Rivkah LaFille

Middle Grade

My one goal in life is to leave this world a more beautiful place than how I arrived. So instead of becoming a politician, I became a writer and an illustrator. I still think I made the right choice!

Most of the time, I write emotionally intense stories for teens and tweens about overcoming the struggles we face transitioning from childhood to adulthood. My fairy godmother alter-ego, however, begs to spend the rest of my day drawing knights, castles, dragons, and princesses, but above all else…CAKE. I love magic and pastries nearly as much as I love angsty teens and tweens. If I could combine them all one day, I’m pretty sure I’d consider my life complete!

What was your favorite book as a child?

Miss Rumphius is STILL one of my favorites. It’s all about leaving the world a better place than we found it, which is basically my life motto.

What do you love to do for fun?

Gardening is my Happy Place. There is something so satisfying in taking care of a plant from seed, watering it, tending it, and watching it turn into a fruit or vegetable that you can eat. But watching the cycles of nature reminds me of the cycles within my own life: that even as the world grows and blooms and dies, new life is born out of it once again.

Mediums:

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT RIVKAH

Art Process:

My art process is a balance between logical problem-solving and creative intuition. I begin by thinking about the project as a whole: what is the tone, the technique, the style that would best suit this project? What is its age range? What’s the timeline? Every project has different demands, and before I start drawing, I think of what those demands are and how to answer them.

The rest, however, is largely a matter of doing and refining. Whether I’m creating fast and loose storyboards or finely detailed picture books, working in digital or analog mediums, the end result is an editorial style that refines itself with every step until it becomes exactly what the project needs: something that speaks loudly and clearly to my audience!

Published books:

STEADY BEAT v1 – Tokyopop – 2005 (YA LGBTQ+ graphic novel)
STEADY BEAT v2 – Tokyopop – 2007 (YA LGBTQ+ graphic novel)
MANGAKA AMERICA – HarperCollins – 2007 (tutorial book)
CREATIVE WRITING WITH MISS MARY MAC – First Second – date TBD (nonfiction graphic novel)

Location:

Visit Rivkah at:

Available for School Visits:

I love talking to (and with) students! My talks range from discussing my comics-making process to more inspirational-type discussions about finding your path in life and how to not be afraid of making mistakes…and to learn and grown from them! I specialize in talking to teens and tweens, but also adults wanting to make graphic novels for ages babies to teens.

Awards and honors:

Nominated to the YALSA GREAT GRAPHIC NOVELS for TEENS List in 2007
Friends of Lulu Award 2007 – Nominee
Winner of the 2019 SCBWI Portfolio Showcase Award (and runner up previous two years) presided over by Caldecott Winner Dan Santat


Joshua Smeaton

Middle Grade

Joshua Smeaton was born on his birthday.

When he was a teenager, Josh jabbed a friend in the finger with a Rapid-O-Graph pen. The friend still has the single dot permanently etched on his skin. Josh is still waiting to hear from top ink recruiters in the tattoo industry.

Josh’s parents required him to become an Eagle Scout before he could get his driver’s license. He got his license the day he turned sixteen and was shortly after pulled over by the police for looking too young to drive. Josh then nearly caused an accident pulling back onto the road.

Josh won a Xeric award once. That was a good day. The Xeric grant was created by Peter Laird, one of the guys who created The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Josh’s favorite ninja turtle is Donatello. He used to own a first printing of issue 4 of the original comic book series. 

Bill Murray once ate Josh’s French fries at an In-N-Out Burger. They talked about music and driving across the country. They have not kept in touch.

Josh wanted to name his son Taylor Rex so he could call him T-Rex for short. His wife vetoed this.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I loved The Great Brain series of books by John D. Fitzgerald. In 7th grade, I won a contest to turn your favorite book into a poster using The Great Brain.

Favorite Comic Book, hands down, was Sergio Aragonés’ Groo The Wanderer. It was my biggest influence in wanting to draw comics. 

What is your favorite food?

Chocolate chip cookies.

Mediums:

Published books:

Haunted – Self published 2009

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT JOSHUA

Art Process:

I’ll do some sketching/doodling in my sketchbook or cheap spiral notebooks. (I have tons.) Mostly just loose unfinished things in pencil or ballpoint pen. I use my good friends Google and Pinterest to find reference or inspiration on the subject. I’ll grab a bunch of images and put them all in a program called Pure Ref. It allows me to view all the images in one place, zooming in or out. 

For the final work, I draw on my computer with my tablet. I primarily draw in Clip Studio Paint. Sometimes I’ll color in CSP but more often I still use Photoshop. 

Specialties:

Location:

Visit Joshua at:

Available for School Visits:

Make Your Own Graphic Novel

I show slides of my own process, from how I get my ideas and the steps of developing them, to how I turn pictures into words and ultimately, a finished graphic novel or comic book. We’ll then segue into creating, where I do live sketching and the students will follow along creating and drawing their own ideas. 

Awards and honors:

Xeric.


Joe Latham

Middle Grade

Joe Latham is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Bristol, UK. He cut his teeth creating custom MySpace Pages (RIP) for bands, which lead to a lot of interesting projects. From designing bespoke Golf Balls for celebrities to animating music videos for Cradle of Filth, Joe has done design work for Jilly Cooper, The Joy Formidable, Five Seconds of Summer, Uniform Dating, Ok Cupid, IndieGoGo, a number of UK Universities, Sony Music, and Warner Music, to name a few.

Joe has self-published a number of comic books and regularly exhibits at UK comic festivals. He’s planning to exhibit at other European and International festivals in the future. He loves meeting people and talking to them about his work.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Winnie the Pooh, or possibly The Giraffe, The Pelican and Me. It’s a tough call, because Roald Dahl was exciting in a way that other books have never been, but Winnie the Pooh has stayed with me forever. I used to take a collected version to my Mum’s piano lessons when I was a kid, and sit there next to a stinky gas fire with a tubby black-haired scotty dog. The dog would lay on its back getting a weird sunburn on its belly from the fire (and it would fart, all the time).

What cool travel spots would you most highly recommend?

Copenhagen, for its incredibly comfortable culture, amazing pastries (get a hot cinnamon swirl, your life will never be the same again), great coffee and beer, cool electric city bicycles, amazing museums and great food. 

I’d also recommend Berlin. It’s an amazing place, though it changes every year. It never sleeps. Seriously.

One of the happiest times of my life was driving up the West coast of the USA. We hired a car and drove from San Francisco up to Portland. It was the most free I’ve ever felt, and I hope to go back one day for longer adventures.

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT JOE

Art Process:

I like my work to feel tangible and retain a sense of the energy you get from those early drawings, so I try to make sure the final pieces are refined enough, yet expressive. It means that each stage of the process is relatively quick in order to keep some of that feeling.

Typically I draw my thumbnail sketches with a Fountain Pen, then using a smaller paper size I will draw the final piece in rough using Blue Col-erase pencils (these are used a lot by animators – they don’t smudge yet aren’t too hard, so you can be nice and expressive). I then scan this, print it faintly on to smooth finish (hot press) Watercolour paper (it has a touch more tooth than Bristol board so I find it suits my inking style better – less smudges). Then I ink over this, mostly using a Kolinsky Sable no6 brush and a pot of ink, some fine liner work in there too. Scan it, colour it using Photoshop and an array of collected brushes that I’ve picked up down the years. I have a small handful that I return to most often.


Lindsey Leigh

Middle Grade

Lindsey Leigh is an illustrator and comic artist originally from Maryland. She has a BFA in illustration from Syracuse University as well as an MA in graphic design from the Maryland Institute College of Art. In between, she also interned at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in the entomology department, diligently illustrating beetles.

Her work is inspired by mythology, folklore, and the natural world. Though her work ranges from the cozy and comforting to the unsettling and spooky, she aims to imbue even the scariest monster with a tender charm. She also has an encyclopedic knowledge of weird animal facts and a passionate love for snails and slugs. She currently lives in Massachusetts.

Who or what inspires you the most, and why?

