Get to Know… Liesl Shurtliff!

My name is… Liesl Shurtliff. Rhymes with Diesel or Weasel. A soft S is the German pronunciation. A hard S is the American. I grew up with the American version, but switched to the German pronunciation when I married my husband, who speaks German and so always pronounced my name as LEE-zul. My last name is sometimes misspronounced as Shurtliss. Yikes.

I am a… lover of knowledge and learning. I love robust conversations and debates on any given subject. I love to hear other people’s opinions, interests, and expertise. Luckily, I live in a university neighborhood where just about everyone I know is an expert on somethingand so I meet a lot of fascinating people who are more than happy to converse with me and share their thoughts and knowledge. It’s great for character study! 

As a kid, I was… insecure, desperate for praise and acceptance, and a late bloomer. I struggled to learn how to read, which made me feel like I wasn’t all that smart. I eventually grew to enjoy reading and writing a great deal, but only when it was on my terms. I didn’t like to be assigned reading. My favorite books were always ones I chose on my own. I loved creating stories but didn’t want to share my writing or have it be critiqued or graded. Not much has changed, except I’m a little more a secure, more open to constructive criticism, and less desperate for praise and acceptance. (But still a little.) 

Writing is… my way of making sense of what’s going on both in the world and inside my head. I don’t truly know something until I can express it in words. Likewise, I don’t understand how I feel about anything until I write it down. I’ve been writing in a journal and making up my own stories since I was eight. It’s my therapy and my joy. It’s also really, really hard for me. You know those people who say their story just flowed out of them like water or came to them in a dream and they couldn’t stop writing for three months straight? I loathe those people.

Reading is… revolutionary and communal. When we read words written by another human, we take a piece of them into ourselves. We see and experience the world through their eyes. This helps us develop empathy, and empathy is revolutionary. 

Books are… worlds captured on paper, treasures and adventures you can take right in your home.  

Did you know… when I was born my parents wanted to name me Megan. As it happened, there were a few other baby girls born around the same time and they were all named…Megan. My parents decided they’d better choose something else. So they named me Liesl, which, as I said earlier, is German and also from The Sound of Music. (If you haven’t seen the film with Julie Andrews, please fill this hole in your life immediately.) I played the role of Liesl in my high school’s production of The Sound of Music, right when I was sixteen-going-on-seventeen! And that’s as close as I’ve gotten to experiencing what feels like fate.

You can find me… at Lake Michigan in Chicago. I run along the lakefront trail nearly every day and take a plunge at the end. It’s heaven. (Except in winter. Brrrrr!) If not there, you can visit my website at www.lieslshurtliff.com and @lieslshurtliff on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Get to Know… Jake Burt!

My name is… Jacob Burt, but most folks call me Jake. 

I am a… children’s book author, fifth grade teacher, dad, husband, banjo player, ultimate frisbee enthusiast, gamer, and cinnamon roll aficionado. 

As a kid, I was… likely to be found in an arcade, shoveling quarters into a rigged Gauntlet console.

Writing is… my favorite thing to teach, because the moment a kid discovers her voice is the best magic there is.

Reading is… something I desperately wish I had more time to do; my author friends are churning out amazing stuff, and I want to read all of it!

Books are… still the single greatest escape.

Did you know… that CLEO PORTER AND THE BODY ELECTRIC is my first science fiction novel, based on the first pandemic I lived through? COVID is my second go-around with quarantine…

You can find me… in my classroom most days, but always on the web at www.jburtbooks.com, on Twitter @jburtbooks, or on Instagram at jburtbooks.

Get to Know… Karina Yan Glaser!

My name is… Karina Yan Glaser.

I am an… author, illustrator, mom, baker, cook, quilter, animal lover.

As a kid, I was… a BIG READER! (I still am!)

Writing is… an opportunity to share your story with the world.

Drawing is… a way to show everyone what the world looks like through your eyes.

Reading is… a gateway to people, places, cultures, feelings, and dreams.

Books are… currently all over my apartment. How many books do you think I have? I tried counting once but I forgot the number. It’s definitely in the thousands!

Did you know… the fourth book of the Vanderbeekers series is coming out on Tuesday, September 15th? I’m so excited to share what the Vanderbeekers have been up to!

You can find me…

Website: www.karinaglaser.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KarinaYanGlaser

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karinaisreadingandwriting/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarinaYanGlaser/

Get to Know… Adrianna Cuevas!

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My name is… “What’s for dinner?” No, that’s not right… “Where’s my PE shirt?” That can’t be it either. “Mom!” Well, kind of, but only for the last twelve years. I don’t suppose my husband and son would agree to “She Who Must Be Catered To And Obeyed.” One can only hope…

I am a… teller of fart jokes, baker of pastelitos, kayaker of Texas rivers, and wrangler of house pets. Sometimes I even manage to write stories.

