Sylvia Liu is an environmental attorney turned writer-illustrator. She won the 2013 Lee and Low New Voices Award and her winning manuscript, A MORNING WITH GONG GONG, will be published as a picture book. She recently completed an illustration mentorship with Caldecott winner David Diaz through the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. She is inspired by aliens, bunnies, cephalopods, and pigs that want to fly. She helps run the kidlit resource website. For more info, browse her portfolio and read her blog.
What aspect of the “good old days” do you wish could make a comeback today?
When kids had the freedom and security to roam their neighborhoods for hours on end (this was the case even in Caracas where I grew up, now one of the most violent cities in the world).
What one thing have you kept over the years for no good reason?
I may have hoarding tendencies, because I keep lots of things, but they are all for good reasons. I have things from growing up in Venezuela (taxidermied piranhas, first grade journals, my Kindergarten report card); things that might be used for art projects even though I don’t make found object art (old license plates, random plastic doodads from the kids); and one that still amazes me (a mylar helium balloon on a stick given to me when my younger daughter was born; it is still perfectly inflated over ten years later).
If you could pass along a piece of wisdom to future generations, what would it be?
Take care of the Earth and its oceans; enjoy the moment but have a plan for your future; and don’t regret your mistakes because they made you who you are.
The ability to take unrelated things and put them together in interesting and possibly beautiful ways. Looking at the world from a slant angle.
Who do you consider a literary genius?
Some favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, Neal Stephenson, Jorge Luis Borges, and Donna Tartt. Some favorite children’s authors are Phillip Pullman, JK Rowling, Diana Wynn Jones, Kate DiCamillo, and Neil Gaiman. I am awed by their ability to create amazing, encompassing worlds and bespell their readers.
What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career?
The usual ones that I’m sure most creative people face: self-doubt, procrastination, and writer’s/artist’s block. All of these are compounded for me because writing and illustration is my second career, so I feel that time is shorter. But on the flip side, I am very productive and hardworking when I do get to work.
What are the biggest challenges you have had in the realm of your art?
Finding enough time to practice the craft.
How did you pick your writing genre?
Like many children’s authors, I was drawn to writing stories that my children would enjoy when they were young. I hope to have my first picture book published before my younger daughter, who is in 5th grade, finishes elementary school (at this rate, I should skip MG and YA and move straight to adult books!)