I am endlessly inspired by the mysteries of our world, from the darkest depths of the sea to the furthest reaches of space.

What do you love to do for fun?

I love to go to art museums, natural history museums, and take long walks in the local cemetery.

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT LINDSEY

Art Process:

I typically start the process doing research and gathering reference material. This part of the process really appeals to me because I love to learn everything I can about the subject I’m drawing. 

Then, I usually create very rough, small thumbnail drawings (that only I can really read!) to help me figure out the composition.

Once I start the final, I start with a pencil sketch, then inking with a range of tools such as nib pens, technical pens, and brush pens. Once that is completed, I will scan the drawing in, and then clean it up and color it with Photoshop. As a final step, I will overlay scanned ink wash textures that I have made into the final illustration to give it some extra dimension. (Occasionally, I will use a photo I’ve taken of something more unusual, like moss or lichen, to overlay into the illustration!) My favorite step of the process is definitely inking; it’s where I have the most fun.

Mediums:

Location:

Visit Lindsey at:

Available for School Visits:

Yes! I love to speak with students about the process of creating their own stories and comics.


Ed Masessa

Middle Grade

Born in nineteen something, I am the second oldest of 10 children. I was raised in the small town of Middlesex, NJ and attended Rutgers University. As anyone who has met me can attest to, I live by the mantra “Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.” Formerly employed as a grease monkey, office cleaner, fast food manager, forklift operator, warehouse supervisor, sales rep, and automotive purchasing manager, I retired from Scholastic Book Fairs in 2016 where I was responsible for selecting many of the books that appeared on the fairs. While on the surface, it appears that I was unqualified for such a critical role, I earned my stripes through hard work and LOTS of reading – and I mean LOTS!

Twenty or so years ago, I turned to the wonderful memories of my childhood and began to write. My second book, The Wandmaker’s Guidebook, had a nine-week run on the NY Times Bestseller list, two weeks at #1!  Now a full-time writer, I remain active in the Kidlit community by participating in library, reading, and writing conferences throughout the year, and by visiting schools to share my writing techniques with students. And I am an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard

Who are your favorite children’s authors?

Jack Gantos, Neal Shusterman, and Jennifer Holm

Available for School Visits:

I love doing school visits! I can do up to three presentations in the same day that include grades 1-2 for picture books and early readers and grades 3-6 for my writing process and novels. Presentations can be customized from 20-45 minutes and only a laptop with a projector is needed (plus a microphone for large audiences). Fees are highly flexible.

Location:

Visit Ed at:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT ED

Specialties:

Creative Process:

I need to write outdoors. There’s something about sitting in a park, or near a lake, or by the gently rolling waves of the Florida surf that allows my mind to wander and opens it to unconstrained thoughts. This is especially helpful since I am an extreme pantser – that is, I write by the seat of my pants. I find it impossible to create an outline other than a general synopsis of the beginning, middle, and end of a book. I am constantly amazed at what has taken shape on the page at the end of my writing block of time. I love when I can look at my words and say, ‘Wow! I never saw THAT coming!’

I also hand-write everything and every project has its own notebook. My first pass at revision is when I sit down to type what I’ve written into a word doc.

Awards and honors:

The Wandmaker’s Guidebook:
#1 NY Times bestseller for four weeks
ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults

Wandmaker:
Parent’s Choice Award for “Fun Stuff”

Wandmaker’s Apprentice:
Florida Book Awards gold medal in the middle grade category

Scarecrow Magic:
starred review from PW

Published books:

Backpack Kitty Goes to Camp (early reader)
Travel-size Pups Around the World (early reader)
Mixed-up Pups (early reader)
Real Life Monsters (non-fiction)
Wandmaker’s Guidebook (novelty)
Wandmaker (novel)
Wandmaker’s Apprentice (novel)
Time Traveler’s Journal (novelty)
Scarecrow Magic (picture book)
Pumpkin Magic (picture book)
There Was an Old Dog Who Needed a Nap (forthcoming picture book)
Snowman’s Big Adventure (forthcoming picture book)


Ash Szymanik

Middle Grade

Hi, I’m Ash! I’m a queer Los Angeles based artist who makes all sorts of neat stuff. I have a BFA in Traditional Animation from Pratt Institute, and work as a designer, illustrator, and comics artist/writer.

