Monday, August 24, 2020

Interview with Kayla Harren - 2020 SCBWI Summer Spectacular Showcase Honor Winner

Art ©Kayla Harren

Congratulations Kayla on your Honor at the SCBWI Summer Conference! How does it feel winning the Honor among so many other talented artists?

It feels like I got very lucky. 

I would also add that you are very deserving.

I spent a few hours looking through all of the portfolios in the showcase and immediately had to go follow so many of the artists on Instagram. It is inspiring seeing everyone’s unique style. There are so many wonderful portfolios in this showcase, I still can’t believe mine is listed in the Honors next to Leanne Hatch, Rob Sayegh Jr., and Marissa Valdez.

They are pretty fabulous, aren't they?! What kind of projects are you working on now?

I am illustrating the picture book A Teacher Like You, the third book in the “Like You” series written by Frank Murphy and published by Sleeping Bear Press. I am also finishing up a book with GP Putnam’s Sons titled Calvin about a transgender child’s first day of school and the supportive parents, teachers, and friends who rally around him. Both books will be released 2021.

How exciting! Sounds like you are busy! Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?

I would love to illustrate middle grade covers and make black and white chapter book illustrations.


Wonderful! Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  

The best advice I heard was very simple: Keep making art. The only way to improve a skill is to keep practicing. Even when my book dummies were consistently being rejected and my artwork wasn’t making it into gallery shows and I wasn’t being hired to illustrate, I kept drawing and learning and making art. Eventually I got better, but if I had stopped making art, I never would have had the opportunity to improve.

Art ©Kayla Harren

That's inspiring. I'm glad you kept at it. Any one piece of bad advice that you've been given?

I don’t think I have been given any bad advice. Advice is a tough thing in general. Each person has their own unique struggles and everybody is at a different stage in their lives and careers. There really isn’t one perfect piece of advice because everybody needs to hear something different depending on their personality and goals.


Good point. What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?  

I didn’t write this down, so it is probably a misquote, but I love what Phillip Pullman had to say about success. Three things play a part in an author’s career: persistence, talent, and luck. The only thing you can control is persistence. This has definitely been true in my experience. 


It was definitely a theme of the conference! What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

I loved reading the Babysitter Club series and especially loved the paintings on the covers of the original books. I loved the picture books Little Chick’s Easter Treasure, Aunt Isabel Tells A Good One, and Rainbow Fish. 

Art ©Kayla Harren

Where can we find you online?

My website is and I post sketches and details on my Instagram @kaylaharren

Awesome! Thanks Kayla! We look forward to seeing more of your work!



Interview by Meridth McKean Gimbel a kidlit writer, artist, & champion taco cruncher who is currently building a time machine. They are also represented by Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt. You can follow their work at:

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