NAPIBOWRIWEE DAY 4 – Meet Children’s Book Author & Artist Sylvia Liu!

2016napiday4
What time is it? It’s NAPIBOWRIWEE time!

Welcome to NAPIBOWRIWEE DAY 4!

Hello? Anyone there? 🙂 LOL This is usually the day that some folks, MYSELF INCLUDED, start to feel fatigued. The first 3 days can be fun and exciting, but when Day 4 and 5 happen, for some reason, it really sinks in… WE ARE TRYING TO WRITE 7 PICTURE BOOKS IN 7 DAYS. WHY? WHY DID WE AGREE TO TRY THIS? WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?!!! 😛 🙂 LOL!

But I promise you, the rewards will be awesome by Day 7! You gotta PUSH through the hump days of #4 and #5. You can do it!

For my Day 3, I was lucky and still had another less hectic work day. So I did write another music-themed book. (To recap – I didn’t have time to prepare ideas/research/outline so I’m among the folks “winging it” this year. My organization is to do a THEME, so every day I’m trying to come up with a music-themed picture book.) Given that I wrote an orchestra book yesterday, it influenced me to come up with a cute idea for 5 cats who play different violin styles, since I play violin and do a bunch of different musical styles. It wasn’t the best draft because I was a little burned out today and failed to turn it into a poetry book. Instead, it started off as a poem and slowly petered out into a very basic prose book. But the images were there, and I now think – it might work BETTER as prose instead of poetry because I’m not so locked into the strict meter/rhyme of poetry, and neither are these styles of music! So hey! #PoetryFailure turned into #ProseVictory! 🙂

This is what I love about this event every year. You NEVER know what might happen as you write. It’s like being part of a comedy improvisational troupe or a jazz band where who knows WHAT might happen during your solo! 🙂 I’m curious if anyone else had a day where what you STARTED off writing turned into something TOTALLY DIFFERENT in the end. Let me know!

Since I promoted a healthy STAND WHILE YOU WRITE blog yesterday, I thought I’d include one more health-related suggestion… NIGHT VISION FOR YOUR COMPUTER AND PHONE.

Paula’s NAPIBOWRIWEE Health & Technology Writing Tip: Download night time vision apps for your phone and computer for night time writing to ease eye strain and to avoid disruption of melatonin which can lead to insomnia and other health issues.

Many of us own smart phones. I’ve been reading these articles about how we are so addicted to our phones that we will use them IN BED before falling asleep. I am guilty of playing SOLITAIRE on my iPhone before bed. LOL! 🙂 But this article reminded me that it’s a bad habit because the bright “blue light” of your technology DISRUPTS your body from making melatonin, and as a result, you have a harder time falling asleep which can lead to a whole host of other health issues.

So the Apple iPhone folks now have a NIGHT SHIFT option on your  iPhone (if you have the latest operation system). There are also apps available. Here’s more information on that:

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/ios-93-how-to-switch-on-night-shift-the-iphone-mode-meant-to-help-people-go-to-sleep-a6956846.html

I then wondered if there was something for my LAPTOP because as a working writer, I tend to write long hours into the night. And staring at the BLUE LIGHT from my screen late at night can be harmful. So I found out about this!

https://justgetflux.com

I also read this article – if you have time, PLEASE read this article link below. It’s all about how this app works on your computer to help you lessen eye strain and avoid insomnia from writing late at night…

http://www.techinsider.io/flux-review-2015-10

YOU GUYS!!!!!! I literally downloaded this FLUX app for my laptop and started using the iPhone Night Shift just last week, and I SWEAR TO YOU… I suddenly was able to fall asleep much faster and woke up every morning MUCH MORE REFRESHED. I wasn’t groggy when I woke up! I had NO idea how much the “blue light” from my iPhone and computer were disrupting my sleep!

It takes awhile to get used to the FLUX light for your computer because as the sun goes down, your computer screen starts to turn this odd rosy pink orange hue. But trust me, be patient and stick with this because it REALLY saves your eyes. I did an experiment and switched to NORMAL view halfway through the night, and it was like I suddenly looked directly into the sun. Ugh! It was shocking – I had no idea how much I was straining my eyes this whole time.