My art is defined by animal characters, moody colors, and a bit of dark humor. I’m drawn to slice-of-life stories with LGBTQ+ themes and am committed to making art about both the struggles and joys of LGBTQ+ youth.

What is your favorite food?

Anything that is a pasta or a dumpling. Just as long as it doesn’t have mushrooms in it.

What do you love to do for fun?

I love collecting manga/comics, watching movies, discovering little-known indie video games, and cooking.

Mediums:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT ASH

Art Process:

I’m a digital artist who does most of their work in Procreate! However, I have a little journal/sketchbook where I scribble down my ideas and doodles of concepts. If I’m experiencing art block, I like to skim through it and mine for ideas!

When I illustrate, I tend to make a very rough sketch to map out the drawing, and once the sketch is legible enough for me, I start inking. I try not to be too perfectionist when doing the lineart, especially since I love a bit of a wobbly line and texture. Then I start coloring. I love picking colors and settling on a palette. After editing, I’m all done!


Andi Watson

Middle Grade

I was born and raised in Kippax, a small town in Yorkshire, England. I spent half my life playing outdoors with my brother and friends and the other half reading, drawing and watching TV. Despite being in awe of the power of stories I was intent on being a car mechanic. Eventually I realised I had no interest in cars and even less talent for fixing things and went to art school in Liverpool. I rediscovered comics, made one of my own, graduated and continue to make more.

I’m still in awe of the power of stories and the satisfaction and challenge of telling my own through words and pictures. I live in Worcester with my wife and daughter.

What is your favorite food?

I like Brussel sprouts and broccoli but shiver in horror at courgettes. Brrrr….courgettes.

Specialties:

Published books:

  • Kerry and the Knight of the Forest (graphic novel)  Random House Graphic, 2020

And many others… click here for a complete bibliography.

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT ANDI

Location:

Mediums:

Art Process:

Everything starts with a pencil and paper, whether it’s noting down story ideas or thumbnailing images. I think with a pencil and problem solve on paper. No Moleskine notebooks for me, I use the back of old print outs and bills. Whatever’s to hand and I’m not precious about.

Once I have an idea I’m happy with I’ll move to pencil on paper. When I’m satisfied with the sketch I’ll use pen, brush, ink to complete the art. I try to balance a liveliness of line with control and clarity. Then I’ll scan it in and use Photoshop to tweak and colour.

Available for School Visits:

When I do school visits, I collaborate with the children to create an improvised comic story from their suggestions.

Visit Andi at:

Awards and honors:

Eisner, Best Graphic Album Reprint nomination 2000: Geisha

Eisner, Best Limited Series nomination 2001: Breakfast After Noon

Harvey, Best New Series nomination 2004: Love Fights

Eisner, Best Publication for Kids nomination 2009: Princess At Midnight

British Comics Awards, Young People’s Comic Awards nomination 2012. Gum Girl: Catastrophe Calling


Duachaka Her

Middle Grade

Duachaka Her is a Hmong-American cartoonist and illustrator from Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a BFA in Entertainment Design and concentration in Comics and Sequential Art. She creates graphic novels, illustrates picture books, and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators organization.

Hmong-American children's book and graphic novel creator Duachaka Her at her home in Wisconsin

What is your favorite food?

My mom’s slow-cooked pork and mustard greens. It’s simple, savory, and just melts in your mouth with each bite! Definitely one of my favorite comfort foods!

What do you love to do for fun?

Read my stack of unfinished books, watch movies, and spend time with family.

Mediums:

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT DUACHAKA

Art Process:

My process usually starts out with me doing research, reading, or getting inspiration. From there, I do rough sketches in a sketchbook and test out various ideas and compositions. The chosen sketch gets penciled and inked traditionally on paper. I start out with a rough sketch of the entire drawing on paper and then start refining the pencils. After that, I go over the drawing with India ink and brush. Once the ink is completely dried, I erase all the pencil work and scan the piece. I’ll retouch and edit the scanned artwork in Adobe Photoshop and then do my colors digitally.

