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  • Writer's pictureJulie Hauswirth

Creator Interview PLUS a Giveaway: Sylvia Chen

Debut Author of Picture Book TRICKY CHOPSTICKS and Creator/Host of #PBStudyBuddy!


Sylvia smiles.

Many of you already know who Sylvia is, and frankly she needs no introduction. Sylvia is involved in so many aspects of the kidlit community and her #PBStudyBuddy features are THE BEST (the emoji arc is my favorite). But it is my honor to introduce her anyway for those of you who don't already know Sylvia!


Sylvia is a picture book author who began creating in 2015. Represented by Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Birch Path Literary, Sylvia is currently writing and revising, on submission with new projects, and has a traditional book deal! She was a #PBChat mentee in 2019, was marked as a finalist for the 2020 #WNDB mentorship, and a 2021 #PBParty showcase finalist. She's been a #PBParty judge (and behind-the-scenes Ninja Rockstar!) since 2022, and was a #PBRisingStars mentor in 2022 and 2023.


Did you get all that? Seriously. Impressive.


Cover of TRICKY CHOPSTICKS.

But beyond her amazing kidlit resume, Sylvia is one of the nicest people you'll meet.


I'm so excited to share her interview with you, and I can't wait for her debut picture book TRICKY CHOPSTICKS (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster), illustrated by Fanny Liem, to release on March 19th! You can pre-order from anywhere books are sold.


Sylvia is generously offering one lucky reader a 30-minute Ask-Me-Anything call!


Details on how to enter can be found later in the post!


"Even though it's hard to remember at times, it's good to remind yourself to be patient and consider what the strongest path is for your overall goals."
 

How did your journey as a KidLit creator begin?

In 2015, when our family lived in Tokyo and my then-5-year-old oldest son started showing interest in simple math, I tried looking for fun math-based stories, but kept running into run-of-the-mill worksheets. So I decided I would try to create some fun stories with personified math characters. Initially, I thought I would try to go the self-publishing route, but after spending more time on my stories, I realized I would rather pursue traditional publishing given my efforts. Once we moved back to the U.S. and settled back down, I focused on gaining more industry knowledge through SCBWI and 12x12, and also joined more regular critique groups.


What is your favorite thing about creating for children?

I love figuring out stories that capture how clever kids are and finding ways to inspire kids to be as creative as they want.


This is an industry full of high highs and low lows. What are some of the peaks and valleys you've experienced in your career?

Even though the query trenches were extremely frustrating, I felt so supported by my critique partners and I am most grateful for those who were able to help extend valuable insight and guidance. And now for going on submission, even though it also feels quite challenging at times, I really appreciate knowing that my agent is approaching each step strategically. Despite all the various setbacks and unknowns I've experienced thus far, I try to always focus on the positives.


Do you have a "day job"? If so, what is it, and how do you create balance between your "day job" and your work as a creator?

I am the main caretaker/chauffer/planner/wrangler/etc for my sons especially since my husband tends to travel a lot for work. I try to take advantage of pockets of time when I'm not running around so much, but usually take my laptop with me so I can stay as productive as possible on-the-go.


Describe your perfect writing/illustrating/creating day.

The ideal day would have free-flowing coffee by my laptop with no interruptions or to-dos hovering over my head!


What motivates you to keep going when this industry gets you down?

Dreaming up the next possible opportunity, and also creating something fun whether it's a new graphic in Canva or crafting a DIY project.


What is a favorite craft tip you'd like to share with other creators?

This might just be my style of writing, but I really enjoy wordsmithing as I'm creating or revising a story. Sometimes brainstorming on wordplay helps to uncover an alternate path for the story. Other times, it helps me to refine the pacing so I can see what else I need to work on for the story. I also like to read my manuscripts out loud as I revise.


What are your top 3 favorite books of all time (any age range)?

