Author Liz Garton Scanlon

Created May 02, 2024 by Laurent Sewell

Texas: Austin

April's Member Interview Series welcomes award-winning author Liz Garton Scanlon, author of FULL MOON PUPS and much more!


Liz Garton Scanlon

Our Member Interview Series warmly welcomes Liz Garton Scanlon, author of many books including picture book FULL MOON PUPS (Putnam/Penguin, 2023), recently named The Charlotte and Wilbur Award for Compassion for Animals honor book by SCBWI. Other recent books include THE WORLD’S BEST CLASS PLANT (Putnam/Penguin, 2023), chapter book series BIBSY CROSS AND THE BIKE-A-THON (Knopf/Penguin Random House, 2024), and EVERYTHING STARTS SMALL (Candlewick Press, 2024). Besides authoring while living in Austin, Liz serves on the faculty for the Writing for Children and Young Adults program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts; and she blogs — check out her April haikus!

Where did you grow up, and how did that place (or those places) shape your work? 

I lived a very rural, outdoor childhood, and I cannot separate what I love and value and write about from that experience. Most of my growing up happened in the Rocky Mountains, on the edge of a creek, at the far end of a valley, nestled into a warm range of peaks. My primary playmate was my sister, and our activities were determined by the seasons. We were almost always sunburned and/or dirty. We knew just how tadpoles transformed themselves into frogs. We knew the names for different kinds of snow. Also? This was the 70s. Nobody knew where we were most of the time, and that freedom — be it by ski, sneaker or bicycle — was exhilarating. These two dominant themes — the natural world and freedom — directly influence what I write about but, also, how I write. How I live. How I'm able to hold rules and requirements and expectations lightly. It's still exhilarating.

Did you always want to be an author, or did that come later? 

I always wanted to work with the written word — and I did, as a journalist, a poet, a teacher of English, a corporate copywriter — but the “ah-ha” happened when I had my own babies, when I began reading to them (which was right away), when I remembered the comfort and surprise and delight of being read to as a child and could see those same things happening for them. That's when I thought, I want to give this a try. And once I did, I was all in, forever.

If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see? 

Someone does follow me around. He's old and furry and faithful and I trip on him sometimes.

How does your everyday life feed your work? 

When I still had kids at home, the connection between everyday life and work felt very direct. I was inspired by my daughters and their friends, their perspective and ideas and language and humor. I was inspired by what they read and wrote. But I was also tired! Now, I have more space for long runs and walks, for reading, for making myself quietly, patiently available to the muse. Both stages have been so valuable …

Tell us about some accomplishments that make you proud. 

I would list my daughters first and foremost except, honestly, they're their own accomplishments. I am proud of the funny, honest adult relationships we are building, though. As for my career ... I think I'm most proud of what I've tried, of writing across categories and audiences, of not ever settling into a certain groove or lane. And I'm proud of my many years of teaching — the relationships that have been nurtured, and the books-that-are-not-my-own that have been written. I love that feeling of having helped lift other writers up a bit.

What surprises you about the creative life? 

I wouldn't have imagined it would be so hard to make room for the actual creative part of the creative life. So much business, so many logistics, such an overwhelming amount of social media. A person could be forgiven for forgetting to make their way back to their muse, their quiet space, their creative work in the midst of all that!

When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find? 

I hope they discover love and empathy and respect for the world at large and for young readers in particular. That's what matters to me most, regardless of the book or age-range or subject at hand. That young readers feel seen, heard and valued. 

Quick-Fire Questions:  

Friends sometimes call you Liz Garden Salad; if you were a Garden Salad, how would you be dressed? 

In flouncy arugula, with my maternal grandmother's vinaigrette (I still have the recipe card in her handwriting)

Favorite endpapers? 

This is the best question! I love endpapers and have a secret wish to someday help host or curate an exhibit of endpapers! The endpapers Diana Sudyka did for my book WOULD YOU COME TOO? are so beautiful — I want sheets or pajamas to match! I also really love endpapers that serve as little visual prequels and/or sequels, like those in FULL MOON PUPS, illustrated by Chuck Groenink.

If you lived in the pages of one of your books, where would you be living? 

I have been outrageously lucky in illustrators. I would feel young and brave and playful in Chris Raschka's classroom (DEAR SUBSTITUTE) and in Sean Qualls' collages (FRANCES IN THE COUNTRY,) and I'd feel utterly alive in Dominque Ramsey's wild world (EVERYTHING STARTS SMALL). But, I'd be hard pressed to find anyplace (inside of a book or out) that made me feel more at home than Marla Frazee's visual depiction of ALL THE WORLD.

A favorite viewpoint from the treetops of your career? 

Treetops feels like a perfect image to end on, because it's a wobbly, light-dappled metaphor for stretching and growing beyond what we can see or know. That's as sure or steady as I ever want to be ... 

More amazing books by Liz Garton Scanlon