Day 2: Lisa Stringfellow

Lisa Stringfellow seemed to burst onto the children’s literature scene with her debut middle grade novel, A COMB OF WISHES. As we honor Lisa on Day 2 of this year’s 28 Days Later Celebration, you’ll see that there is always hard work and a story…well, behind the story.

LISA STRINGFELLOW writes middle grade fiction and has a not-so-secret fondness for fantasy with a dark twist. Her work often reflects her West Indian and Black southern heritage. Lisa received the inaugural Kweli Color of Children’s Literature Manuscript Award for a draft of her first novel, A Comb of Wishes, which was a Bram Stoker Award Finalist, an Indies Introduce Top Ten title, an Indie Next List selection, and a New England Booksellers Association Book Award Finalist. Her second novel, Kingdom of Dust, will be published August 20, 2024 by HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books. Lisa is a middle-school teacher and lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with her children and bossy cat. Website:

Publication Journey:

I’ve taught 5th and 6th grade English for 30 years, but about 16 years ago, I returned to graduate school to earn my masters degree. I took classes on adolescent literature and writing, and I began thinking about writing for children. At the same time, I was awarded a teaching prize that gave me funds to use however I chose. I joined professional writing organizations and a critique group, attended conferences, bought craft books, took classes, and worked hard to learn about the publishing industry. I wrote my first manuscript in 2013 as part of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. It later became A Comb of Wishes, my debut middle grade fantasy.

The Backstory:

When I write, I usually start with a concept or premise. For example, in A Comb of Wishes, I wanted to write a story about a Black mermaid and a girl who found her comb and was granted a wish. For my forthcoming novel Kingdom of Dust, I wanted to write a fairy tale, a princess-in-a-tower story but with a Black girl as the heroine. Both novels focus on storytelling and the importance of remembering our collective histories.

I originally imagined Kingdom of Dust taking place in a stereotypical fairy tale world, one based on the medieval European settings of the stories I grew up reading. But as I struggled with creating the world, I realized that something wasn’t connecting with the characters or with me. In 2018, I attended WriteOnCon, a virtual children’s literature conference, and had a generous “red pencil” session with beloved middle grade author Gail Carson Levine. She shared feedback on my first pages and answered my questions about worldbuilding, character, and setting for almost an hour. I shared with her my struggle of not feeling strongly connected to the medieval world I was creating. She said, “Medieval is a time period, though, not a place.” That was my light bulb moment! I decided to “move” the story to Africa, and the world of Kun began to take shape.

Positive Impact of Being an Amplify Black Stories Cohort Member:

I love the sense of community developed in the Amplify group. We are Black authors and illustrators at different stages of the publishing journey but have continued to stay connected and support one another.

The Brown Bookshelf team shared a wealth of information that I continue to reflect on. They encouraged us to advocate for ourselves with our publishers, connected us with others in the Black community who could spread the word about our books, and inspired our pride in Black storytelling traditions.

I look forward to future retreats at The Highlight Foundation and I’m grateful for the opportunity to get to know so many wonderful creators.

Connect with Lisa Stringfellow on Social Media:

@EngageReaders (X/Twitter & Instagram)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *