Friday, December 18, 2015

How I Got My Agent: Dow Phumiruk

I'm excited to interview Dow Phumiruk, an online friend I met through several kid lit communities. Her art is luminous and we featured her on Kidlit411 last year.
She talks about how she landed her agent, Deborah Warren at East West Literary Agency.

Monday, November 30, 2015


A very exciting development. My debut picture book, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA got its first review, in Publisher's Weekly. Check out the full review here. It's a good one!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


How exciting is this?

My debut picture book, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA, illustrated by the talented Christina Forshay, will be published by Lee and Low Books in May 2016.

I am so pleased to share the cover. Christina has captured the main characters, Gong Gong and Mei Mei, perfectly, as they share a morning of tai chi and yoga.

It's available for preorder it at  AmazonBarnes and NobleIndiebound, or your local bookseller.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Better Books Marin 2015: A Writing Conference to Remember

A couple weeks ago, I attended the Better Books Marin 2015 conference for middle grade & YA writers in Petaluma, California. Organized by Darcey Rosenblatt and her critique group, this was an amazing 3.5 days of intensive critique sessions and deep craft seminars. Most of the 25 attendees were local to Northern California, but a few of us crossed state lines (Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia).

Here are some highlights:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Continued Evolution of a Kraken Illustration

© Sylvia Liu
Remember back in January when I walked through the evolution of my kraken and mermaid illustration? In June, I got some great feedback on changing the kraken character to make him cuter. So my last version of the illustration was this:

Monday, August 31, 2015

Children's Book Academy: The Craft & Business of Illustrating Children's Books

I am a bit of a course junky, taking online classes for children's writers and illustrators. I always get something out of these courses, some more than others.

A class I took last winter, Children's Book Academy's The Craft and Business of Illustrating Children's Books, was an excellent one. Given once a year, this five-week course taught by Mira Reisberg and a an art director from a leading U.S. publisher is geared towards both beginner and advanced children's illustrators. Early Bird registration for this year's course is now live (click here), so this is a good time to post my review.

Monday, August 10, 2015

2016 Picture Book Debut Authors and/or Illustrators

© Wendy Martin Art
As the summer rolls towards an end, my picture book, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (Lee & Low), is coming closer to reality, on track for publication in the Spring of 2016.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

MidSouth SCBWI Creating Your Best Dummy Workshop

View of the lake at Pickwick State Park. Photo courtesy of Teresa Robeson. 

A few weeks ago, I went to an amazing illustration conference at Pickwick State Park in Tennessee. It was the culmination of the MidSouth SCBWI Creating Your Best Dummy Workshop, a six-month program where 16 illustrators revised a picture book manuscript and created a dummy and illustrations.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Goodbye, Butterfly Dreams and Hello Good Stuff

© Sylvia Liu
I haven't done this in awhile, but here are some things I'm grateful for today:

  • I painted "Butterfly Dreams" last year and I've been enjoying it in my home since then. I showed it in an art show in May, and I just sold it today to a teacher at my kids' school. So I'm glad someone else gets to enjoy it, but I'll miss it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How I Got My Agent: Elaine Kiely Kearns

Signing with Linda!
I couldn't be more thrilled to present this installment of How I Got My Agent, with my Penguin critique partner and partner Elaine Kiely Kearns! She just signed with Linda P. Epstein of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency 

I could go on and on about how talented and hard working she is, but let's get on with the interview.

When did you start writing picture books and when did you start submitting to agents? 

I have always dreamed about becoming a picture book author but I didn’t start to seriously pursue the dream until about three years ago.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program: What are You Waiting For? Apply!

© Sylvia Liu

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experience with the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program on Kathy Temean's blog. Here's the beginning to that post:

My Experience with the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program

By Sylvia Liu

Authors and illustrators: let me give you some advice. Run, don’t walk, to apply for the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program, now open to applications until June 15, 2015.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Dance Party for Kidlit411!

My critique partner and friend, Elaine Kiely Kearns and I started last January. In a year and a quarter, it's grown into a real thing.  Writer's Digest (in its May/June 2015 issue) listed the site in its recent of 101 Best Websites for Writers.

So we are super thrilled and honored, and WOO HOO!

Elaine and I recently wrote about how we developed this site, at Rate Your Story: Successful Platform Building Doesn't Have to Be About You. It's been an organic process, and totally fun.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Please Join My Email List

© Sylvia Liu

Many of you subscribe to this blog, or follow me elsewhere on social media, and I appreciate it tremendously.  I am finally getting around to building my own email list, which I will use very sparingly, to share good news and information.

I was hoping to have something fun to give you for signing up for my email list, but for the moment, all I have is my gratitude. In the future, I may give my inaugural email subscribers a special treat…

so please sign up for my email list:

Subscribe to my mailing list

* indicates required

Or head over to this sign up page for a snazzier experience.

