© 2020 Amanda Davis Art
Cheers to our last Rising Star of 2020! It's been a blast getting to know so many passionate storytellers. Thank you to the creators who took time to speak with me and put yourselves out there. Thank you to all of you who've taken the time to read the series, support these creators, and learn more about the different paths and journeys into kidlit. There were so many marvelous Rising Stars to highlight that the series will be returning in January. Stay tuned!
The Rising Stars in KidLit blog series casts a light on the wonderful work of pre-published, unagented authors and author-illustrators who are destined to be stars!
Meet Rising Star
Author-Illustrator Steve Moises!
Steve Moises is a Latinx illustrator and writer based in Southern California. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Film and Visual Media from the University of California, Riverside. Steve was born in Los Angeles to Salvadoran immigrants. His unique childhood saw him live in multiple cities across the country before settling back in Los Angeles. His early exposure to comic book art and diverse populations greatly shaped his sense of purpose in life. Steve has a passion for developing colorful characters and stories that explore wildlife and indigenous folklore. He's the editor of the Latinx Kid-Lit Corner at www.latinostories.com. When Steve is not illustrating or writing, he enjoys snowboarding, skateboarding and spending time at the beach.
Steve is currently seeking agent representation.
Welcome, Steve! Thanks for joining me for the Rising Stars in KidLit Series. I can't wait to hear more about your work, your inspiration, and your projects!
AD: Let’s start with a speed round…
AD: Heck yes to fearlessness!
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.
SM: My family came to the States from a rural town in El Salvador. El Salvador is surrounded by tropical rainforests. My parents were used to roaming around on horseback and washing their clothes along a river before making Southern California their permanent home. I was born years after they settled in Los Angeles. Growing up in a Salvadoran American household I was always fascinated by our heritage and tales of the past. It’s been a great source for my creativity. The rainforest, it’s natural wonders, and our ties to indigenous culture often filled my imagination with excitement and adventure. The other major source of inspiration would come from reading Greek and Roman mythology throughout grade school.
As far as setting my career path toward producing children's content, the road leads back to my family. Both my older siblings have had successful careers in education since I was 8 years old. They were and continue to be my role models. Without them, I don’t think I would have had such a positive outlook on life. Their hard work and success motivated me to pursue my dreams of utilizing my talents to help others. I believe books and entertainment are powerful ways to educate and empower people. It’s what motivates me to do what I do.
AD: Thanks for sharing, Steve! It sounds like family was and continues to be an important staple in your life and has helped build your foundation and inspiration as a creator. What a special gift that is! I certainly see elements of your Salvadoran heritage in the characters and places you depict in your art, too!
AD: Did you always know you wanted to be an author-illustrator? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?
SM: Yes. I’ve had an inkling since the age of 6. At the time, I considered my older brother to be the greatest illustrator in the world. He would often read comic books and draw my favorite cartoon characters. It was cool, and I vividly remember the day he gave me a pencil and paper to draw beside him. That was the key moment. A unique feeling came over me, and I quickly excelled at sketching popular cartoon characters. Since then, the urge to draw and create never let up. I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Film and Visual Media from the University of California Riverside. I consider my first real job to have been teaching 2nd grade English at a private school in Bolivia (South America). It was the summer before my senior year in college. After college, I was working on independent films and TV pilots as a camera assistant, while occasionally directing commercials and promotional videos. Unfortunately, the 2008 recession quickly derailed my creative career. I spent many years after that taking on administrative jobs, while I kept illustrating and seeking freelance gigs on my down time. January 2020 is when I finally cut ties with my administrative career and set sights on creating original content for children and young adults.
AD: That's so cool how engrained your first memory of drawing is. Hooray to taking the plunge into full-time kidlit creator! That takes courage!
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?
SM: I mostly focus on adventure tales and coming of age stories. Currently, I’m obsessed with nature fantasy, indigenous folklore, and concepts that depict beach culture. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. I was 3 years old when I was jumping off the diving boards of backyard pools. I’m what you call an adrenaline junky. I love skating, snowboarding, and water sports. Artistically, I’m a mixed media guy. My favorite materials to work with are watercolors and digital apps on my iPad. Digital tools are insane. I love to use Procreate and Adobe Photoshop to add organic textures and bright colors to my artwork.
AD: The things that inspire you come out full force in your art, which scream nature, laid-back vibes, and FUN! I love the unique graphic style and chalky textures that complement and balance the geometric shapes and lines in your work. Totally rad :)
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?
SM: I can’t say I’ve broken into the industry yet. I’m a freelancer who has had a chance to form relationships with published authors and film producers. Many have said there is an element of luck to breaking into the industry as a writer/illustrator. I’ve also heard on more than two occasions that if I work hard and stick around long enough, there’s a good chance luck will find me. I have no trouble sticking around. I’m in love with the process of studying my craft and creating original IP.
My biggest challenges have been marketing myself and getting in front of agents and publishers that don’t shun Latino creators. I’ve never been much of a sales person, but I’m now doing things to change that.
