Q&A: Talking ‘Luluisms’ with veteran journalist Gina London

Alex Beall, special to WTOP.com

WASHINGTON – Four-year-old Lulu Walsh quickly discovered pizza in Italy was not the same as pizza in America.

“You know mom and daddy, you can have my pizza crust because I love you, and I don’t love the pizza crusts.”

This was just one of the innocently blunt statements Lulu made to her mom, Gina London, while wandering European streets and living among ancient buildings in Italy.

London, author and veteran journalist who worked at CNN in Washington and New York, recently published a book, “Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me,” which is a collection of Lulu’s quotes and essays about their European adventures.

As a journalist for 15 years, London covered the Oklahoma City bombing, President Bill Clinton’s impeachment and Sept. 11. She then moved to Europe where she is working as a communication consultant and planning to start a new book. WTOP Living talked to her via Skype from her home in Tuscany.

Why did you decide to write down your daughter’s quips and sayings?

It started really with one thing she said just off the cuff when she was about 3. She had come home from her pre-school, and my husband and I were sitting at the dining room table and she announced with big bright eyes that she knew that all boys had “peanuts.” And that’s like the snack and not like the anatomical part. And my husband and I just started choking. I thought as a formal journalist I got to start writing this down.

What was your idea behind, not just writing them down, but publishing them?

I began collecting them, and of course, I began popping some of them up on Facebook and the next thing you know, a girlfriend of mine who’s a writer over at the Denver Post, she actually put a couple of them up on her column as funny things that she overheard a child saying. Because I was a journalist, I think I was a compulsive chronicler of the things that my daughter said and then as they began to get some traction on Facebook and other friends would encourage me: “You’re not just oversharing as a parent. These are actually really funny things, and they’re not just funny, they’re poignant or they’re brutally honest. Why don’t you do something with these?” And I thought, you know, why not?

What’s included in the book?

The book is a combination of stand-alone quotes that bookend each chapter, or almost act as teaser of what’s going to happen in that chapter. A lot of it is shown through my then 4-year-old daughter’s eyes and how she thought about the different experiences as she was learning them. Here’s a 4-year-old child who’s now a global citizen and understands that pepperoni are not the sliced little circles of meat as we’re used to it in the United States. Pepperoni here in Italy, that means the vegetable. It’s a pepper, pure and simple. So the first time she saw a pizza with pepperoni on it, she said, “I know what pepperoni is, that not pepperoni and that looks icky.”

In the book, you call your daughter’s sayings “Luluisms.” How are these significant to you?

I thought this is a fleeting moment in almost every child’s life where they begin to observe and comment on the world in their own fresh way. For me, it’s essential to take a moment to not only listen to our children, but to be able to remember and hold dear that moment because it is so fleeting.

Why is it important for adults to read what Lulu has to say?

It’s about the smaller things in life and sometimes it really does take a reminder of that from any source, but in this case, it’s the source of a small child and I think that’s what’s essential about this book. It can also be just that reminder that wherever you are there’s that opportunity for adventure, and for fun, and for freshness and often it’s those children that remind us of that.

At what point did you switch from journalism and consulting to being an author?

As a journalist for 15 years I’ve written thousands of stories. The one thing they all had in common, of course, was they were all other people’s stories. As a storyteller, and a reporter and a journalist, stories are dear to me and what makes them essential, not that they were other people’s stories, but that they had this human element. And then as I was a mom, chronicling these quotes from my own daughter, I realized I’m watching a news story unfold right before my eyes and my ears, and it’s a story that’s closer to me than anything ever before and that’s where I said, “You know, I want to write long format. I want to write the stories of this child.”

Are there any consequences that will come of her childhood being in the public eye?

There is a chapter called Private Lulu, and that’s all about our private parts. I say it’s PG-rated, which means Poor Gina because I’m often the one who has to answer her questions. (laughs) One of the anecdotes that kicks this chapter off

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