So that is my health and technology tip for today! 🙂

And now without further ado… let’s welcome our GUEST AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR for Day 4! Meet SYLVIA LIU! This blog is also part of her LIVE BLOG TOUR. For more info on that:

http://www.kidlit411.com/2016/04/Kidlit411-Author-Sylvia-Liu-Blog-Tour.html

Our guest author SYLVIA LIU has graciously donated an autographed copy of her latest book for our NAPIBOWRIWEE participants. I am collecting everyone’s names in the COMMENTS section each day and will choose a winner based on a random prize drawing! Please visit my blog on May 8, 2016 (9:00 AM EST/6:00 AM PST) to see who won her book!

Meet children's book author Sylvia Liu! (Photo credit: K. Woodard Photography)
Meet children’s book author Sylvia Liu! (Photo credit: K. Woodard Photography)

SYLVIA LIU BIO

Sylvia Liu is an environmental lawyer turned children’s author and illustrator. A MORNING WITH GRANDPA, illustrated by Christina Forshay (Lee & Low Books, May 2016) is her debut picture book. She was spent a decade protecting the environment at the U.S. Department of Justice and the nonprofit group Oceana, and now she paints, draws, and writes for children. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with her husband and their two daughters. Visit her portfolio at www.enjoyingplanetearth.com, her blog at www.sylvialiuland.com, and her kid lit resource site, www.kidlit411.com.

Be sure to follow her 2016 Blog Tour here: http://www.kidlit411.com/2016/04/Kidlit411-Author-Sylvia-Liu-Blog-Tour.html

A MORNING WITH GRANDPA, by Sylvia Liu, illustrated by Christina Forshay (Lee & Low Books, May 2016)
A MORNING WITH GRANDPA, by Sylvia Liu, illustrated by Christina Forshay (Lee & Low Books, May 2016)

A MORNING WITH GRANDPA, by Sylvia Liu, illustrated by Christina Forshay (Lee & Low Books, May 2016)

Mei Mei eagerly learns tai chi from her grandpa (Gong Gong), but does it with her own flair. When it’s her turn to teach Gong Gong yoga, he is not as flexible as she is. Though they have different styles, Mei Mei and Gong Gong enjoy each other’s company while learning new things together.   

A MORNING WITH GRANDPA won the New Voices Award by Lee & Low Books. It has received some good reviews from Kirkus Reviews (“Liu scores with a sweet story about the joys of intergenerational relationships”) Publisher’s Weekly (“a charming outing”), and others.

Q&A WITH SYLVIA LIU

Q: What inspired you to write or illustrate picture books?

A: I started out as an illustrator, which was already a second career (my first was public interest environmental law). Several years after I began my illustration journey, I decided to write my own stories. One thing led to another and I became an author too. I have written since an early age, from journals, to journalism, to legal briefs, so creative writing was a natural evolution.

Q: Do you write in any other genres? If so, what?

A: I also write chapter books and middle grade.

Q: What do you like most about picture book writing versus other genres?

A: Writing a novel involves mastering the techniques of storytelling and writing (such as plot, character, dialogue, POV), while picture books are all of that, but condensed into about 500 words. Writing a picture book is like a puzzle and a poem, where I try to tell a story using the most beautiful yet economical words.

Q: Tell us about your first published book – what inspired the idea?

A: My dad inspired me. He has practiced tai chi since I was young. He also practices  qi gong, a Chinese practice that involves breathing and moving one’s qi, or energy, around the body. The first draft was about a grandfather who teaches his granddaughter both qi gong and tai chi. It eventually turned into A MORNING WITH GRANDPA with Gong Gong (Grandfather, in Chinese) teaching Mei Mei (Little Sister) tai chi and she teaching him yoga.

Q: If you weren’t a writer/artist, what would you be?

A: Does it have to be something I’m qualified to do?

When I was young, I wanted to be a colonist on Mars. Later, a forest ranger. Now I’d be a marine biologist. I’d love to spend my days on a boat, diving and exploring the oceans.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

A: When I was about nine, living in Caracas, Venezuela, we experienced an alien-invasion scare. Rumors flew that aliens had landed in the city, and the way to distinguish them from people was that the whites of their eyes would be yellow. The city, which was a valley a kilometer above sea level surrounded by mountains, would be inundated by a giant tidal wave. The tsunami was set for a specified date in August. As preposterous as this sounded, people were truly scared. The city became a ghost town. People took off from work and fled to the countryside, and even some of our friends’ families took the opportunity to leave the country and visit the States (what ex pats call the U.S.). My cousin who was visiting at the time thought we were all crazy. I can see why magical realism is found in Latin American literature.