AD: Marketing is so hard! Kudos to you for diving in and putting yourself out there! And yes, sticking around is key to success!! Keep at it!
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?
SM: There’s nothing quite like the thrill of producing and directing a well budgeted TV commercial with a world class film crew and talent. I experienced that early in my creative career. However, considering the ups and downs of my career and how much I have grown as a person since then, I’ve never been more excited to be working with a team of editors at www.latinostories.com. I’m the newest member on the team and editor of the Latinx Kid Lit Corner. I’m totally psyched out of my mind to be writing features on some of the best picture books. I get to share my appreciation and love for the rock stars of Latinx Kid Lit.
AD: Woohoo! Congrats on your contributions to Latinx Kid Lit corner. It's been fun reading your reviews and getting exposed to some amazing creators. I loved your most recent review of Zombies Don't Eat Veggies by Megan and Jorge Lacera HERE.
AD: In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author/illustrator? What makes your art/writing unique to you?
SM: My biggest strength is having a vast imagination when it comes to developing characters that feel authentic. As a child, my family often moved to different towns in search of better work and housing. Before I graduated high school in Southern California, I had experienced living in Nevada and across the country in Columbia, South Carolina. I attended a total of 3 elementary schools, 4 middle schools and 2 high schools. The experience of regularly having to adapt to new places and make new friends helped me see what made communities of people similar and unique compared to others. Early on, I realized people could talk differently and carry different attitudes, but I think they all generally desired the same things. I concluded these common desires to be- the desire to experience excitement or something new, to be heard or acknowledged, and to have memorable communal experiences. I also had a habit of paying close attention to people’s mannerisms and speech. It helped me to assimilate in new environments and form bonds rather quickly. This may sound strange, but it was fun. Like being an actor, I studied a role, analyzed a setting, and committed to my part. These experiences and reflections naturally carry onto my current creative methods for creating characters in my stories.
AD: Wow! These are such powerful insights, Steve. It sounds like your experiences growing up deeply influenced your perspective on people and life. It'd be easy to focus on the challenges of moving and having to regularly adapt to new settings but you chose to see the positive aspects of experiencing new places, new people, and new cultures. I often reflect on how my experiences growing up shaped who I am. Although some of those experiences were hard, they made me who I am today, and I'm not sure who I would be without them.
AD: What inspires your work?
SM: My affection with people and nature inspire my work. Deep down, I want people to fall in love with nature and realize our natural world is in danger. Deforestation and pollution are threatening biodiversity and the overall health of humanity. I also feel strongly about advocating for greater diversity in mainstream literature and entertainment. Children as much as adults need role models that reflect their culture and physiology. It’s no secret there’s a lack of content that features people of color as protagonists and strong leaders.
AD: These are such important ideas to explore in children's books. Thank you for tackling these topics that will help children and adults recognize the urgency in helping to maintain our precious land and resources while making sure the content in the stories we are reading accurately reflect our ever-changing and diverse world.
My motto is to “always be charging.”
AD: Tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck?
SM: My motto is to “always be charging.” I find creativity to be more about maintaining momentum than waiting for those moments of inspiration to strike. When I decide to take on a project, I grind out ideas. I make an effort to entertain the good ideas with the not so good ones. The goal is to do something every day until something clicks. I notice I struggle more when I think too much, rather than test whatever ideas seem relevant. Another helpful part of my creative process is putting together a mood board. I surround myself with similar sites and sounds of the things I want to create. This process also includes playing music or actually going out to participate in activities that are relevant to the themes and characters in my stories.
AD: I love that motto! I tend to overthink so this is a great reminder! I also love mood boards. It helps me keep going when inspiration and reminders surround me.
AD: What sorts of things have been most integral in your growth as an author-illustrator?
SM: Besides reading all sorts of books about highly successful creatives, there are two things I find to be most integral for my growth as an artist. 1.) Being true to my values/ Being authentic. 2) Maintaining a sense of childlike wonder.
To elaborate a little - The child in me never wants to stop exploring and having fun, no matter what. My values are the individuals and activities I love the most, and that bring me joy. Sticking to these things have made all the difference in helping me become more creative and productive consistently.
AD: Yes! It's so sad to see people grow up and lose that sense of wonder, curiosity, and creativity. I remember reading somewhere (I can't remember the source), that children smile up to 400 times a day, while adults only smile around 20 times a day. How crazy is that! I think that's a sure sign that we need to loosen up a little more and have some more fun :)
AD: What advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?
SM: I have two pieces of advice. First, really study the works of highly successful creators in your field of interest. Second, worry less about feeling inspired and get into the habit of drawing and writing regardless of the circumstances. Just do it and worry later. Not the other way around.
AD: Fabulous advice, Steve! Building habits is so important towards helping us achieve our goals. I'm still working on that :)
Thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself and contributing to the Rising Stars in Kidlit series, Steve! 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 Steve and his work. Stay tuned for next week where we get to meet another Rising Star in Kidlit, and be sure to subscribe so you don't miss out and follow along on Twitter at #RisingStarsinKidlit! Thank you!
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.