As a kid, I was… in Miami, living almost entirely in my imagination while I consumed vast quantities of Cuban food. Now I’m in Texas, living almost entirely in my imagination while I consume vast quantities of Cuban food.

Writing is… how I preserve my family history, show my son that kids like him can be heroes, and put all the worlds and characters swirling around in my brain to good use. It is somehow miraculously accomplished while listening to both K-pop playlists and my son explain the deep intricacies of Minecraft.

Reading is… a way to escape and discover new worlds, new people, and new experiences. And it’s everywhere! Novels, comics, graphic novels, webtoons, manuals, encyclopedias… I even read a really fascinating bottle of face wash the other day.

Books are… FREAKING AMAZING! Like, seriously, don’t you walk into a bookstore or library and think “Holy crap!” Because I do. Some books that recently made me lose my minimal chill are Lupe Wong Won’t Dance by Donna Barba Higuera, In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby, the 13th Street chapter book series by David Bowles, and A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi.

Did you know… that the gastric-brooding frog from Australia gives birth through its mouth? This was easily one of my favorite animal facts I learned while researching The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez. It’s horrifically fascinating and I both want to and really don’t want to try to picture it in my head.

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You can find me… on Twitter (@acuevaswrites) sharing equal parts books news and silly things my son says, and on Instagram (@adriannacuevas) sharing stacks of books I pray I’ll have time to read as well as recipes I’ve attempted to varying success.

Get to Know… Larissa Marantz!

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My name is… Larissa Brown Marantz.

I am… an illustrator, art teacher for little kids, big kids, and college kids, a cartoonist, a wife and mother, and I’m searching for Zen in a crazy world. I am Filipina and Black and have a multiracial family. I love seeing books with families that look like mine, so I aim to create picture books that represent my own family. I meditate daily, practice fasting, but love to eat pizza, brownies, and bacon cheese burgers with fries. I try to practice moderation in all things but sometimes go overboard and need an adjustment back to the middle. I love teaching art almost as much as I love making it and I love sharing what I do with people.

As a kid, I was… a voracious reader, too scared to ever speak up in class, but very imaginative. I loved to people-watch and I still do. I fell in love with drawing in kindergarten when I first mixed blue and red and discovered how to make purple (my favorite color) and I still love mixing colors to this day. As a kid, I was the only Black student in my grade at school and felt out of place for most of my childhood. I often wished I had long blonde hair like most of my classmates instead of the curly afro style I wore, but it wasn’t until I was older that I learned to embrace who I was, inside and out.

Writing is… hard, so I leave it to my husband, Keith Marantz, who writes books for me to illustrate. Sometimes I have good ideas and we’ll write things together, but mostly I like to put the finishing touches on the books we write and leave the heavy stuff to him. We do a lot of talking about writing, and we talk a lot about story when we watch TV shows and movies. We know writing takes a lot of character development, plot development, and nuance, and we love to talk about that while we go on walks, or while lounging in the pool on a hot summer day.

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Drawing is… pure magic. As a very shy kid, drawing helped me to find my voice. There is no better feeling than to make something out of nothing that elicits an emotional response from a viewer (that goes for any type of creating, be it writing, cooking, performing, but I’m only really good at drawing and painting!). Drawing is also hard! But I love learning how to improve and I also love to teach others how to improve at their drawing. Drawing is a skill that can be learned, but one has to be willing to do a lot of bad drawings before they can get to the good ones. Not everything you draw will be great, but as long as you enjoy the process of creating, you’ll inevitably get to a point where you’ll make something that you love, and others will too.

Reading is… what I do to learn about myself, discover new worlds, fall in love with new characters, and connect to other people. My favorite things to read are graphic novels and esoteric books that help me find my Zen, like Eckhart Tolle. I have always loved reading biographies and have been inspired by the way people overcome adversity. Reading about the lives and experiences of other people builds compassion, tolerance, and understanding for the world around you.

Larissa_Marantz_Promo_May2020Books are… a way to find comfort and solace in these trying times. I once heard an incredibly moving and inspirational commencement address from one of my child’s teachers and she talked about growing up extremely poor. She talked about her love of reading and her thirst for knowledge as a child. By reading books, becoming educated, and focusing on increasing her knowledge about math, science, and the world around her, she was able to lift herself up. Thanks to the treasure of our public libraries, we have free access to books that can open up our world to entire universes of knowledge. Of course, the internet can do that now, too. Where webpages are “bookmarked” and scrolled for continued reading, I feel like books are a tangible place that readers can revisit and get lost in over and over again, in a truly focused way without the itch of opening a new tab or chiming notifications or banner ads and dancing gifs stealing our attention away from the printed word.

