SALINA YOON is the award-winning creator of over 150 books for children, including her picture book series about Penguin beginning with PENGUIN AND PINECONE, her picture book series about Bear beginning with FOUND, and her latest interactive picture book, TAP TO PLAY. She also creates innovative novelty books for very young children, specializing in formats that are unique and interactive, such as ROCK AND ROLL COLORS and OPPOSNAKES. She lives in San Diego with her family. For more info, visit her website.
What is the best thing about getting old?
Forgetting. When you forget things (like hiding chocolate in the freezer), it’s like finding treasure when you stumble upon it!
What was your favorite meal when you were growing up?
Bi bim bap! (Korean rice and vegetable dish)
What words of inspiration were given to you that you’d like to pass along to others?
Life is not about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.—George Bernard Shaw
When did you realize you had the gift of writing?
I don’t think I have a gift. I wish the words could come in a lovely wrapped package with a big satin bow on top, but it doesn’t. I struggle with it, question it, and still wonder if I’m doing it right or if it’s good enough. The gift is in the interest. When one has interest in something, they are willing to explore it, develop it, and get better over time.
How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?
I think the best way to balance my personal life with my creative endeavors is not to make them mutually exclusive. My sons have always enjoyed doing their school projects with me in my studio, which allows us to be creative together. And I love sharing my book ideas with my kids for their feedback. I find their gentle critiques very motivating. It’s usually, “I love it, Mom!”
How do you think you differ from other creative people in your genre?
The more creative people I meet, I find that we’re more similar than not. I used to think I was alone in the way that I am (easily distracted, difficult to focus, productive hours come in spurts—then nothing for days), but it seems it might just be the creative process.
Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?
As I’ve matured, I tend to make decisions quicker. I no longer agonize over small details—like the color of a character’s shirt, for example. I go with what I think on the spot, and move on.
When do you feel the most energized?
Mornings and evenings.
Does your writing reflect your personality?
Definitely! I think there’s a part of me in each of my characters; Penguin, Bear, and even the Little Duck in my new series, Duck Duck Porcupine, releasing in 2016. There’s a piece of my heart in each one.
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
By reading a stack of picture books at the library!
What is your typical day like?
Every morning starts with coffee and computer time in my studio, but after that, there is no typical day. I do what inspires me (which may be to write, to clean, to go shopping at Trader Joes, or go browsing at the bookstore)…. or do what needs to be done! (art or writing deadlines, preparing for book events, conferences, or school visits, etc.)
Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?
Often times, yes! But usually, it ends up looking very different from how I imagined it.
Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?
I chose this passion! To say it chose me is to say I had no control over it… but I did. It took a lot of risk, time, effort, patience, determination, and perseverance to write and illustrate children’s books, and I’m proud to say that I chose it as my passion, and I continue to grow it.
Which of your books gives you the most pride or satisfaction?
Penguin and Pinecone is my 133th published book, but it was my first narrative picture book I ever wrote. (You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!) I feel proud of this because before this book, I didn’t think I could write—not stories, anyway. I always identified as a designer first, an illustrator second, but never as a writer—even though I wrote many young board books for children. When Penguin and Pinecone was sold, it made me realize I actually could write… and it made me want to write more—and I did!