Q: If you could give one piece of writing advice for our NaPiBoWriWee participants, what would it be?

A: Write for yourself, for fun, or for others, but not for publication. Don’t let your goal of being published rob the joy of why you began in the first place. For me, creating something that didn’t exist before, delighting a child, and sharing something true is why I came to children’s writing and illustrating.

Q: There’s been a growing demand for more diversity in children’s book publishing. What are your thoughts on that, if any?

A: As the New Voices Award winner from Lee & Low Books, I am very grateful that publishers like Lee & Low actively seek new talent from underrepresented groups.

We still have a long way to go, but I’m heartened that people are more receptive of the need for diverse voices through the work of groups like #WeNeedDiverseBooks. As others have described, books are mirrors and windows—mirrors that reflect ones own experience and windows that show others’ experiences. It’s so important for children to see both themselves and others in the books they read, not only to be exposed to the diversity of cultures, but to understand the common humanity we all share.

Q: There’s been increasing pressure for writers to be active on social media. Are you on social media? If so, where can your readers reach you? Has social media helped your writing journey and career? Any advice for writers who might feel overwhelmed by the social media “burden”?

A: I owe so much of my writing journey to social media:

(1) I’ve met so many incredible people in the kid lit community, including my online picture book critique group, the Penguin Posse. We have been together for three years, and they have been my rock throughout this wonderful journey.

(2) Two years ago, my critique partner Elaine Kiely Kearns and I started a resource website for kid lit authors & illustrators, Kidlit411. Last year, it was named among the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writers Digest. With our companion Facebook page, we’ve developed a thriving community who shares information, camaraderie and support.

We feature an author or illustrator each week, and this has been a great way to network and meet so many talented creators. Through Kidlit411, I’ve gotten to know so many people in the community who are happy to support and help celebrate my book release.

As for advice, your first priority should be to write or illustrate the best book you can. Social media takes time and can distract, but it is worth connecting with others and generating buzz for your books.

The key to social media is not to use it as your personal billboard. No one enjoys doing or receiving that. Find a community of fellow writers and get to know them and eventually you’ll find your tribe who will want to support your journey.

Readers can reach me in any of these interwebby ways:

Website:  www.enjoyingplanetearth.com

Blogs: www.sylvialiuland.com and www.createoneaday.blogspot.com

Twitter: @artsylliu

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ArbySylviaLiu

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14725184.Sylvia_Liu

I can also be found on Linked In, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, and LibraryThing (yes, I’m a bit of a social media junkie).

Thank you so much for having me, and for being a part of the blog tour for A MORNING WITH GRANDPA. The rest of the blog tour schedule can be found on Kidlit411 and http://www.kidlit411.com/2016/04/Kidlit411-Author-Sylvia-Liu-Blog-Tour.html

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Thank you SO much Sylvia for participating in our NAPIBIRWRIWEE 2016! I love how she has led such an interesting life – who knew she was originally a lawyer turned illustrator turned author? I think it’s inspiring that so many of our guest authors started out in one field and eventually found their way to writing via unique paths. I also highly recommend you bookmark her incredible resource website: http://www.kidlit411.com It’s fantastic and a great resource for writers and illustrators.

Stay tuned for my May 8th blog announcing who won Sylvia’s book! 🙂

Well, good luck guys… this is the Big Hump Day! Can you survive Day 4? 🙂 I KNOW you can! Once you make it through the half-way point, you will be able to see the finish line! 🙂

Tomorrow, our Day 5 Blog will feature… amazing literary agent TRICIA LAWRENCE of the ERIN MURPHY LITERARY AGENCY! Stay tuned for some industry advice from the Terrific Tricia! 🙂 This blog will post on Thursday May 5th at 9:00 AM EST/6:00 AM PST.

Until the next time… HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂

101 Comments »

  1. Sylvia is such a fountain of value for the kidlit community. Kidlit411 is fantastic! That’s some great advice about finding social media balance and finding your tribe, and the story about the alien scare in Venezuela was fascinating. Cool post!

  2. Loved the story about Venezuela! I’m a huge fan of Kidlit411 and really enjoy the advice and insight from other authors and illustrators. I can appreciate the challenges of going from illustrator to author/illustrator – all that power in your own two hands can be a dangerous thing, lol!

  3. Great post – I’ve got to read your book…. because in a couple hours I’ll be teaching tai chi to my classes of seniors (ages run up to late 80s). They love it! Thanks Sylvia for Kidlit 411 – it’s wonderful and such a gift.

