2015 In Review: Health, Hope and Creativity

My motto for 2016

In the past, I've reflected on my creative year and was grateful for my creative communities (2013) or my very creative family (2014). This year, I focus on lessons learned in 2015:

1. Health is Most Important

Before we can have a creative life, we need to take care of ourselves and those we love. 2015 was a difficult health year. My older daughter got a concussion playing basketball in January, which made her a part-time student the second half of seventh grade, sidelined her from sports for six months, and gave her ongoing headaches for eight months. There wasn't much for her to do except let time pass and her body heal (believe us, we tried everything: two concussion specialists, a neurologist, months of physical therapy, myofascial therapy, Chinese medicine, and occulamotor therapy). Now in 8th grade, she is back to sports and only has occasional headaches and her sleep isn't great, but she is doing really well.

 © Sylvia Liu

Meanwhile, beginning in the fall of 2014, I had health issues that created anxiety, anemia, and ended with a hysterectomy in March. By May I was back to normal, and I began to run again in the summer. I'm scheduled to run a half-marathon in March - we'll see if I can do it!

Meanwhile, my closest friend had the worst year of her life. Her husband suffered a stroke in March, a week after we went on a family vacation together (but he has made an amazing recovery, going back to work six months later), and she was diagnosed with breast cancer in July (and underwent two surgeries and chemo in the fall). She never ceases to impress me as we ran together through her chemo treatments

The obvious lesson is that I needed to give myself a break from my self-imposed sense of where my creative career should be. I let myself heal. I binge-watched Orange is the New Black, Dexter, Breaking Bad, and Bates Motel; enjoyed my favorite shows, Downton Abbey & Game of Thrones; and read a lot. I clashed (a mobile app game, Clash of Clans), spending most of the year maxing out my Townhouse 8 defenses & offenses.

Clash golem & wall breaker © Sylvia Liu

2. Staying Creative is Important

In 2015, I was creative in smaller chunks of time. Looking back, it added up to another very creative year:

  • Create One a Day: I challenged myself to create and post one creative thing a day to a separate blog. I didn't end up posting every day, but I did get a lot of sketching in, tried new Photoshop brushes, and kept plugging away. This sketch is an image that came to me in a dream and I can see a potential picture book in it:
© Sylvia Liu

  • Penguin sketches: I did a series of penguin sketches that became a notecard set (available in my Etsy shop):

Other images from this series:
© Sylvia Liu

© Sylvia Liu

© Sylvia Liu

© Sylvia Liu

© Sylvia Liu

© Sylvia Liu

3. Connecting and Continuing to Learn is Important

I was fortunate to connect with my kid lit friends in person this year, at three different amazing conferences. I blogged about each, so I'll just give the headline, a link, and a photo.

  • NY SCBWI with the Penguin Posse: In February, I met four of the members of my online picture book critique group, the Penguin Posse, the most amazing, dedicated, talented, funny, and fun women (the other two live abroad, in Australia and Italy). 
    Here we are: me, Alayne Kay Christian, Victoria Warneck, Teresa Robeson, and Elaine Kiely Kearns (plus honorary penguin Marcie Colleen)

    I also met up with members of my favorite kidlit groups, Kidlit411 and 12x12

© Sylvia Liu
  • Better Books Marin Conference: In October, I saw Teresa again (a trifecta!) and workshopped my MG novel with agent Susan Hawk and other talented authors in beautiful Petaluma, California.

Sketch of the Petaluma countryside © Sylvia Liu

4. Looking Forward is Exciting

All that worrying, healing, learning, and creating set the stage for a big year coming up. My picture book, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA, illustrated by Christina Forshay (Lee & Low Books) debuts in May. Exciting milestones have passed:

Christina Forshay's beautiful cover
". . .the book’s sweetness stems from the thoughtful gentleness with which Gong Gong guides Mei Mei, never restraining her natural exuberance."

I'm working on a bunch of projects that are energizing me, from book dummies to an MG novel in progress to my freelance work (doing infographics for Oceana, a non profit marine conservation group).

What did you learn or make in 2015, and what are your goals this year?

A parting thought from my younger daughter:

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