Meet the faculty of the 2021 Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference. We’ve asked all our faculty members to answer 4 quick questions so we can get to know them better.
LeUyen Pham, Author/Illustrator
LeUyen Pham is the award-winning and critically acclaimed illustrator of more than one hundred books for children. LeUyen (pronounced Lay-Win) is the New York Times bestselling illustrator of the Julianne Moore’s picture book series, Freckleface Strawberry, Kelly DiPucchio’s picture book Grace for President, and Shannon and Dean Hale’s middle grade series Princess in Black. LeUyen is also the illustrator of God’s Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look, the Vampirina Ballerina picture book series by Anne Marie Pace, and The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman. Her more recent books include Caldecott Honor Book Bear Came Along by Richard Morris and her self-authored Outside, Inside, a recollection of our year in lockdown. LeUyen is the author and illustrator of Big Sister Little Sister, There’s No Such Thing as Little, A Piece of Cake, All the Things I Love About You, and The Bear Who Wasn’t There. She has also contributed to the Piggy and Elephant Like Reading! book series with her book The Itchy Book. She is also the co-creator, along with Shannon Hale, of the groundbreaking bestselling graphic memoirs Real Friends and Best Friends.
Born in Vietnam, LeUyen and her family fled Vietnam in the final days of the Vietnam War. Growing up in Southern California, LeUyen always loved to doodle and draw, but her mother insisted she become a lawyer. For two years, LeUyen attended UCLA, where she majored in political science. Fortunately, the head of the art department spotted her artistic talent and helped her change course. LeUyen got an interview at the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, won a scholarship to pay the tuition, and spent the next three years in an accelerated program and earned a degree in illustration. Following school, LeUyen worked as a layout artist for DreamWorks Feature Animation, and illustrated books on the side. Her first picture book was Can You Do This, Old Badger? and was written by Eve Bunting. These days, LeUyen lives in Los Angeles with her husband Alex (who is also an artist), and their two adorable sons, Adrien and Leo. She also has a cat named Sardine and a gecko named Kumquat. She adores traveling and speaking, but given her way would spend all her time making Star Wars-themed birthday cakes.
Author/Illustrator LeUyen Pham
What attracted you to children’s books?
Ever since I was a child, I was attracted to books. As an immigrant, books provided passage into this foreign world and taught me how to exist. As an adult making books now, I can only hope that my books are doing the same for another child.
What’s the best part of your job?
Picture books are as close as you can get to a child. They sit in a child’s lap and speak directly to a child. The best ones are almost like hugs, assuring the child, “You’re alright. Sit here with me and let me tell you a story.” That’s what I do for a living. I make hugs.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Coming up with new ways of seeing things.
What’s the best piece of advice you were given that helped drive your career?
You get better by doing it, what it is, all the time. You don’t let a day pass without drawing or writing. It’s a privilege to make books, and those who are the most successful never lose sight of that, and work at it steadily every day.
Come see LeUyen Pham at the 2021 Austin SCBWI conference, May 1-2, 2021.