Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Author Sylvia Liu Talks Mentor Texts


By Carrie Charley Brown

I first interacted with Sylvia Liu through the 12 x 12 picture book challenge in 2013. Since that time, we have participated in many of the same writing challenges. Sylvia also partners with Elaine Kiely Kearns to bring us KidLit 411. I was so excited to hear that Sylvia had won the Lee & Low New Voices Award. Now that her debut picture book is here, we can celebrate and learn from her, as well!

Thanks for being here, Sylvia! Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  -If so, how? 

I do, for both writing and illustrating. When you’re an art student, you learn by copying the masters. So for writing, I often type out the text of picture books I admire. Doing so helps me figure out the cadence of the language, the length of the sentences, and the feel of the words.

My friend Kathryn Ault Noble also suggested copying the illustrations by making thumbnails of great stories. I’ve done this with many books, and it’s an excellent exercise that helps illustrators learn about pacing, page turns, and variation of spreads. 
  
How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer? 

By paying attention to the picture books that really move me or make me laugh, I have figured out my sensibility as a writer. I read a lot of picture books that are fun, fine, but fleeting. When I find one that causes me to pause, I notice what about them I like. For example, sometimes the lyrical language hooks me. Other times it’s the intricacies of the illustrations or the off-kilter view of the world. I expect all of these to influence my storytelling.

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of your debut picture book, A Morning With Grandpa?

Funny enough, no. I was inspired by my dad practicing qi gong (a Chinese mind-body practice involving breathing to move your qi, or life energy, through your body) while on a family vacation. That morphed into a story about a grandfather teaching his granddaughter tai chi and she in turn teaching him yoga.

About A MORNING WITH GRANDPA   

In A MORNING WITH GRANDPA, Mei Mei eagerly joins her grandpa in practicing tai chi. As Gong Gong teaches her the slow, graceful movements, Mei Mei enthusiastically does them with her own flair. When Mei Mei takes a turn, teaching Gong Gong the yoga she learned in school, 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. Kirkus Reviews said: “Liu’s lively text and Forshay’s playful illustrations effectively capture a true-to-life relationship that transcends cultures and generations.” Kirkus.

Congratulations, again, Sylvia! Sylvia is giving away one copy of A MORNING WITH GRANDPA. Follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below. To jump on Sylvia's blog tour bus, visit HERE. To read more ReFoReMo goodness from Sylvia, visit the KidLit 411 reflection post from 2015. 
© K. Woodard Photography
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 oceans and the environment at the U.S. Department of Justice and the nonprofit group Oceana, and now she paints, draws, and writes for children. She is inspired by aliens, cephalopods, kraken, and the ocean. 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 the kid lit resource site, www.kidlit411.com.





47 comments:

  1. What a wonderful story...I can't wait to read it! I, too, type out my favorite mentor texts. I've learned so much this way, and can study them for different aspects each time I return to them as well.

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    1. It's interesting to inhabit another author's brain that way, isn't it?

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  2. Sylvia, it's so exciting to see you and your book represented on so many different kid-lit sites and blogs this week! It's awesome how you are giving back to these communities by sharing your experiences and expertise and it's also wonderful to see the support you're receiving from these communities as well! Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Cheryl, for being part of that support. I appreciate it!

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  3. A PB with lively text, great illustrations to be read aloud by generations what could be better!

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  4. Love when someone who does so much for the Kidlit community writes a book that will do so much for the greater community, too. I've been reading the reviews & eagerly counting down the days until my copy arrives in the mail.

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    1. Thanks so much for your support & friendship.

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  5. Sylvia, it is finally your day, your morning. All the best to your book baby. We cheer you on w/yoga and tai chi.

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    1. Thank you Kathy. Looking forward to returning the favor one day!

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  6. Congrats, Sylvia! My Nonna lived with us when I was growing up, and our relationship and her stories were so important to me. I think I have a kid/grandparent PB inside me somewhere too, since I really do love reading them! And thank you for sharing, Carrie!