Awards and honors:

2019 SCBWI Marvelous Midwest Conference Art Show – Honorable Mention

2018 International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival Poster Contest – Grand Prize Winner

Location:

Visit Duachaka at:

Available for School Visits:

Yes. My visits usually consist of me doing a reading of my book and/or a presentation about my life as an artist and my art-making process followed by Q&A.


David Pierce

Middle Grade

Dave Pierce is an Author/Illustrator from the Northwest.

He re-discovered his passion for telling stories when he taught reading alongside his wife in the same Elementary classroom. Shortly after, he gained his certification to teach Art (K-12) and dove into the kidlit world via SCBWI. He is motivated by the “Ah-Hah!” moments that come when children read and stories that invite us to explore our place in the world.

He graduated from The Evergreen State College with an emphasis in Illustration, and studied Character Design and Digital Painting through The Oatley Academy of Visual Storytelling.

What do you love to do for fun?

Snowboard, Soccer, Hike, Music, Board and Video Games, and lots more. I probably have too many interests, but each one is so fun.

Favorite travel spots:

I’ve done a lot of travelling around Europe, but I have to say that Austria is my favorite. Go to Salzburg in the late spring and head into the mountains. Tell me you won’t have the Sound of Music running through your head!

Mediums:

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT DAVID

Art Process:

I try and leverage both digital and traditional media in my workflow.

One of the best things about working digitally is you can always undo things and make sweeping adjustments to composition by transforming and moving. This makes it a powerful tool early on when the ideas are just sketches. (Just don’t forget to click Save!)

As good as digital tools are, there’s something so *tangible* about creating traditionally. The feels and smells are wonderful, and I’ll get happy accidents that can inspire. Plus, you can work outside on a sunny day! (A rare treat in Washington State.)

I’ll usually make thumbnail ideas by pencil and scan them into the computer. Once in digital form, I’ll move its chunks around until I’m excited about it. From here I have a choice to continue digitally or print out the art for transfer via a light table. This works great for moving forward with Ink and Watercolor.

Sometimes I’ll stay traditional if it’s graphite or dry media, or go all-digital if it’s going to be something that demands more control. The important thing is knowing your tools and which approach will be most useful.

Location:

Visit David at:

Available for School Visits:

I enjoy doing visits in the classroom setting. This allows for hands-on learning with the students and making something collaborative together. My goal is to inspire the next generation of creatives, and to encourage anyone to try drawing and storytelling, whether they consider themselves an artist or not.


Elizabeth Jancewicz

Middle Grade

Elizabeth grew up in remote northern Quebec where she developed her love of natural landscapes and wild animals, which greatly influence her paintings.

She spends much of her time touring the country with her husband Eric in their band Pocket Vinyl, where she creates large fantastical oil paintings on stage while Eric sings and plays music. In 2019 they beat the world record for playing shows in all 50 states in the fastest time (45 days).

Elizabeth also writes & illustrates a twice-weekly autobiographical webcomic called The Touring Test, which focuses on the characters of Elizabeth & Eric, their two cats, and their experiences of being in a small touring band on the road.

Artist and graphic novelist Elizabeth Jancewicz headshot

Who or what inspires you the most, and why?

I love being around creativity. My walls are filled with other artists’ work, my shelves are full of graphic novels, and I love spending my time in DIY art spaces and seeing how other people interpret and express their individual creativity. I feel very fortunate to live and work with a creative person, whose artistic medium is so vastly different than mine.

Specialties:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT ELIZABETH

Mediums:

Art Process:

I describe myself as purely a traditional artist. I’ll “clean up” pieces in Photoshop (brightening colours, or adding shading to my inked comics), but besides that I do not work digitally.

My comics are all penciled onto bristol paper, then inked in pen and marker.

My oil paintings are typically done on gessoed masonite board.

I like to work fairly quickly so that I can’t overthink an idea. I may then step away and let it sit for a while before either changing things up or deciding it’s finished.