SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

  •   How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI? I have been a member for 25 years, I believe...oh my gosh, that's a long time, and one of the first writers I met was our exceptional RA, Bev Plass! What genres do you write? Over the years, I have written in so many genres with work-for-hire projects (from fiction--picture books, middle grade-- to non-fiction-- PB, MG and YA, magazine/short story and educational.) I just published a MG/YA biography non-fiction (QUAKE CHASERS: 15 Women Rocking Earthquake Science) and with novels, I write MG--historical, magical realism, action/adventure, fantasy and my latest WIP is a YA speculative fiction. What is your writing process like? My life can get sort of crazy. I'm a full-time high school English teacher at Godinez High School in Santa Ana and I have two young adult children that still need me quite a bit. So, literally, I write whenever I can. I've gotten really good at sneaking away for even just 15 minutes, opening the laptop and diving back into my novels. I'm a pretty active person, so sitting is tough for me. Thanks to the advice of the SCBWI SoCal's incredible Heather Buchta, I bought a used walking treadmill desk during Covid (that I used to teach remotely during lockdown as well) and I wrote my latest NF while walking. I garden and my backyard patio is super peaceful to me as well, and I love to write there in the mornings. I also love having my tea (chai with a bit of milk--very British, I know,) candles..YES!  And I love having my two rescue pups--Oliver and Addison--next to me. That's the perfect recipe. How long have you been writing? How did you first get into writing for children? I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was in 4th grade--my favorite teacher convinced me to enter a short story I'd written about a lost cat for a writing contest. I lost, but knew I wanted to keep writing. My best friend was going to be the illustrator, and me...the writer!  (My BF is still one of my BFs but she’s translated her creativity into being a park ranger.)  I wrote my first story for kids in college for a creative writing class. My narrator was a 12 YO girl who'd run away from home and met an older couple, truck drivers going across the country. I didn't know I was writing for kids yet. I wrote a PB after my first rock climbing Unicorn Peak in Yosemite. I was the last one in our group. Every time I left the rock I’d been sitting on to start to climb, a marmot would hop up onto hit. He was following me as I climbed, so during the trek, I brainstormed a PB called MARMOT DON'T FLY (which never saw the light of day.) Did you go to school for writing or take classes? I majored in journalism and minored in creative writing at CSULB. I've taken a ton of writing classes over the years--UCLA extension, Highlights, The Writing Barn, The Writing Pad, and I had an amazing teacher--a fellow writer and fantastic human being, Marilyn Gould, who passed away a few years ago. I've learned so much from my fellow writers, though, and I can't say or thank them enough for all the wisdom they've bestowed on me.... Do you have a dedicated writing space? Yes. Pictures included. What would be your dream book to write and get published? Well, I think I've already written it. A while back, I wrote a MG historical that is dear to my heart. My father's parents immigrated from a little town on the Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece called Nemea. They moved east to west, had five kids and lived in the Maravilla Projects in East LA in the '40s. When my dad was 15, his mother (my yiayia Mary) passed away. A year later, his father passed as well, so that left the 5 kids, ages 9-19, to fend for themselves. Growing up, I had heard so many incredible stories about their childhood (and they all turned out to be incredible people.) So I began to interview them about ten years ago. I fictionalized their story, made one of my aunties the MC and added threads of magical realism and a twist on a Greek myth. Wrote it as a script first and then as a MG novel. It got the attention of Ann Leslie Tuttle @ DG&B and my dream is to share this story with the world. A way to honor the grandparents I never had, the ones I had to recreate through the memories of their own children and with my imagination. FALLING INTO ME is a book about finding your own identity, yet holding tight to family, your roots, and those people that make you who you are.  I hope hope hope that I can call my father, who's 87 now, and give him some good news. Fingers and toes crossed (and sprinkle a little holy water and basil like in my story.) Are you working on any fun projects now? I just finished a first draft of my young adult spec fiction novel. I'm excited to get it into good shape with a freelance editor I'm working with. It's got everything I love. Unrequited love, time travel, beautiful places like Joshua Tree National Park, overtures of Shakespeare and golden retrievers. :) Do you illustrate as well or have any plans to do so? I actually majored in art at CSULB for two years. I switched to writing, but so wish now that I would have double majored. I paint just as a hobby--still love it, but could never illustrate--I just don't have the consistency or talent! Artists RUUUUUUULE! Any tips for writers that are starting out? Oh gosh, just keep writing. Write every day, journal, brainstorm, as each piece you write is a stepping stone to the next. Focus on what you can control. I used to go to conferences thinking I would get noticed somehow, and when I didn't, I felt like a tiny, talentless ant. Then I realized that I had no control over meeting a future agent or editor. But, what I could control was walking away a better writer. So that's my goal now for every workshop, conference or retreat I go to. And take chances... say YES to everything!  I wrote freelance books on motorcycles, video games and even MMA fighting!  Things that are so NOT me. But I researched, interviewed and did the work and I got experience, got paid and built my CV that way. Lastly, just don't give up, which I know is cliché. But, if you're writing for the right reasons, you won't be able to stop-- at least I can't. Writing is beautifully painful. And most of us just want to share our stories with the world. Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep believing. It will happen. Just keep swimming. Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent? In 2018, I participated in #DVPit with my middle grade novel, FALLING INTO ME. Ann Leslie asked for 50 pages and then the whole MS. Eventually, she passed on the book, yet I inquired about which areas I could work on, which were things I had already begun to revise. I asked if I could revise one more time and send to her... so I did. A week later, I got the magic phone call where she offered representation. I'll never forget it. I was in my backyard, under our two huge mulberry trees and I felt like I was flying. It had been about 20 years of NOs and finally that one YES meant the world. Have you won any writer awards? I've won a few SCBWI conference awards for an early PB called DON'T LICK THE BABY, one for an early MG called SUPER NOVA & my MG FALLING INTO ME. List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself.  1.When I taught science at the elementary level, I had 30 animals I was in charge of in my science lab--even a Ball Python named Monty and a Great Madagascan millipede named Mili (My students named them!) 2. I've been a vegetarian since I was 17. 3. I've used ASL to communicate with a chimp, tracked grizzlies in the Yukon and studied maneless lions in Kenya on Earthwatch expeditions. 4. My husband is a very talented BMX rider and announcer, and over the years, I did a bunch of books on extreme sports! 5. I’m obsessed with hiking and backpacking and one of my most favorite places in the world in Red’s Meadow in Mammoth, CA. Where can people find you?  website: www.loripolydoros.com IG: @polydoroslori FB: Loripolydoros Twitter: @lori_polydoros To see our Previous Get to Know Our Writers, click here.
