Eastern NY SCBWI Member Spotlight

Created October 04, 2023 by Kyra Johnston

New York: Eastern Upstate

An interview with Sarah Luann Perkins, our Illustrator Coordinator by Janine De Tillio Cammarata

I love writing books and always thought it would be amazing to draw what I envisioned first. Sarah Luann Perkins lives this dream every day and loves it! She credits her mom with exposing her to award-winning books and illustrations but her desire to draw from them feels like destiny.

I know from her posts that Sarah works very hard on her craft and just like with any skill, it takes practice and lots of revision. But Sarah’s creativity is uniquely her own, and she not only draws from her life but from her imagination. Check below to see what she loves to draw!

She isn’t afraid of taking chances and throwing words and images into the creative air to see what lands. That’s the beauty of writing or illustrating. You may not end up where you began but the journey is fun and rewarding. Sarah is infused with that joy and love of the craft.

For Sarah, her hard carefree creativity and hard work led to the publication of ON A RAINY DAY. A beautifully written and illustrated picture book that I bought as gifts for my nieces and nephews!

Supporting our local artists is an integral part of being a writer/illustrator. Sarah does this through her volunteer work with SCBWI and her workshops for illustrators. Read on to find out more about Sarah and her process!


Can you tell me about yourself? Anything you want to share about your family, hobbies, likes, joys?

I have loved reading and drawing for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I would hide away with a book… and then draw the characters and put the drawings up on my wall. My mom liked to collect Caldecott winning books and point out the illustrations to me, but I didn’t seriously consider illustration until it was time to pick a major for college. It’s the perfect combination of my interest in books and art, I love it! 

How long have you been a member of SCBWI?

Since 2015. It has been a great resource and I love the many friends I have met through participating in Shoptalks, critiques, conferences, and other events.

What interested you in volunteering and becoming an illustrator coordinator?

Honestly, it isn’t something I thought of myself. Kerry (our Regional Advisor and one of my critique partners) asked me to help her out when she stepped up as RA, and since I think it's important to support and recognize illustrators as a needed part of this industry, I said yes. Since I still have young kids at home I’ve had to be careful and deliberate about how I spend my time and how much I take on, but I’ve felt that being able to participate more in SCBWI has been well worth it.

What are some of your responsibilities?

Mostly, I organize events focused on illustration. Because of the pandemic I’ve mostly organized online events, specifically the Illustrators’ Panel, which is starting to become something of a tradition for the region. Each year a few local illustrators join the region on Zoom and answer questions about their work and process. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know our local illustrators and learning about their books!

Why should someone become a member of SCBWI?

To get support and guidance on creating the best children’s literature they can! It has really helped me to be able to connect with a community that loves kidlit as much as I do, to get critiques, tips, and camaraderie. 

When did you know that you wanted to write/illustrate for children?

Growing up I considered several different book-related careers through the years. For a while in my childhood I wanted to be an audiobook narrator (I started recording The Phantom Tollbooth in our basement once, though I got bored of the project before I made it to the end). After that I wanted to be an ‘artist’ (though I only had a vague idea of what that might involve), then I wanted to be an editor, then an agent. When I saw ‘Illustration’ was available as a college major, however, that was my answer–the perfect way to combine my interest in art with my love of books. 

What do you write/illustrate?

I have a picture book that I both wrote and illustrated that was published this year (March 2022), ON A RAINY DAY. I’m currently working on a graphic novel proposal that I’m really excited about. I hope someday to also do spot illustrations for middle grade novels. 

Is there a favorite animal/object/scene you like to illustrate?

One thing that also tends to come up repeatedly is characters relaxing in baths and/or reading books 🤷‍♀️😆

Illustration by Sarah Luann Perkins

What have you published? Please send pic of book cover!

ON A RAINY DAY was published by Viking Childrens books in March 2022.

What are you currently working on?

A MG sci-fi graphic novel proposal–which is definitely outside my comfort zone, but I’m loving it! It's about a house-cleaning robot that isn’t too thrilled when its family adopts a cat. 

Can you share about your process? Do you write a story first or illustrate? Is it more organic?

Part of what I love about being an author-illustrator is I can move back and forth between the words and pictures. Sometimes when I get stuck on one side of things, I can work on the other side while I let the other rest. Usually a story starts as some notes and sketches in my sketchbook, which are gradually expanded and refined. 

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to write/illustrate for children?

Read a lot, draw a lot, write a lot, and be OK with it being pretty bad at the start. Find a group of friends who are interested in similar projects who you can get critiques and moral support from. 

Illustration by Sarah Luann Perkins

Does that advice change if they are new to the industry or have been working in it for years?

Nope. Just keep going!

How have the last two years affected your creative process?

It has definitely been a rough time, and I had to have a lot of patience for myself when projects didn’t move forward. But as I’ve found a new normal I’ve started to make progress again, which is exciting! 

What forms of self-care do you bring into your day while writing?

Taking time to read and rest! 

What are a couple of your favorite children’s books from the last five years?

ANOTHER by Christian Robinson has been a frequently requested bedtime book at our house–my daughter loves wordless picture books because she gets to “read” them by herself, and I love them because that makes bedtime much easier for me!

I also really love BEAR WANTS TO SING by Cary Fagan and Dena Seiferling – as a creator, I find it particularly relatable! 

What’s your website/social media handles?


Instagram: sarahluannart

Twitter: sarahluann

TikTok: sarahluannart

I’m inspired by

my life,

my kids,

my favorite books.