(P.S. Why have my own email list in addition to my existing email feeds from this blog or other blogs? Katie Davis answers this question in her recent post, How to Use a Time Machine to Create an Author Platform. Basically, having your own email list is the best way to reach your audience without relying on someone else's platform, whose rules may change at any moment).

Friday, March 20, 2015

Do You Need a Hug?

© Sylvia Liu
Have you had one of those weeks/months where life happens and you get distracted? I've been meaning to blog for awhile but too many things are going on. So I'll just share a couple of recent images I've made in response to some sad events in my friends' lives. It's cathartic for me and a way to send a little love to them.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Create One a Day Update

In mid-December, I challenged myself to create one new thing a day and post it on Create One a Day. Since then, I have mostly met this challenge with the occasional lapses, but it's been a great avenue to try out some ideas and new styles and techniques.

The benefit of this effort is that I've been able to keep up with challenges like Doodle Day, 52 Week Illustration Challenge, and #kidlitart28. Some of my recent pieces:

Terrified Turtles Tumble Toward the Treats (Doodle Day T day)  © Sylvia Liu

Rambunctious Rabbits Rarely Rest (Doodle Day R day) @ Sylvia Liu

52 Week Challenge MAGIC © Sylvia Liu
52 Week Challenge FARM using new PS brushes @Sylvia Liu

Valentine's Day #kidlitart28 © Sylvia Liu
Birthday Fishes for my friend Alayne © Sylvia Liu
Birthday Party for my friend Elaine  © Sylvia Liu
A sketch of my daughter after her concussion (which she is still suffering headaches from) © Sylvia Liu
A sketch of daughter #2 playing a giant piano © Sylvia Liu
A wintry illo back when winter was still fun  © Sylvia Liu

Some of my fellow illustrators have joined me on this daily creative journey, including Teresa Robeson,  Catherine Johnson, Doreen Lepore, Leila Nabih, Julie Rowan Zoch, and Mishka Jaeger.

Please join us! Let me know your website or blog and I will link you to my Create One a Day blogroll.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

NY SCBWI Conference 2015 Recap

Before I forget everything, here are the highlights of the Winter SCBWI Conference in New York:

Feb. 5: Pre-Conference Illustration Mentee Day 

SCBWI illustration board member David Diaz arranged a day of visits with editors and agents in Manhattan for illustrators in the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship program. He graciously invited me to join. Unfortunately, due to flight delays, I only made it to the last meeting, with Laura Godwin, V.P. and Publisher of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Bad Picture Book Blog Hop: My Early Drawing & Writing Attempts

Dani Duck has started a "Bad" Picture Book Blog Hop where we post our early attempts at writing picture books. Do not miss the previous posts:

Feb. 10: Becky Fyfe
Feb. 11: Marcie Colleen, RAINBOW HUNT
Feb. 12: Mandy Yates, A WORLD WITHOUT COLOR

And now it's my turn. I couldn't find the story that I wrote and illustrated in 7th grade about why turtles got their shells (they were magicians who needed to protect the spells they carried).

But rooting around in my boxes, I found a fair amount of evidence that I was drawing, writing, and making things up:

First Grade Journal

I had issues with my sister:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Evolution of a Kraken Illustration

I've been working on a picture book about a lonely kraken. Besides tweaking the words, I've explored the look and style of the illustrations. Here's how I have reworked a scene with Kraken and some mermaids, including changing the medium, the characters' looks, everything:

1. Mostly digital approach

© Sylvia Liu

APRIL 2014: My first attempt was to create a stylized digital composite based on pencil drawings. I liked the moodiness, but it was a bit too stark.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review, Interview & Giveaway: Miranda Paul's ONE PLASTIC BAG and Break the Rules Webinar

Today I have a special treat: a review, an interview, and a giveaway to celebrate the upcoming release of Miranda Paul's picture book, One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (Millbrook Press, Feb. 1, 2015), and her Children's Book Academy webinar with Chronicle Editor Ariel Richardson and Picture Book Whisperer Mira Reisberg, Rules to Break to Make Your Picture Book.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy 1st Birthday, Kidlit 411!

© Sylvia Liu
Most of you who read this blog know that my friend Elaine Kiely Kearns and I run a resource website for children's writers and illustrators, Kidlit411.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Drawing Hands: Some Great Resources

Drawing hands is hard! It probably is what separates an amateur artist from a professional, and I am always working on mine. Here are some excellent tutorials and resources for learning how to draw hands:

(1)  How to Draw Hands- Tutorials - Draw As a Maniac - a series of reference illustrations and instructions on drawing hands

Screenshot of Draw as a Maniac's hand reference post