Growing up in Shelburne, Lindsey Stoddard was always a lover of stories.
“Even before I could read,” she said, “I remember listening to stories while sitting on my parents’ laps.”
When Stoddard got older, she spent a lot of time in the Shelburne Library and recalls being excited to learn that “real people” wrote stories. She began to write but she didn’t find her niche as a children’s book author until she became a teacher.
Stoddard’s family moved to Norwich when she was in sixth grade and she attended Carleton College in a small town in Minnesota, so there was a bit of culture shock when she was hired to teach eighth grade in Washington Heights, a part of New York City populated by people of Dominican descent and immigrants from the Middle East and Africa.
“I’d never been a minority before,” she said, “and it was quite a transition. New York City is made up of very small neighborhoods and the school very quickly felt like home.” Stoddard taught there for 10 years.
While teaching, Stoddard attended the low-residency Master of Fine Arts program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She had been writing with her students and her advisor suggested she think about becoming a children’s book author. Stoddard’s first book, “Just like Jackie,” touches on her experience with a beloved grandfather who had Alzheimer’s disease.
“I remember feeling very scared and sad,” she said, “and I thought that if I could come from that place, I could tell an honest story about a family.”
Stoddard’s next book, “Right as Rain,” takes place in New York City but was also inspired by a family experience. Stoddard’s older brother once asked her to cover for him when he snuck out of the house and she spent the rest of the night worrying about him. That emotion became the basis for the book. Her third novel takes place in Minnesota and is the first one with a male lead character. “Brave Like That” is expected to be released in 2020.
Stoddard moved back to Shelburne last year and does some of her writing at the Village Wine and Coffee Shop.
“I loved New York City for as long as I lived there,” she said, “but most of that was my love for the classroom.”
Stoddard stopped teaching when her children were born and that lessened her connection to the city. Now 35, she admits she misses teaching and might get back into the field when her children are older.
Stoddard’s two passions are reading and hiking. She got pregnant with her son Miles, now three, when she and her husband were section hiking the Appalachian Trail. Her daughter Paige, who is 1½, speaks to a love of books. That love is so strong that Stoddard and her husband got married in a non-profit bookstore in New York City.
“We are in need of characters who are strong,” Stoddard said “and it’s important for kids to see themselves reflected in books. When a child reads about the experience of another child, their heart connects to the character and that’s important for building empathy.”
For Stoddard, middle school kids are the perfect audience.
“Middle grade is exciting,” she said “because it’s a time when we feel things so big; excitement, anger, grief, guilt, regret, and joy. It’s a time when we learn how much our hearts are capable of. It’s a time when our sense of justice is in high gear.”