Did you know… that I can say my artwork was hanging in the White House? In 2008, my paintings of Barack Obama were featured in two galleries – the Democratic National Convention and the Manifest Hope: DC Inauguration gallery. After Obama entered the White House, I sent illustration prints of my work to the curator of the gallery shows who handed them out to people all over his office. At the time I was unaware that he recently began working for Valerie Jarrett at the White House. He told me, “Your art is up all over the place!” Had President Barack Obama seen my work? I think it’s very likely. Although sadly I can’t confirm it, but I like to think he had. Also, two of my paintings were selected by Senator Kamala Harris to be displayed in her Washington DC offices in 2019.

You can find me… AND CLYDE

On his website: ClydeTheHippo.com

On Twitter: @clydethehippo

On my website: LarissaMarantz.com

Teaching online art classes: OCArtStudios.com

Talking about my upcoming Graphic Novel: Making a Graphic Novel

On Twitter: @LarissaMarantz

On Instagram: @larissadrawsstuff

On Facebook: @LarissaMarantzArtist

Get to Know… Sam Wedelich!

My name is…

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I am… a Jill-of-all-trades, which is a silly way of saying that I do a lot of things. I used to be sort of shy about this, or afraid that people would think I was bragging. I’m really not, I just like to be creative in LOTS of ways. I’m not great or even good at ALL of them, but I don’t really care. I enjoy learning and growing and trying new things! Oh, I’m also a mom and wife and eater of gluten-free foods (dang allergies!).

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As a kid… I was pretty normal. Nothing special honestly. Just loved making things and using my imagination…. usually to excess. Hmm… Not much has changed actually. Except that I wear shoes now. Even inside, I always have house slippers on.

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Writing is… crafting feelings and emotions and events into words so that other people can live in your imagination WITH YOU. AHHHHH!

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Drawing is… play! No, more seriously… For me, it’s a way of showing how I see and process the world and my life and times into images. Like writing, it’s taking a subjective reality and putting it into a framework that makes it accessible to a wider audience. If you do this well, it’s pure MAGIC!  If not, keep going at it. We’re all works in progress!

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Reading is… an adventure!  It’s the other end of the journey… being in someone else’s imagination, benefitting from their perspective and knowledge and craft in writing. You can travel, you can be other people, you can love, laugh, cry… I mean, is there anything better?!

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Books are… hard work to make, but worth it in the end! Books take so many rounds of changes and edits. So, so, so many. So, if you want to make books, you can’t be too impatient. I’ve always been pretty impatient and I’ve learned to slow down  and stay with the process in book-making. If I can do it, you can probably do it too.

You can and should have FUN and see where the story takes you.

Did you know… that it’s never too late to learn something new?

You can find me… on Instagram @samwedelich.

Get to Know… Mae Respicio!

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Mae and her newest novel, Any Day With You.

My name is… Mommy or Mom—but yelled super loudly from the opposite end of the house! That, or Mae Respicio (Res-pee-cee-yo). You can hear a pronunciation here!

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Picture of Mae’s skateboarding 12-year-old, because he thinks it’s cool that Jarrett Lerner, whose books he loves, also skateboards.

I am… an author of middle grade fiction, an avid cupcake eater, and a proud Hufflepuff. My newest MG novel is called Any Day With You.

As a kid… my mom made me write in a journal so she could check my spelling (she was a teacher) and while it wasn’t my favorite thing at first… eventually that practice stuck! I’m still an avid journaler, which helps me in so many ways—from processing life’s moments, to finding little gems of inspiration that I can expand in my work.

Writing is… the thing I’ve always done and have always wanted to do. I’ve done every kind of writing imaginable—communications writing for different companies, writing personal essays (mainly around the joys and perils parenthood), and writing on-air promotions for news stations… but I’m so happy to have found a voice in writing books for kids.

Reading is… joy!

Books are… everything. They’ve been a part of me ever since I can remember—they’ve given me escape, entertainment, laughs, cries, and support in every part of my life from childhood through adulthood. It was probably inevitable I’d end up working with books in some capacity. One of my greatest #MomBrags is how much my kids love reading. Honestly, it thrills me every time I see them immersed in a book!

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One of Mae’s kids during DEAR (“drop everything and read”) time.

Did you know… the record for eating the most cupcakes in the shortest time is 29 cupcakes in 30 seconds?! I wonder if that person was a writer on deadline…

You can find me… posting about #MGLit and #MomFails (with the occasional #MomBrag) on Twitter and Instagram—or please reach out and say hello via my website! I love hearing from readers.

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Mae’s son, who without prompting from Mom, book-talked Any Day With You during his class Zoom (definitely a laugh-cry joyful moment!).

Get to Know… Kit Rosewater!

