Thursday, August 27, 2020

Interview with Marissa Valdez - 2020 SCBWI Summer Spectacular Showcase Honor Winner

© Marissa Valdez

Hi there Marissa! Congratulations on your Honor! How does it feel winning among so many other talented artists?

Oh wow, really unbelievable! I’m still in shock because there were so many amazing portfolios in the showcase. So feeling very grateful, lucky, and just a little bit validated about my own work. 


You should feel validated. You are fabulous! What kind of projects are you working on now?

While I can’t say anything specific about it yet, I am suuuper excited to start illustrating the first book in an early chapter book series! It’ll be my first time illustrating spots for a chapter book, so I’m pumped to dive right into the process. I’m also trying to write more of my own stories. I gained a lot of mental writing momentum from the Summer Spectacular talks so I’m hoping to channel that energy into a pile of new book dummies.


Oooh! That's exciting! Is there any type of illustration work that you’re hoping for in the near future?

I’m the type of person who loves to do a bit of everything! I’m hoping to illustrate more picture books in the future for sure, and to write and illustrate more of my original ideas. But I’d also love to illustrate middle grade covers, spot illustrations, kid’s magazine covers, children’s toys and oh! Puzzles! I’m not sure why but I’d love to design a children’s puzzle one day. I mean, who doesn’t love puzzles?


I definitely love puzzles! Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  

Yes! I actually got this advice before I decided to focus on my illustration career but it’s pretty universal: take risks. Even if they’re small risks, like reaching out to an illustrator that you admire or attending your local SCBWI chapter meeting, constantly take risks! I found out early on that it was near impossible to accomplish my goals, like getting an agent or winning contests, without taking those little risks along the way, and I had to persevere even if I felt anxious or especially sweaty during the process.

© Marissa Valdez

That's great advice! Any one piece of bad advice?

Oof, one bad piece of advice I’ve gotten is that there’s only one way to create a picture book. I’m finding out that there’s about ten million different ways to create a picture book and it really depends on what works best for you. Picture books are surprisingly flexible and it’s great to think of new ways to push their boundaries. Books like Dan Santat’s ARE WE THERE YET? and Adam Rubin’s and Daniel Salmieri’s HIGH FIVE are great examples of picture books that have pushed that boundary for me.


I love that! What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?  

Watching LeUyen Pham talk about how she designs her picture books totally blew my mind. My hand started cramping taking notes; she was giving so much good advice so quickly that I couldn’t keep up! When she started talking about keeping a “line” for your eye to follow through a picture book, I felt like I was seeing page spreads in a whole new light! It was really inspiring. 


I'm still digesting it all. What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

One book that’s stuck with me since I can remember is AESOP’S FABLES by Charles Santore. I used to pour over his illustrations like I had a little art museum laying in my lap; the book even included a fold out poster page that I remember being about as tall as me. I always loved the expressions he illustrated onto different animal characters because they could tell the whole story on their own. That emotion and evocative storytelling through illustration is something I strive to include in my own work now. 

© Marissa Valdez 

Where can we find you online?

You can find me on Instagram at @marissaarts, Twitter at @marissaillo and feel free to peruse my portfolio at Also feel free to reach out to me just to chat, I could talk about children’s books all day!

Me too friend! See you 'round!


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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