Of all time?! This is too hard to answer, so I will need to decline! Some recent faves though are LULI AND THE LANGUAGE OF TEA by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Hyewon Yum, THIS IS NOT MY HOME by Eugenia Yoh and Vivienne Chang, THE MANY COLORS OF HARPREET SINGH by Supriya Kelkar and illustrated by Alea Marley, and MASALA CHAI, FAST AND SLOW by Rajani LaRocca and illustrated by Neha Rawat


Who are some authors or illustrators that inspired your style as a creator?

Margaret Chiu Greanias for MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS, Kat Zhang for AMY WU AND THE PERFECT BAO, and Marcie Colleen for LOVE, TRIANGLE


What advice do you have for someone considering starting their journey as a KidLit creator?

Even though it's hard to remember at times, it's good to remind yourself to be patient and consider what the strongest path is for your overall goals.


Is there anything else about you, your career, or the industry that you'd like to share?

I'm still pinching myself that TRICKY CHOPSTICKS is coming out soon on March 19, 2024! Even though I anticipate my book birthday and launch to make these upcoming weeks and months more hectic than usual, I will still try to do my very best judging for #PBParty and running my #PBStudyBuddy program plus giant giveaway in late Spring, because I want to continue supporting my fellow #Kidlit creators!


Thank you for all you do to support the kidlit community, Sylvia!


Speed Round: This or That!

Let us get to know you better! You must pick ONE- no "I don't know" or "neither" allowed! Ready... Go!

Summer or Winter?

​Summer

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Vanilla

Cats or Dogs?

Dogs

Playlists or Podcasts?

Podcasts

Text or Call?

Text

Unicorn or Dragon?

Dragon

Ice Cream or Cake?

Ice Cream

Physical Books or E-Books?

Physical Books

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee

Sunrise or Sunset?

Sunset

It's Giveaway Time!

Sylvia is generously offering one reader a 30-minute ask-me-anything call! To enter, comment on this post with your name and email (so we can contact you if you win!)


You can earn extra entries by doing any of the following (up to 3 extra entries!):

  • adding TRICKY CHOPSTICKS to your "want to read" on Goodreads

  • Share this post on Twitter(X) or Bluesky

  • Follow Sylvia on your preferred social media platform

Just be sure to mention in your comment which of these you did so we can tally the entries properly!


That's it! Enter by 11:59pm EST on Tuesday, February 27th for a chance to win and be sure to connect with Sylvia by visiting her website or following her on social media:

Twitter(X)/Instagram/Threads: @sylviaichen

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17 Comments


Ashley Laffin
Ashley Laffin
Feb 28

Love this interview! Can’t wait to read TRICKY CHOPSTICKS!!


I’ll share this on X:)

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Jessica Russo
Jessica Russo
Feb 28

Love this! Sylvia is so supportive of the writing journey, I can't wait to read this book!

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kieserfamphotos
Feb 27

Great interview! I’m forward to reading Tricky Chopsticks. I think it’s going to find a lot of readers 😊


I shared the interview on X

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Katie Mahood
Katie Mahood
Feb 18

Thank you Sylvia and Julie for this interview, I especially appreciate the advice on patience and perseverance during the discouraging times! Also I can’t wait to read Tricky Chopsticks!

I did all the extras (though I already followed Sylvia, so not sure if that counts). My contact info is Katie Mahood - katiemahood2@gmail.com

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Sylvia Chen
Sylvia Chen
Feb 18
Replying to

Thanks so much Katie for taking the time to read this interview, for your words of support, and for doing all the extras! 💖

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Bri Lawyer
Bri Lawyer
Feb 17

Sylvia, you are amazing! You are so appreciated and loved in the kidlit community. Congratulations on your book debut next month. So exciting! And thanks for sharing your tips and journey with us. You are so generous to offer such an awesome prize! Thank you!


Julie, thanks for the interview! You are also amazing! I did all the extra things for the extra entries. :)

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Sylvia Chen
Sylvia Chen
Feb 18
Replying to

Thanks a ton Bri for your glowing words, love our kidlit community so much!!

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