lives.

Prior to becoming an author, you were a journalist and businesswoman. How do you incorporate your previous careers into your writing?

I was in sales at The Wall Street Journal and also did promotional work when I worked at the non-profit University Settlement. These careers definitely allowed me to tap into my people skills and I believe this has helped me as a publisher when I am seeking to bring in new authors to Halo and promoting author shows. I would have to say my inspiration for my book writing mostly comes from my faith and my personal life experiences.

Please share with us the inspiration behind your character Milo and what message you wish to convey.

Milo is an angelic character I created based on my religious faith. I wanted him to be a cute and cuddly character that kids would love. Milo’s head is triangular to represent the trinity and he is white to symbolize purity. When looking at Milo’s character, I want the first thought that comes to mind to be “I can talk to God.” I want Milo to be a constant reminder of that concept.

You travel quite a bit with Milo as your companion. What has been one of the most memorable moments thus far?

When I published the Spanish version of Milo with a Halo, I was given the opportunity to visit an orphanage in Peru called Isaiah’s Promise. I will never forget the smiles on those children’s faces when I was there. To know that I was able to make these children so happy with my story and my Milo character just made it so clear to me that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do.

Please share with us your school visit programs.

I currently have two school programs. The first is a K- 8th grade program that teaches children they have a purpose. Based on my book Milo and the Green Wagon, Milo and I teach children about generosity, selflessness and, most importantly, about love and respect for all people, no matter what their stature in life. The second is a K-4th grade program called “Talk to God, Anytime, Anywhere about Anything.” I use 11 different character voices to represent all the characters in my Milo Finds His Best Friend book, along with sound effects. They are both fun programs and seem to really draw the children in to the underlying lesson I’m trying to teach.

Why do you think children are so drawn to Milo during school visits?

Innocence. Children learn through the story that Milo is vulnerable as he’s searching for his best friend. Kids connect with Milo and they want to be his friend.

What advice would you give to parents of reluctant readers?

Definitely find a subject your child is interested in and give him books on that subject. Even if he’s just interested in looking at the pictures at first, the reading will come. Also, make time to read with your kids and make it a fun, quality-time experience.

Please share with us your current work-in-progress.

Our current focus is getting our new office up and running in Mexico City. Business is thriving there as we just finished publishing Marco Corleone’s new book, Las Primeras Luchas de Mi Vida. Although most of Halo’s authors are from the United States, we’re excited about the prospect of expanding our publishing skills into the Spanish-speaking population.

How do you blend the love of reading with prayer through your writing?

All of my books are based on my faith and I’m a true believer in encouraging and developing a relationship with God. The easy-to-understand concepts in my books bring religion to kids in a non-threatening and uncomplicated way. When kids read my books, they are becoming acquainted with God, which is really just another way of praying.

Beyond your own books, you are the face behind Halo Publishing. For those of our readers not familiar with Halo Publishing, please share with us your philosophy, goals, and what you look for in a manuscript.

Of course, I look for a good story because without a good story, you’re not going to have a good book! But beyond that, I look for books that have a message and authors who are truly passionate about this message. I believe that the success of a book has 10% to do with the manuscript and 90% to do with the author behind the manuscript. To be honest, I believe if your top priority is only to sell books, then you should open a bookstore! I take my job very seriously because I believe writing and publishing a book is one of the most significant things a person can do in their lifetime. I’m all about assisting writers in fulfilling their goals and dreams, which is often a lifelong process for them. I do this by helping them get their messages across so they’re able to bring their careers to the next level. When an author brings passion to his or her story and mission, making a profit just comes that much easier to them.

What is your biggest challenge in balancing your multiple hats of CEO and publisher, author, motivational speaker, and missionary?

I would have to say my biggest challenge is that I’m often torn between doing what I love to do and being faced with taking time away from that to do the necessary work that needs to get done in order to keep my business running. However, I will never let touring or paperwork overtake my primary mission of helping people and teaching children about God. I just always make sure to keep my priorities in order and delegate when necessary.

What piece of advice would you give to a writer researching publishers?

Look for a publisher that you can talk to; that is, one who listens, will give you ideas and feedback and will hold your hand through the entire process. You don't want someone only interested in printing your book, but someone who is also interested in the mission and message of your book. There’s a big difference.

What can we expect from your creative talents and Milo in the future?

I’m planning at least one more book in my Milo series and this one will be about the life lesson of acceptance. It will teach kids how to accept themselves and others. Stay tuned!

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