  4. Sylvia,
    This is so good: “Don’t let your goal of being published rob the joy of why you began in the first place.” Hear hear. And thank you.
    Paula,
    Your focus this week made me think of THE LITTLE BOY WITH THE BIG HORN, by Jack Bechdolt. Do you know it? It’s an oldie; it has a farmer character with a truly fantastic voice and also great great great illustrations by Aurelius Battaglia. Thanks for all the eye-saving links too.

  5. Sylvia, I love your website, great resource for everyone.
    Paula, Thank you for the information about NIGHT SHIFT option on iPhone.
    I appreciate your support and generosity to help writers and illustrators in their journey.
    Good day ladies!

  6. Sylvia is amazing – and I CANNOT wait to get my hot little hands on this book! It looks wonderful. I’ve got two drafts done, and hoping to get one more in there later today. 🙂 Good stuff!

  7. Another fantastic post. Thank you, Sylvia and Paula. Sylvia’s words about writing/illustrating summarized my feelings so well: “For me, creating something that didn’t exist before, delighting a child, and sharing something true is why I came to children’s writing and illustrating.”

    I love the way you spoke about books as mirrors and windows. It is, indeed, so important that children see themselves in books and have the opportunity to better understand the threads of humanity we all share. You articulated this so beautifully.

  8. Great advice. I wholeheartedly agree that we should write for ourselves and for fun… and not for publication. I would also add (as part of NOT writing for publication) do not write to the current theme. Thank you for Kidlit411… it’s a terrific site!!

    • It’s all about what you’re comfortable with. At some point, I found myself doing something I liked doing and was doing anyway (sharing info), but just made it more organized.

  9. I love Kidlit411 and your book looks adorable. I look forward to reading it. Also Paula, thanks for the information about f.lux. I do a lot of nighttime computer work and it always takes me forever to fall asleep. I can’t wait to try it tonight.

  10. Hi Sylvia – thanks for this delightful post. So lovely that your dad inspired you, and that you write about a grandfather/grandchild story. I really look forward to reading your book. And I love KidLit 411!! Thanks for all that you do for the writing community!

  11. I have just saved Sylvia’s answer about writing for yourself rather than publication as that’s what this week is about for me: writing for the pleasure of it.
    I’m a SAHM and have been struggling to find myself among the kid chaos so it’s been so nice to spend some time every day this week writing.

    I use night shift on my iphone already and I’m about to look at flux – thanks for the info!

  12. Thanks, Sylvia, for this inspiring post. Kidlit411 is an amazing resource — thank you for giving so much to the kidlit community. And I love what you said about not letting our goals of being published rob us of the joy of writing. I agree writing is so much more fun when we’re not putting the pressure of publication goals on ourselves.

  13. Thanks Sylvia for a post packed with interesting thoughts and advice. And Paula, it’s so true about day 4. It’s my first NaPiBoWriWee, yesterday I was buzzing and today I’ve hit a wall. Time to dust off an old unpublishable idea and just write it for the hell of it…

  14. Glad the Flux app is helping you, Paula! 🙂

    Sylvia’s success story is so great to read! She’s had such a varied career already, and this is another jewel in her crown. I’m simply thrilled for her!

  15. Sylvia, I absolutely love Kidlit411 as you know I tweet about it often. You are so right in writing for fun not publication. Putting a price tag on my work takes the creativity right of the work which is useless then. Congratulations again on your first book being out!!!!! Keep up the beautiful work you do in all of your endeavors.

    Paula, thank you so much for the flux link to nighttime electronic use. I shall download it and make my eyes happier.

  16. Sylvia, Thank you for your post and most importantly your comment to remember to “Write for yourself, for fun.” Sometimes it is easy to loose sight of that and sometimes to loose sight of what you were writing as you struggle through the revisions. I am so grateful for all the information and sight you provide in KidLit 411. I love the snippets of your book that I have seen, can wait to tread the whole thing.

  17. Excellent blog post! Thank you!
    I began my day with a walk to consider ways to write my manuscript. I met Lucy, a runaway beagle, and my story totally changed! No, it’s not about a dog. But I stole the name Lucy and went a totally different direction. Love that when that happens.
    I also just found the night vision choice on my Iphone. Can’t wait to try it tonight. Thanks for the tips! I’m having a great week. 🙂

  18. Hi, Sylvia! HAPPY BOOK TOUR TO YOU!!! I was very excited to learn about your website, which will now be on my weekly blogs to learn and gain inspiration and support from. I LOVE your advice to “Write for yourself, for fun, or for others, but not for publication.” THIS IS SO IMPORTANT to remember. THANK YOU!!!!