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My name is… Kit Rosewater! Some people think that’s a pen name, but it’s my real name too! My maiden name was Watters and my partner’s was Rose, and when we got married we legally combined our last names to be Rosewater! I wish I had a derby name to share… I trained to be a roller derby referee but never got an official derby name. In 2018 I was briefly on a breakdancing crew, and my crew name was KitKat. If I were to lace up my skates again as a ref, I think my derby name would be KitKat, and my roller derby motto would be “Break me off a piece!”

I am a… children’s book author! A shenanigans-starter! A dog-howling-instigator! I am many things, and have tried many things in my life. Before writing books became my career, I worked as a children’s bookseller. Before that, I was a middle school teacher in theatre and English! I have a master’s degree in Children’s Literature and once wanted to be a college professor. But being an author has been my dream from the start. Maybe one day I’ll add illustrator to that title!

As a kid, I was… always imagining new games. I loved letting my imagination build new friends and pets and secret hideaways. My sister and I worked on building a castle in our backyard after school and on weekends. We never got the walls higher than a few inches, but we made a terrific moat to keep intruders out! I had invisible friends who followed me around like Cloud Dragon and Rosie the Pink Dog. I was also constantly making books out of scrap paper. I loved holding my stories as real objects rather than just ideas floating back and forth across my brainfolds.

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Writing is… something I do to escape, to contemplate, to think critically. I need to write stories the way people need to eat food. Taking characters on journeys fills me with a rush of excitement and energy and passion. Writing is also something I wasn’t inherently “good” at. I’m always learning how to tell stories in new ways that compel readers. Writing is a lifelong journey for me. I hope I never stop improving and changing the way I make books!

Drawing is… something I do for fun right now. I like to draw portraits with colored pencils. My favorite parts to draw are hair strands whipping around in the wind! Right now I have a notebook full of drawings I keep to myself. I would like to learn more about how to draw figures for children’s books, and one day illustrate my own graphic novel or chapter book series!

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Reading is… something I loved from when I was little. Learning how to read the alphabet was like cracking the coolest code ever. I remember reading books like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Hop on Pop for the first time and feeling so powerful. I still feel powerful when I read. I’m amazed that I can be waiting in line at the post office, pull out a book, and suddenly be transported into another world! I recommend that everyone take a book with them when they go out. It’s so much more fun to read than scroll through phone messages while waiting for the cinema flick to start, or for your food to get to the table at a restaurant.

Books are… PURE MAGIC. Books are incredible. Books are everything. I wanted to write books from the beginning because I realized they could be portals, windows, and mirrors to anywhere. One of my favorite tropes in stories is when a specific book has powers… because I actually think that all books have powers!

Did you know… that while I was growing up, I also wanted to be a wildlife conservationist? In middle school I would wander through the desert plains behind my house and catch horned lizards and snakes. My idol was Steve Irwin, known as The Crocodile Hunter. Steve didn’t hunt crocodiles though–he cared for them and helped relocate them when they were in danger. He passed away in an accident when I was a teenager, but I had always dreamed of meeting him and working at his zoo in Australia. Now I write about the adventures I thought I would go on way back when. And who knows, maybe I’ll still go on some of those adventures someday!

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You can find me… barking out the window with my dog Sadie. Or climbing up the Sandia mountain crest in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Okay, I’m not always on that mountain, or even at my office window. But I am always online. You can learn a lot more about me and my books at kitrosewater.com, and you can catch me on Twitter or Instagram at @kitrosewater!

Get to Know… Vicky Fang!

My name is… Vicky Fang!

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Photo credit: Lindsay Wiser.

I am a… children’s book author. A product designer. An Aries. A dragon. An introvert. An idealist.  

As a kid, I was… a goody goody. I hated breaking the rules or being in trouble. (But that doesn’t mean I never got in trouble!) I wanted to be a painter, and I played piano, violin, and tennis. I was also simultaneously a child model and an awkward little kid, which meant I usually wore some wacky 80’s clothing that really didn’t fit me properly. And of course, I loved reading—especially fantasy.

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Me, as a kid.

Writing is… like trying to put together a puzzle where the pieces keep changing shape! It’s so hard, but so rewarding. I love being able to create something from thoughts and words with the potential to reach and inspire kids around the world. 

Reading is… a rediscovered treasure. As a child, I read all the time. Then at some point in college, I decided to read only plays (I was a theatre major.) This was a terrible idea!! I stopped reading for a long time, until I finally returned to books and reading whatever I felt like. Phew.

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Visiting my publisher for the first time.

Books are… magic, escape, insight, fun, comfort, peace, ideas, and adventure.

Did you know… I am a debut author with five STEAM books for kids coming out this year! Layla and the Bots (Scholastic early chapter book series), Invent-a-Pet (Sterling picture book), and I Can Code (Sourcebooks board book series.)

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My 2020 books.

You can find me… on Twitter at @fangmous, on Instagram at @fangmousbooks, or on my website at www.vickyfang.com. Come say hi!