Thursday, June 27, 2013

How I Got My Agent: Kristen Fulton, Nonfiction Picture Book Maven


How does an aspiring picture book writer land her dream agent?

Kristen Fulton is a member of my fabulous online critique group who just signed with her dream agent, Kendra Marcus at Book Stop Literary Agency.

I have been so impressed by how Kristen has given it her all in her quest to become a picture book author. In the first half of the year alone, she has attended 4 SCBWI conferences, taken 8 courses in children’s writing, and drafted over 16 picture book manuscripts, keeping our critique group extremely busy.

She answers some questions about her journey so far.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Penguin Art Director Giuseppe Castellano Critiques Our Class

How does it feel like to be critiqued by an Art Director at a Big Six publisher?

Before: nervous, excited
During: a bit hurt/indignant, thoughtful
After: humbled, grateful, inspired

Here's how it happened...

The Assignment


A few months ago on Twitter, Giuseppe Castellano, Art Director at Penguin USA (who oversees the Grossett & Dunlap, PSS!, Warne, PYR, and Poptropica imprints), offered to give students in illustration or art schools critiques based on an assignment he would give. Mark Mitchell, who helms an online children's illustration course, took Giuseppe up on the offer. Giuseppe's assigment to us: re-envision the cover of either the first Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys story. Twenty-six students from the class submitted covers.


my inspiration

When I started on my cover of The Secret of the Old Clock, I was inspired by the recent Lemony Snicket book, Who Could It Be at This Hour? I liked its fresh approach to the traditional middle grade cover:

I came up with this graphic novel look as a result:

© 2013 Sylvia Liu

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: The Clockwork Three


I read a lot of books for children, and only rarely am I inspired to review them. Matthew Kirby's The Clockwork Three (Scholastic, 2010) is one that hits my sweet spot - it's a satisfying story of friendship, adventure, magic, and hope set in a 19th century industrial America with steampunk-clockwork-fantasy elements.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Family Album: Lt. General Fan Hanjie, My Grandfather


My grandfather's story includes a U.S. Medal of Freedom; 1,500 year old history books belonging to Chairman Mao; and Puyi, the last emperor of China.

I have always been fascinated by my family history. Both my grandfathers were generals for the Kuomingtang (KMT, Chinese government pre-1948) during WWII and the Chinese civil war with the Communists. Here are some photos and stories of my mother's father. (In a month or so, I will post about my father's father, who also had an interesting life).


Fan Hanjie (范漢傑) - My Mom's Dad (1894-1976)


My mom's dad, Lieutenant General Fan Hanjie (范漢傑), was one of Chiang Kai-Shek's favorite generals, in charge of Manchuria & Jinzhou in the civil war with the Communists. Chiang Kai-Shek (
(蔣中正 & 范漢傑) was the head of the Republic of China from 1928 to 1945, who led the Nationalist government that fought against the Communists in the civil war, and who was the wartime leader of China during World War II.

Here's a picture of my grandfather standing next to Chiang Kai-Shek, taken shortly after WWII in 1945, when Chiang Kai-Shek called a special high level conference with his senior civilian and military officials to discuss a post-war roadmap to rebuild and recover the nation: 


Seated: Chaing Kai-Shek, Standing: Fan Hanjie, my grandfather