    And THANK YOU, Paula, for the WONDERFUL tips on preserving our eyes and sleep through the GREAT resources you listed. I am definitely checking them out!

    I woke up early today, and (like yesterday), wrote and wrote and wrote, finishing a draft I AM SUPER EXCITED about! YEA!

    HAPPY WRITING, EVERYBODY!!!

  19. Thank you Sylvia for the flux app info. The advice about writing for yourself is great. Yesterday was tough. Today, now that I know about the midweek slump, I’ll get back into the saddle and write, write, write.

  20. Great advice, thank you for all the helpful tips. Sylvia your book looks perfect for story time in our library, l am looking forward to reading it to my classes soon! Finished ms number 4, including back matter! Happy Writing everyone📝😊

  21. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sylvia. I like your writing advice to write for myself and for the purpose of delighting children and sharing something true. That is excellent advice.

  22. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Sylvia. Love KIDLIT411! It is my go-to site for any questions I have for writing and querying. I also needed the reminder that I need to write for myself and the joy of it. (I was having a discouragement by rejection day.)

  23. Thinking that my first draft is just for myself, is what helps me get the words on paper! (or screen!) Thank you for your post today. It’s inspiring to know that others can have a second career as a writer.

  24. Sooo many good links to check out with today’s blog!
    My day #4 writing took less time than the other days, which was doubly good, as I had less time not occupied by other commitments.
    Paula, my writing YESTERDAY took a turn from one thing to a completely different thing. I intended to flesh out an idea about being tempted/bait/traps, and *somehow* my train of thinking led to a hilarious story of a child at camp! But so glad I went with the flow!

  25. Sylvia, thanks for the great interview and for the wonderful resource KIDLIT411. Congratulations on your book–I look forward to reading it. My Day #4 draft didn’t happen, but I will catch up. I haven’t lost my momentum!

  26. Thank you Sylvia – your post gave me inspiration after a long, l o n g, l. O. N. G day.

  27. Thanks so much for a great interview Sylvia! Your advice really resonates with me and I shall keep it in my head as I continue on my writing journey. Congratulations on your wonderful book. I’m a big fan of Christina’s as well and can’t wait to grab a copy! Yay for Lee and Low and for their recognition of your talent!

    Thank you Paula for your support and advice. It’s late but I’m so happy that I dug deep and have successfully drafted my latest PB! I’m really excited about this one and will polish it like crazy. Thank you also for the nighttime tips! 😄👍

  28. Thank you Sylvia for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! And thank you as well for all the work you put into Kidlit 411, it is a fantastic resource for all kidlit writers. 🙂

  29. Thanks so much, Slyvia! It’s great hearing about your journey, and I’m so curious to read your new book :-). Thanks to Paula for hosting and for all the health tips!!!

  30. It’s so nice to learn more about Sylvia and her new picture book. I have a soft spot for stories with old people and the way generations can share. Can’t wait to read this!
    Thanks, Sylvia and Paula.

  31. Thanks Sylvia for sharing and your insight. I love your quote about enjoying writing for oneself and not with publication in mind. Thanks for KIDLIT 411.

    Paula, thanks for the F lux. My daughter complains about the screens being too bright at night. She could use the information. I am lagging behind., need to catch up. Didn’t make it over the hump yesterday.

  32. Hey NaPiBoWriWee Writing Warriors! Just a quick comment on 5/6/16 to say I’m catching up on comments and loving what everyone wrote. Thank you for your kind words about my blogs and for your observations, progress reports, and very good questions for our guest authors! I am also curious how people are enjoying the FLUX and Night vision apps on their laptops and computers – did you get used to the weird orange glow? Has your eye strain lessened and sleep increase? Thank you to Sylvia for replying to some of the comments – we appreciate your generosity and time. So happy everyone is getting a lot out this event! xo P.

  33. Great post! Sylvia, your book looks beautiful!
    Today’s draft is my favorite, and so far, the most likely to have a chance outside NaPiBoWriWee!

  34. Sylvia, I adore your book! And whenever anyone asks me anything about writing for kids, I always point them to KidLit411.com

    And Paula, I have been using f.lux for a while now, but I had no idea about the Night Shift mode on my phone! Wow! Thanks!