  • Hannah Sease is especially fond of drawing animals and comfortable furniture, usually together. Much of her time is spent seeking coziness in all its many forms; from campfires to chicken pot pie, to a nap on the couch, a quality that has also found its way into her art through themes of folklore and rural aesthetics. Stemming from a childhood of reading Beatrix Potter, exploring holes under rotten trees, and keeping a roadkill journal, Hannah enjoys being outdoors camping, biking, swimming, and collecting ideas for her art through woodsy adventures. A good adventure calls for a return to home, a familiar hearth, and a cup of tea, a balance that inspires and focuses much of Hannah’s work.  Nurtured by her younger years spent living around the world with her family, she has garnered a fascination for what we define as home and finding ways to feel at home anywhere. You can visit her at www.hannahsease.com or on her Instagram @hannahsease.art  
  • How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI? I’ve been a member since 2020, but I started coming to SCBWI meetings in early 2022 when I began a Children’s Book Illustration certificate program through UCSD. I learn the most from the comments and feedback being given to everyone’s work in SCBWI’s peer critique. I’m learning to “see” illustrations differently, which helps me improve my own work. What medium(s) do you use to illustrate? I love collage probably because I can do all mediums, use them at the same time, and just call it one thing. I make my favorite collage papers using a gelli plate, which is a thick, reusable gelatin sheet that you can put mixed media on and pull prints. These two illustrations were made that way. The dog is from multiple pulls on the same sheet of paper (added the bowl later), and the crab is collaged from a variety of papers that had been created with the gelli plate. For children’s book illustrations, I’ve been teaching myself digital techniques in Procreate and Photoshop that mimic collage, because digital collage looks more polished and is much easier to change in response to feedback. I’m learning to incorporate my own papers into digital drawing. What is your illustration process? I like researching my subjects, so I will spend a fair amount of time looking at reference photos and reading about what I am drawing. I then do “realistic” sketches, because drawing realistically forces me to really look and understand. Then I get impatient drawing that way, start looking for shortcuts, and a stylized form begins to emerge. I use the stylized sketches I like to form the basis of the shapes I cut out and layer digitally. I add details using Procreate and Photoshop. This example actually is not digital; it’s gouache because that’s what I had to do for a class, but it was a good example of research moving to sketches and final outcome for my process. It’s an underwater take on Little Red Riding Hood.   How long have you been illustrating? How did you first get into illustration? I’ve only been intentionally making illustrations for the purpose of children’s book illustration this year. Before that, I took in-person and online art classes in my spare time for seven years. My children are grown now, so I have a little more time to illustrate and focus on a goal. Are you self taught or did you study illustration? Self taught. Do you have a dedicated art space? I am extremely fortunate to have a home office for my non-illustration business (grant writing), and since most of that work is on the computer, my office can be dominated by art supplies. What would be your dream book to illustrate? I’m really excited about my current book project, so I would love to see it come to life. I would also be interested in writing/illustrating a graphic novel-style book aimed at younger ages and illustrating non-fiction topics, since I enjoy researching so much. The harder it is to explain, the more likely I’m going to want to try. Are you working on any fun projects now? I’m working on character sheets and a book dummy for one of my book ideas, trying to get them done in time for the fall conference. The book idea is a fictional autobiography of the Tic Tac Toe Chicken, who was a real chicken that played tic tac toe in an arcade in NYC’s Chinatown. Here’s drafts from the character sheet and a repeat pattern I made today for the end papers. Do you write children's books as well or have any plans to do so? Working on it! Any tips for illustrators that are starting out? Tips for myself? Persevere and keep it fun, because this is a long journey. Join SCBWI and other children’s book spaces, because the people there are super nice and generous in their help. It’s a really wonderful community. Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent? Not yet, but I would love to work with an agent. List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself. My day job is as a freelance grant writer for social justice nonprofits. I’ve been doing this work for 20 years and taught grant writing at USC for eight years. I still play Animal Crossing New Horizons almost daily. One section of my island is dedicated to the monasteries of Meteora in Greece, and I’m slowly working on a Gravity Falls-themed section now. I used to do conferences and interactive workshops where I taught a variety of economic concepts using ten chairs. I also taught my children the basics of tax policy using their stuffed animals; this is likely the source of their early childhood trauma/genius. I enjoy encaustic painting, because I get to use a blow torch to paint and collage with molten wax. I also enjoy using my mini printmaking press by Open Press Project. Where can people find more of your work?   IG: @kimberlytso Substack: https://kimtso.substack.com/ Twitter: @kimberlytso __________________________________ To see our Previous Get to Know Our Illustrators, click here.

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Our region includes Orange County, San Bernardino, Riverside and Long Beach. We have sunny beaches, snow-capped mountains, and scenic deserts. We are also home to incredible writers and illustrators who mingle and hone their craft at monthly meet-ups and critique groups, an annual retreat and an

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