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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - JOYCE LAPIN

I'm so happy to share this blog post featuring the talented writer, Joyce Lapin. I loved learning how Joyce was inspired as a child by a paperback book about Pluto. More research, and a chance encounter at a bookstore, led her to write the newly published picture book, THE LITTLE SPACECRAFT THAT COULD: NEW HORIZONS' AMAZING JOURNEY TO PLUTO AND ARROKOTH (illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli, Sterling Children’s Books, 2021). Read on for Joyce's thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection. Welcome, Joyce!

STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

In 2006, a spacecraft named New Horizons blasted off for Pluto. Ten years later, she sent back the first-ever close-up pictures of this incredible world! How did I happen to write about this little spacecraft?

I’ve always loved reading about other worlds. And one day when I was pretty young, I found a paperback book in our house called The Search for Planet X. (At the time, Pluto was often called “Planet X,” because so little was known about it.) To this day, I don’t know what that book was doing in our house, since it doesn’t seem like something my parents would have bought. It must’ve been some sort of kismet, though, because I read that book, and after that I always felt a kind-of kinship with Pluto.

I love watching TV documentaries on the planets, and I’d seen a few on the New Horizons mission to Pluto. In one such show, it was explained that just days before the spacecraft was to rendezvous with Pluto, its Earth team suddenly lost contact with the spacecraft!

Imagine the angst of the spacecraft’s team during this time. After years of planning and preparation, and then 10 years and three billion miles of space flight! Man, what they must’ve gone through!

It turned out that the spacecraft’s computer was handling so many tasks that its backup computer took over. The New Horizons team worked madly 24/7, and contact was re-established in time for exploring Pluto. But the whole episode really grabbed me by the throat and stuck with me.

Shortly after this, I was in a Barnes & Noble looking for something to read, and saw the book Chasing New Horizons, by the mission’s leader, Alan Stern. Since I had Pluto on the brain, I bought and read the book.

Not too much later, I was meandering around B&N again and saw The Little Engine That Could. Something clicked and I began thinking about The Little Spacecraft That Could. It was perfect, because the New Horizons spacecraft was (and is!) so feisty! Can you imagine a craft smaller than a piano crossing four billion miles of space? What a spitfire that little probe is!

My agent, John Rudolph, liked the manuscript very much. And the timing was uncanny: Just as John was reading the manuscript, New Horizons was approaching her next target in space after Pluto, the mysterious mini-world now called Arrokoth. I actually wrote the section on Arrokoth in real time, as the information was coming in!

CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

I’m very lucky, because my publisher, Sterling Children’s Books, demonstrates wonderful respect for authors’ visions. In both The Little Spacecraft That Could and my first book, If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon, I was allowed a great deal of input. (Of course, I didn’t always get my way—and I valued that, because I knew that Sterling knew things I didn’t!) I wasn’t just given deference in text—I was also given a strong voice in the cover and interior art. Because of this, both books stayed 100% factual. And each book became what it truly “wanted” to be.

CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

I never thought I’d like social media! I find social-media websites unintuitive— plus I’m kind of private. When I realized I’d have to “do” Facebook, one of my sisters had to talk me down from the ledges!

But now, not only do I enjoy Facebook, it’s probably my single strongest promotional tool. When there’s something to share, my friends respond and re-post, and of course, this helps spread the news exponentially. And thanks to Facebook Kidlit groups, I’ve really “plugged in” to the Kidlit community. It’s amazing how many group members take pleasure in being supportive. I always try to do my part in being helpful.

Sometimes, readers send me “Friend” requests, and that makes me feel great! When I accept these requests, I think that both the readers and I feel good.

Also, my website,, lets readers to connect with me via email. For some reason, it’s fun to get messages through my website! I’m happy when people reach out to me and I always respond.

For my first book, I did dozens of author visits in schools, libraries, planetariums, and book stores. But of course, Covid has changed the landscape, and I’ve begun doing virtual visits for The Little Spacecraft That Could. I’ve figured out how to do science demonstrations on-screen; this adds dimension to my presentation and the kids really love it!

I’m very grateful for my career in children’s books. And I hope there’s more to come!


Joyce Lapin is the author of If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon

and The Little Spacecraft That Could, both from Sterling Children’s Books.

Joyce has enjoyed reading and learning about other worlds since childhood.

A former advertising copywriter, she’s happy to have found a kinder, gentler life.

Joyce is originally from Glen Cove (Long Island, NY) and now lives in Simsbury, Connecticut. Her favorite nonfiction readings include biographies and survival stories. For fiction, she loves anything by John Grisham and Elin Hilderbrand.

Joyce’s happy place is the beach. The lights of her life are her 10 great-nieces

and great-nephews.


Author Website:


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