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    1. I hope to see it on a shelf one day!

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  7. I look forward to reading this with my kiddos. Intergenerational stories are so important.

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  8. Congratulations! I love sweet books about time spent with grandparents.

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  9. I guess your grandfather was your mentor text for this book. I love the illustrations. They set a soft and gentle mood!

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    1. Thanks so much- I love Christina Forshay's illustrations too!

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  10. I love that Sylvia uses mentor texts for both writing and illustrations! I do something similar but not often enough. Hooray for Sylvia's win! I will be using this book as *my* mentor text!

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    1. Thank you Teresa. I can't wait to see your books on the shelves one day.

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  11. Sylvia, I loved learning about your writing journey! What a sweet book you've written--a story that grandparents will love to read to their grandkids. I love how it introduces kids to YOGA and Tai Chi also.

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  12. Sylvia, I appreciate how you share your heart and talents with the wide community of us stumbling, eager learners. Thank you and congrats on a beautiful debut PB. Jill Giesbrecht

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Jill.

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  13. Sylvia, Thanks so much for sharing with us. I loved reading about your journey and the entire writing process. I appreciate your experiences and shout out a great big, "Congratulations!"

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  14. I'd never thought of using mentor texts for illustrations... thumbnailing books we love is a brilliant idea!

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  15. Congratulations, Syvia! I'm so excited for you!

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  16. Congrats on your book! It looks like a great one.

    When I was young, my father started yoga. He did it early every morning and sometimes I joined him. He is now 78 and still does it every morning. He is very fit.

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  17. Thanks for sharing how you use mentor texts. I need to dive into this and type out my favorite books to feel the words come out of my fingers. Congrats on your book. It looks wonderful.

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  18. I think it's interesting how the idea for your story came from your own life. Maybe the stories we end up writing, at least at first, turn out to be those that are most meaningful to us?

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  19. Sylvia - Great advice about working with mentor books for both text and illustrations. Look forward to reading your new book.

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  20. I cannot wait to read this book.
    And, OK... I will start typing out PB text. I've heard it so many times but now I buy it. Thanks for the good advice.

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  21. Congratulations, Sylvia :) It warms my heart to see a story reflecting a relationship between grandparent and grandchild. My grandmother helped raise me and I feel blessed every day of my life because of her beautiful soul. Thank you for the tips and the inspiration!

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  22. Great inspiration, Sylvia. I love inter-generational stories. Looking forward to reading A MORNING WITH GRANDPA.

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  23. Such a wonderful story. And I love the idea of doing thumbnails of the mentor texts. :-)

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  24. Congrats Sylvia. Just so, so happy for you!

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  25. This book is sweetness! Thanks so much for sharing your view on mentor texts, Sylvia! Best wishes with the rest of your book tour!

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  26. Wishing you much success with this title and many more books in your future! Thanks for your work with kidlit411. You help so many working in the field of children's books.

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  27. That's a great idea to "copy" illustrations from picture books. Congrats again!

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  28. Congratulations Sylvia! And thank you for sharing your wonderful wisdom!

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  29. HIp, hip, hooray for you, Sylvia. As an Oma [Grandparent], spending time with the seven grands is special. A MORNING WITH GRANDPA sounds like an endearing book to read with the grandkids. Thank you for sharing how you use mentor texts.
    ~Suzy Leopold

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  30. Thank you for sharing your techniques for assembling powerful craft tools, Sylvia, and congratulations! Can't wait to read the book.

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  31. Thanks, Sylvia and Carrie.

    I love your comments on how mentor texts influence your work, Sylvia. I've yet to read your book...but soon!

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  32. I love that you told us that this started out one way and ended up another.

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  33. So excited for you, Sylvia! Thank you both Carrie and Sylvia for sharing your wisdom! :)

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  34. Looking forward to reading this!

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