Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Illustrator Info Vashti Harrison Success Story


You may remember Vashti Harrison’s winning piece from Draw This in July, 2016. She’s had lot’s of exciting news since winning Draw This, as you’ll see here!  Vashti Harrison Photo

You are an illustrator, filmmaker, and you do work in animation and fashion. In the midst of all that, when and how did you get interested in children's books? Do you find that your various interests inform each other?

I went to Calarts—a school Disney-famous for its animation program—not to study animation. But, I did take a couple classes while I was getting my MFA in film. It got me drawing again. I wasn't very good, so I made it a personal goal to draw every day. I had a TON of ideas for movies that I would never have the budget to produce, scripts I had written that would go nowhere, so around that time I had an inkling of an idea to make them into kids books. It wasn’t until a few years later that that idea seemed far more possible. I’m lucky to have found this career path, because before I was all over the place. I've worked as a graphic designer, as a production coordinator on a tv show, I have a background in film and photography, I write, I make jewelry and I love fashion illustration. I had to remove some of this stuff from my website because it was too confusing for people when I was looking for a job. I get inspired by a lot of things and try to learn new metiers for expressing those interests. They typically don’t overlap one another but they all work to inform my aesthetic and understanding of story.


Where along your path did you find SCBWI, and how did you decide to submit a piece to Draw This?

I had heard mention of SCBWI here and there in podcasts and Skillshare videos but for a long time I really didn’t think I had the chops to be an illustrator. After getting laid off, illustration became my main source of income, so in April 2016, I decided to take the plunge into a freelance career. So, at that point I knew I had to join. I was enthusiastic to get involved. I read up on all of the grants and competitions, I listened to all of the podcasts, and read through “The Book.” Right on the front page of the website was a banner for Draw This. I submitted immediately. A few weeks later I was beyond ecstatic to see my illustration placed in the monthly newsletter. For me it was validation that people in the industry thought my work was actually good.


Tell us what happened after you were picked as the winner of Draw This?

The following day I nearly fell over when I received an email from Executive Art Director Lauren Rille at Beach Lane Books. She had seen my illustration and thought my work would be perfect for a book she was working on about Holi the Indian Festival of Colors. I read the manuscript and connected with it immediately—my family is West Indian and we celebrate the holiday in the Caribbean. It would include a ton of flowers, kids and bright colors, all things I like to work on.


IMG_0352  I heard you had an exciting time at the SCBWI conference in Washington DC! How did you meet Carrie Hannigan there and what's developed since then?

I went to the MidAtlantic conference with the goal of meeting as many industry folks as possible, so in the previous weeks I designed a booklet of my work to hand out to the speakers. I wanted to show off my work but I wanted something substantial enough that you might feel weird or bad throwing away. At the very end of the conference as we were milling around I gave a copy of this booklet to Carrie Hannigan, of Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency. A few days later she reached out to see if I was interested in representation. Other than Carrie being super nice and incredibly experienced, I was enthusiastic to work with her because she would provide editorial advice and attention at her boutique agency.


 What is your best advice for SCBWI illustrator members who are just starting out?

Make friends, ask for advice and ask for feedback. I really benefitted from having a local chapter. I went in thinking our main goal was critique but I really benefitted from hearing people’s back stories, about freelancing or day jobs or just work/life balance struggles. Be active in your creating, put new work out there and participate in competitions. I’m insecure about my work all the time, but I knew I had to get it out there, to build a platform. Social media was very important for me—for a while it was the main avenue for my main source of income. I don't put all of my work online, or even my complete work, but it’s your main tool to be seen. Art director and editors are out there, quietly looking around for talent.


Vashti’s debut picture book, Festival of Colors, will be released by Beach Lane Books in Spring 2018, and she also just signed a contract for three books with Little, Brown. Thank you so much Vashti, and congratulations!


SCBWI Exclusive with Dr. Uwe Stender, Agent, TriadaUS Literary Agency


ustb(1)Literary Agent Dr. Uwe Stender is a Full Member of the AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives). He founded Triada US in 2004. Uwe is interested in all kinds of nonfiction and fiction. In nonfiction, he is completely open to any project, from Memoir, Pop Culture, and Health to How-to, Gardening, History and everything in between, including nonfiction for children. In children's fiction, he is looking for YA, MG and the occasional PB. In adult fiction, his tastes trend towards Women's Fiction, Psychological Suspense, and Mysteries.  But surprise him, his tastes are eclectic, and he may just love what you wrote!



What can you tell us about your agency?

I founded Triada US in 2004. Including me, we are five hard-working eager agents, who respond to all queries we receive. ( We represent everything from fiction to nonfiction. We are a full service literary agency and retain and exercise subsidiary rights on our clients’ behalves through a variety of co-agents, scouts, publishers, and entertainment lawyers.


What are the components a manuscript needs to have to make you fight to represent the author?

If a manuscript makes me forget everything around me and becomes the most important thing in my life at the time, if it spellbinds me to it in such a way, then I will do everything I can to get the author to sign with me.


What trends are you seeing in submissions?

Trends keep changing all the time, so by the time this is published, the next trend will already have arrived. Instead, let me tell you what I would love to see more of: MG fiction and nonfiction, and diverse #ownvoices picture books.


How do work with your clients?

I am a very editorial agent. However, my personal quirk is that instead of writing editorial letters I call my clients and hash these things out in phone chats. Sometimes, this leads to hours and hours of calls, and I exhaust my poor clients, but I like the interactivity of the process, and in the end, I think it works very well for them, too.


On the Shelves The Bookies

While on your book vacation, don't forget to check out another great Denver indie bookstore, The Bookies.


What sets The Bookies apart from other bookstores?Shopping at The Bookies(1)

We’re unique for all kinds of reasons! We started over forty-five years ago in our owner’s basement and now we have one of Colorado’s largest selections of children’s books. New customers’ mouths have been seen to drop open when they see how many children’s books we have—something for every age, reading level and interest. On top of that, each member of our staff is passionate about books and many customers come to us because of the range and depth of our knowledge. We also supply books to schools across Denver and beyond—we have a group of teachers from North Dakota who visit us every year and carry off carloads of books for their students! And we don’t forget adults either, with a compact, but well-curated choice of books and gifts.

What has been a successful author visit and why do you believe it was more successful than others?

The author event that creates most buzz around the store is our Small Business Saturday event, when we invite multiple authors to the store. All are local, some are traditionally published and others self-published, and we make sure we have a mix of adult and children’s writers. The excitement and energy in the store as all these authors interact with our customers and one another is amazing!

What in your opinion makes a bestselling book?

Great writing, great characters and a great plot. It sounds simple when it’s expressed as neatly as that, but it’s not!

How is The Bookies involved in the community?

We have a close relationship with local schools and will often take authors to visit, as well as supporting their literacy efforts. Several times a year participate in events in our community, giving away books to local kids who might not otherwise have access to their own reading material. We love spending time with kids inside and outside the store.

Personal Book recommendation?

Only one?! I hate to make all the other books jealous. But I’m going to pick out Raina Telegemeier’s Ghosts, which is flying off our shelves. Telgemeier's brilliantly colored illustrations and great story about family and friends make this a must-read! Graphic novels are great, for reluctant readers as well as enthusiastic ones, and Telgemeier’s books are stand outs.