Here on the Big Kids Writing for Little Kids blog, we're celebrating this week of gratitude with another Rising Stars "Double Feature!"
To close out this crazy and unprecedented year, I wanted to take some time to speak with my fellow kidlit creators who are working their tails off to birth their beautiful book babies into the world. Hence the inspiration for the interviews in my Rising Stars in KidLit blog series. These interviews will cast a light on the wonderful work of these pre-published, unagented authors and author-illustrators who are destined to be stars! Be sure to visit the link to my blog below in order to read the full interview, and don't forget to spread the word to share about their awesomeness!
Meet Rising Star
Author-Illustrator Marci Chorpash!
Welcome, Marci! I'm so excited to have you here and chat about your art and writing!
AD: Let’s start with a speed round…
Eloise, with illustrations by Hilary Knight. It’s super difficult to narrow it down to three!
AD: Okay, now down to the serious stuff….
Please dish us the dirt on who you are and your journey into the fabulous world of children’s books.
MC: I am someone who deeply cares and wants to do positive things for the world. I’m optimistic and know the power of words and pictures. Children’s books give me hope for the future. An important part of my journey was when a friend of my brother asked if I would illustrate a book she had written. She was a published author, and I loved creating art so it sounded like a great idea. There are many chapters to this story and it was a wild ride. The greatest takeaways were that I ended up finding SCBWI, fell in love with kid books and found the kidlit community. I learned so much while making and promoting this book, even though it was done in a nontraditional sense. Children’s books have been an important part of my life ever since.
AD: I love that you mention the idea of the power of words and pictures. I have always felt the same and know how powerful of an outlet they were and still are to me. Funny how saying yes to that first project opened up the door to your journey into kidlit. It's a good reminder that sometimes we have to take a chance, even if we are unsure of where the outcome will lead us.
AD: Did you always know you wanted to be an author-illustrator? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?
MC: I’ve always had many interests, especially creative ones. So deep down, I knew I should be doing something artistic, but didn’t know what. Nevertheless, I was in a hurry to become financially independent. So at a young age, I started working at an electronic component distributor and was selling my art on the side. This lasted for many years until I finally decided to make a plan, save up, and focus on doing what I love.
AD: What topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing/art? Favorite genres you like to write in or favorite art materials/techniques?
MC: I love working on projects that I find humor in, and I am known to laugh at my own jokes.
I also enjoy nonfiction, especially learning about other cultures or about someone whose resilience resulted in something positive. As a child, I remember being obsessed with Helen Keller and teaching myself sign language.
AD: Breaking into the publishing industry is not easy! What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far? What have you done to persevere?
MC: It can be tough to come to terms with the amount of time it takes. Not knowing how things will play out is challenging and exciting at the same time. All I know for sure, is that this is what makes me happy, and I can’t imagine life without writing and making art. So I just keep moving forward.
AD: Yes! The happiness factor is so important. When I'm writing and making art, sometimes I can get lost in creation for hours. It's almost meditative. This doesn't always happen, ha, but when it does, I'm reminded that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be!
AD: As creators (and humans), we tend to focus on the flaws of our creations or areas for improvement. This helps us grow and develop, but we need not forget the many things we are doing well. With this in mind, what has been your biggest accomplishment or something you are most proud of thus far on your writing/illustration journey?
MC: I’m proud of little things that happened throughout the years to make me stronger. Like showing my work even though I was terrified. Or winning a portfolio contest even though I was convinced my work was awful. Here’s an important experience that helped affirm I was on the right track: Many years ago, at the National Conference in New York, SCBWI would hold an exhibit with original illustrations provided by the attendees. There were many beautiful pieces. I remember picking up my painting after the show to find several notes attached. Three were regarding interest in purchasing the work, and another was a compliment from an agent. When I arrived back in Los Angeles I had a message from an art director at a magazine who wanted to use the image to illustrate an article. Even though I decided to keep the painting and the magazine didn’t publish the article it felt like an amazing accomplishment.
AD: Congrats on those accolades, Marci. In an industry where feedback is sometimes hard to come by, it's nice to get nuggets of praise to know you are on the right track. Every step forward is worth celebrating! :)
AD: In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author/illustrator? What makes your art/writing unique to you?
MC: I’m enjoying the journey and excited to be making an effort to grow. I think that’s a strength. My personal experiences and point of view will always make my work unique to me. I have had difficult times and great ones, too. I’ve done lots of traveling and tend to surround myself with many different types of people. These experiences influence my writing and illustration.
AD: What inspires your work?
MC: It’s difficult to put into words. I never know when inspiration will come knocking. It could happen while going about my day or trying out a new art supply. Sometimes it happens when I least expect it.
AD: Tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck?
MC: My creative process includes research, sketching and experimentation. Getting stuck is part of it. I try to push through by taking breaks, creating something just for fun, or by eating sunflower seeds! Being with with other creative people, walking in nature, looking at art or reading can help too. I notice my ideas flow easier once I start creating instead of overthinking things.
AD: Yum! I love sunflower seeds but have never tried eating them when feeling creatively stuck, ha! Maybe that's the magic I've been missing!
AD: What sorts of things have been most integral in your growth as an author-illustrator?
MC: I get a lot out of taking classes and teaching art to others. I believe in lifelong learning and have a great support system where I can give feedback and get it too.
AD: What advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?
MC: Here are a few words based on advice I give to myself: Keep moving forward, you’re getting closer, push through the tough times they are temporary and remember to break down large goals into small tasks.
AD: Wise words, Marci! I especially love the reminder that tough times are temporary. This is easy to forget as difficulties can feel permanent and all-consuming but life is always changing. I believe this comes from the book "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff " by Richard Carlson, but I've learned to ask myself this simple question to put things in perspective...will this matter five years from now....ten years from now....? Most of the time, I can answer no, and this helps me persevere.
Marci, thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself and contributing to the Rising Stars in Kidlit series! We can’t wait to read your stories and see your work in the hands of young readers! Feel free to drop a comment below to support Marci and her work.
Stay tuned Friday for our special "Double Feature" where we get to meet another talented Californian creator, and be sure to subscribe so you don't miss out and follow along on Twitter at #RisingStarsinKidlit!
If you are interested in being featured in the Rising Stars in KidLit series, please complete the following Getting to Know You form to be considered. Stay safe and healthy everyone! Thanks for reading!
Who Am I?
Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. Amanda is the author of the award-winning picture book, 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag, Moonlight Memories (summer, 2023) and a yet to be announced forthcoming title. She also has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology: Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. Amanda has over ten years of experience as a classroom teacher and was selected as Massachusetts Secondary Art Educator of the Year. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her family and her rescue pup, Cora. You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art.