Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

  • Growing up in Colombia, Marcela (Mace) has always been a huge bookworm with an adventurous spirit. Today she is a children’s books illustrator in Southern California after completing an MFA in illustration. She worked in advertising as an Art Director in Colombia before memories of her childhood reminded her how much she just wanted to create her own stories. Her journey has taken her to illustrate wonderful worlds for clients such as Nickelodeon and Disney. Currently, she’s working on her own stories and looking forward to the next adventure. You can see more of Mace’s work at  
  • 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 of SCBWI since 2018. A couple of years before that, I had started my career as a freelance illustrator, and as fun as it was to be my own boss, for the first time in my life I was working all by myself and that made me feel very lonely. As soon as I found SCBWI and started attending the meetings, I began making wonderful friends with all the wonderful people there and quickly was able to create a strong support team to rely on. Since then and thanks to SCBWI, not only have I made great friends but I have learned so much about this beautiful industry, it has become my “university” for this path in my career that otherwise I wouldn’t have known how to navigate.   What medium(s) do you use to illustrate?  I have become a complete digital baby; I still rely a lot in the trusted paper and pencil for my initial sketches, and I keep several sketchbooks, but since I come from a graphic design background, I became extremely adept at photoshop which gave me the practical skills to go from sketch to finals all in owe file.   What is your illustration process? My process changes a lot depending on the project, I’ve had to learned (the hard way) to just let it flow as it may. For example, the current project I’ve been working on began as a bunch of sketches on post-it notes with red pencil. It quickly evolved from a dozen post-it to double its amount until finally I had a whole 20 pages of story in post-it notes! Whenever I didn’t like a scene or thought of a better idea for it, I just had to remove that post-it and draw a new one. The way I did it was that the first 10 or so post-it I drew were the main events in my story. When I had gotten those out of the way, I started thinking about the major details around those events, and just like that I was slowly filling the gaps and constructing a well-rounded story. When I was satisfied with that initial “schematic” of my story, I scanned everything and began to edit and move around stuff. When I had properly cleaned up the file, I shared it with my most intimate critique group;  a group of 2 other girls and I who get together regularly to talk about our ongoing projects and to support each other in many aspects of our lives (not just professionally), I knew they would give me great and honest feedback.   From then on, I have continued with the steps that I always do, going from sketches to tights, and from tights to final colors.   How long have you been illustrating? I have illustrated all my life, I basically never stopped. But I realized I wanted to do it at a professional level when I was working in advertising back in Colombia, about 13 years ago. When I was looking for colleges, I realized that in my hometown there wasn’t a proper career for an illustrator to do professionally, so I studied what I thought was the closest thing which was graphic design. From graphic design I went into advertising and the next thing I know I am being given all the assignments that require illustrations. Then I started being commissioned illustrations in my personal time outside of work and suddenly, I’m being represented by and Art Rep who is getting me all these illustration gigs in advertising. At this point I couldn’t wait to get home after work to start drawing, so I came to the realization that I needed to leave advertising and just focus on illustrating full-time. But I wanted to refresh and improve my skills, to learn what was being done out there; what other illustrators were up to, that’s when I found this master’s degree in illustration in the US and made a big move, leaving behind everything that I knew and loved for a “new career”.   Are you self taught or did you study illustration?  Since I first grabbed a pencil as a toddler, I never stopped drawing, but I have refined my skills in many ways throughout my life. I was put in extracurricular art classes as a little girl and I did life drawing course with excellent painting masters when I was a teen. I studied an undergrad in Graphic Design and then I did a master’s degree in Fine Art with emphasis in Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, GA. And even now, I keep doing courses and thinking about what I can learn next; you can never know too much!   Do you have a dedicated art space?  I do have a space for my work at home. Sometimes I wish it were out of home but there is nothing like rolling into your computer in your pajamas in the morning to keep working where you left off the night before! But I also have a movable computer that I sometimes take to dedicated coworking spaces or simple to the nearest Starbucks just to get out and change the routine. What would be your dream book to illustrate? What books would I like to illustrate? I have fallen in love with graphic novels in every way! Since I was little, I was crazy about all kinds of comics; X-men, Batman, Archie, Mafalda, Calvin and Hobbes… but I’d say that my very first “graphic novel” was a very old, gigantic book of my mom’s that was the retelling of Romeo and Juliet in sequential photos. It was the best thing in the world! Then in grad school I came across my first real graphic novel which was Blankets by Craig Thompson and I’ve been a collector and a fan of the genre ever since. I always knew I wanted to do comics, but Craig Thompson’s work really gave me the answer to what I really wanted to do with my art in terms of subject matter for my stories and of the style for my characters.   Are you working on any fun projects now?  I am working in like 4 projects right now!!! But yes, I am currently dedicating my focus to this one story that has become very dear to my heart: it’s the story of a little boy who learns to take care of his environment with the help of some magical friends. It was inspired by the work of my childhood best friend who currently works with the communities of the pacific coasts of Colombia to maintain the beaches clean and teach the locals kids how to take care of their environment. I’m very excited about this message. Tell us about the children's books you've written. I write all kinds of stories. Mostly stories from my family, from growing up with a feminist dad and a strong businesswoman-like but sensitive mom and a very smart and rascal little brothers, and the biggest furry sister <dog> I’ve ever had or seen. I’d say most of them could perfectly be children’s books but truly they are just raw, nonfiction of what it was like growing up in Colombia and the many peculiarities of my tropically warm culture. Any tips for illustrators that are starting out? For all illustrators starting out, I’d say, trust your passion; if what you love is drawing fat cats with pants, find your place through it, don’t try to conform to the market. The trends always come after one person has started something from the deep love of what makes them different. Keep your ears and eyes wide open, you might not realize it but everything that goes on in your life is what make you unique in your art; if your favorite hobby is needle point, then draw in needle point or write a story about it or about who you learned it from… search your life and show its best and/or worst moments to the world through your own, unique art.   Do you currently have an agent?  I just recently signed with an agent. She found me through the SCBWI portfolio showcase at the virtual summer spectacular conference and from the first moment we started speaking we had a great connection and we just decided to take the plunge together. But I feel I have to say that it didn’t happen overnight on my end; it took more than a year of talking to a few more agents and deciding, either on one end or the other, that me and them wasn’t the right collaboration at the time. And it was never because I didn’t like them, in fact, many of the agents I spoke to, were amazing people that I would have loved to work with. But in the end, it only takes the tiniest details to help you understand that everything in your paths must flow the way you both need to for it to be the right match. Never despair if the few first connection don’t pan out, the right collaboration is out there looking for you, and when it doesn’t work with someone it’s just the universe teaching you how to recognize it when it finally comes along.   Have you had any books published or won any awards? I have illustrated over 12 children’s books for Nickelodeon’s and Disney’s shows over the past 4 years through imprints like Penguin Random House and Shutterfly. Working with big clients like those is a lot different than working on your own personal stuff (or even for a fellow writer). For starters, the turnaround times are a lot shorter, and everything is done as work for hire, meaning that I don’t get any royalties, but I am very well paid per project. Also, I mostly work with characters and stories that are already written and designed so my work is mostly translating them into the page, and drawing these wonderfully designed characters is actually an amazing exercise for enhancing and personalizing my very own style. It is actually a very fun job with a wonderful learning experience, especially for me as an emerging author/illustrator; as I have to become fast in producing material for them, I now know how to be fast at producing my own stuff, and the very well thought out way they produce their stories has taught me a lot about storytelling too. Plus reproducing these characters that are so well-known worldwide is a huge honor that I’m happy to have.   Tell us 5 interesting things about yourself. 1- I’m a perfectionist and since I know it, it’s the biggest thing I fight with myself over and over until I always end up falling on the other end of the spectrum of not caring at all! 2- I love writing; my handwriting has always received a lot of compliments. I use it regularly on everything I write, people are always impressed when they see it and that makes me happy. Sometimes I think I started writing stories just so that I could practice my type, narcissist much?! 3- I dance salsa since I have memory, it’s something that we do in my hometown, if you are born in Cali (Colombia), you must know how to dance, otherwise its just shameful. I was taught by my uncles and then I taught my little brothers, that’s just how we are raised. 4- I have 75 hundred, thousand drawings hidden in remote files of my computer or actual sketchbooks, for every drawing that does make it to my website or on Instagram. 5- In my spare time I study languages: I speak fluent English and Spanish, and have studied French, German, Italian and Japanese, and counting… I think languages are key to solving the problems of the world: learn a new language + understand a new way of thinking = be more compassionate. Extra Fact- I have around 200 books dispersed around my house so that I can read any moment, any time (even in the bathroom!!!)   Where can people find more of your work? Website: Instagram: @marsmela Twitter: @macecespedes   __________________________________ To see our Previous Get to Know Our Illustrators, click here.
  • Click here to register for the event:
  • No Post found for Slider.

About Us

Twitter: @SCBWI_SoCal
Instagram: @SCBWI_SoCal

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

Read More
  SoCal SCBWI fans showing support for Steve Bramucci’s DANGER GANG #2! The signing took place at the most awesome children’s bookstore in SoCal, Whale of a Tale.   Monthly meet-up critique groups sharing resources for children’s writers!