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Three Questions with Joyce Wan: Advice For Young Writers and Illustrators, Goal-Setting and THE WHALE IN MY SWIMMING POOL (FSG)

Joyce Wan designed her first greeting card when she was in first grade for a city-wide greeting card design contest. The design won first place and was subsequently sold through a major department store chain. Twenty years later that design would inspire a design studio called Wanart whose products and books featuring Joyce’s art are now sold world wide.

I first met Joyce at the SCBWI Summer Convention in Los Angeles, before I got my first children’s book contract, and I so appreciated how welcoming and encouraging she was when I was such a nervous newbie. 

You can find Joyce on Wanart.comFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Synopsis for THE WHALE IN MY SWIMMING POOL (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015): 

One sunny day, a little boy heads outside for a swim, but his pool is already taken. There’s a big whale in the water and it’s not budging! The boy tries everything to get the whale to leave. Nothing seems to work. Not fetch. Not tag. Not even offering his allowance. What’s a boy to do? A picture book about a boy who makes the best of an unusual situation. This colorful whale of a tale from the talented Joyce Wan is sure to inspire giggles from little guppies!

1. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it? 

This is the shelf in my studio containing all the copies of my published books that I use for promotional purposes. I’m still amazed that my first book only came out in 2009. Now, 6 years later, there are 10 different books on that shelf with several more to come in the coming years. The road to getting published can be a long, hard one but once the ball gets rolling, a lot can happen in a short amount of time (I’m sure you can relate Debbie!). I feel blessed every time I look at this shelf.

2. What advice do you have for young writers and illustrators?

Keep a sketchbook or notebook with you at all times to jot down all your ideas. No ideas are too silly or simple. I did not submit my book YOU ARE MY CUPCAKE to publishers until a year after developing the concept. I kept worrying that the idea was maybe too simple. It has since gone on to sell over a couple hundred thousand copies and has turned into a whole line of board books with Scholastic. I often wonder how many wonderful ideas never see the light of day because the creators themselves didn’t give it a chance.

Another tip is to set regular, realistic deadlines for yourself. (ie: complete one drawing/painting every week or complete a rough draft of a story every month, etc.) I am a self-trained illustrator but I started my illustration career with my own greeting card business. What helped me develop a style and improve my drawing skills was I would set regular deadlines for myself (ie: 12 greeting cards every month). Not only did my drawing skills improve but I was able to make the overwhelming task of creating an entire greeting card collection seem more feasible.

I think creative people often feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by self-doubt and the emptiness of a blank page. THINK BIG, ACT SMALL, but ACT nonetheless-ONE STEP AT A TIME towards your goals.

3. What are you excited about right now?

I’m excited about wrapping up a few illustration projects including a new picture book series called PEEP & EGG by Laura Gehl and PUG MEETS PIG by Sue Gallion so that I can switch gears and get back into some of my own author/illustrator projects. The best thing about my job is that no two days are the same.


For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.

Also see Donalyn Miller’s Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts