Children’s book author Lisa Anchin releases her first solo work
Great Neck South Class of 2000 grad Lisa Anchin held a book launch party for The Little Green Girl, a magical fantasy with rich illustrations about a curious seedling who wants to explore the world, on Saturday, April 6, at Books of Wonder in Manhattan.
Though this is the first book she created, wrote and illustrated on her own, Anchin has drawn since she could hold a pencil, made up stories since she could speak and illustrated two other children’s books, I Will Love You and A Penguin Named Patience.
“Art was a constant throughout my childhood. I’ve drawn since I could hold a crayon,” said Anchin, whose father, Marvin, was an art teacher for decades and continues to create elaborate statues for South High’s annual senior party. “Because my father was an art teacher, art supplies were always within reach. My sister and I were encouraged to play with whatever my dad had on hand. I drew the occasional (punny and terrible) single panel comic for GNSH’s paper, kept a regular sketchbook and sculpted clay characters throughout my adolescence.”
Anchin always enjoyed writing, too.
“If you’d asked me what I thought I was going to be when I grew up, I would have said a writer,” noted Anchin. “I love words, wordplay and word puzzles. When I was little, my sister and I used to write fake newspapers for our parents, and I filled notebooks with stories.”
While creativity was incorporated into all of her play at home, it was also nurtured at school.
“I have fond memories of the art room at Lakeville and the time we spent in our classrooms doing hands-on activities,” reminisced Anchin. “There was always room at Lakeville for creative play, both in the art room and wood shop, as well as in science, language arts, history and math. We staged plays and built dioramas of historical moments and made pretend restaurants for fraction lessons.”
Once she entered middle school, her seventh-grade English teacher, Mrs. Cahn, offered to edit her stories.
“I had never shown them to anyone, and it turned into a memorable learning moment for me,” noted Anchin. “She was the first person to ever critique my prose, so it was the first time I had to accept criticism of my creative work. I remember feeling indignant at first, but I knew that her edits made the stories better.”
At South High, the rigorous academic schedule didn’t allow her to take an art elective until senior year.
“There were creative assignments in classes, and I participated in the performing arts during the first few years—I played viola in the orchestra and participated in the school musicals. However, it wasn’t until senior year that I took a visual art course,” remembered Anchin. “Dr. Lawrence taught my photography elective and ran the high school’s literary magazine. She wholeheartedly encouraged students’ creativity, in whatever form it took. At a time when many of us were plagued by teen angst and the newness of our emotional lives, she nurtured creativity as a viable outlet. Like many students, I felt seen by her, not just as a student, but as an individual.”
Anchin went on to earn her undergrad degree in French and Studio Art from Smith College and an MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay from the School of Visual Arts.
“The program was focused on finding your voice as an illustrator and visual storyteller,” explained Anchin. “I knew I wanted to focus on children’s books, so I used all of my major projects to make picture books. I owe my entire career to my thesis advisor, Pat Cummings, who just released a middle-grade novel, Trace.”
Anchin graduated with five picture book mockups filled with text and art sketches laid out, but wasn’t able to find work in children’s illustration right away. Fortunately, her varied background enabled her to work as an illustrator.
“Because of my background in Yiddish—I was a summer fellow at the National Yiddish Book Center in 2010 and had been working on graduate work in Comparative Literature in French and Yiddish at Columbia before I left to pursue my MFA—I did freelance editorial illustration for the Yiddish daily newspaper, The Forward,” noted Anchin, whose mother, Tina, was a foreign language teacher prior to retiring.
“I never stopped working toward a career in children’s books,” explained Anchin. “The summer after I graduated, I interned at Penguin with Cecilia Yung, the art director of the GP Putnam’s Sons and Nancy Paulsen Books imprints. That internship taught me so much about book design, layout and typography. Because of that internship, I ended up freelancing for HarperCollins. All of this was the precursor to getting my own illustration work.”
That same summer, her SVA mentor encouraged her to apply for a student scholarship to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) annual conference in Los Angeles.
“It was an amazing experience,” Anchin reflected. “I came away realizing that I had a lot of work to do. I spent the next year building my portfolio, and when I returned the following summer my portfolio won an award. At SCBWI’s NY conference in February, Joanna Volpe, a literary agent, saw my portfolio and offered me representation.”
Like many of her ideas which come from drawing and doodling in her sketchbook, The Little Green Girl was inspired by a sketch she made of an odd little plant girl.
“This first drawing of the Little Green Girl made me stop and wonder who she was and what she wanted,” explained Anchin. “I knew right away that she had a story to tell.”
After working on this project for five years, The Little Green Girl was published by Penguin Random House/Dial Books for Young Readers and selected as the lead title for Dial’s Spring 2019 catalog. Anchin and her husband, Ezra Selove, became the proud parents of Adeline Ruby almost 18 months ago, after the writer finished the manuscript and finalized most of the sketches.
“Addie is a bundle of energy and such a joy to be around,” beamed Anchin. “I have much less time to work now, but she provides so much fodder for my creative work. Watching her experience the world for the first time puts me in touch with my own sense of wonder. She is a constant source of inspiration.”
The published author shared some advice for aspiring writers.
“Keep at it,” she encouraged. “Writing requires practice and patience. It’s easy to get discouraged when you see what might seem like effortlessly written books and the pages of book-deal announcements in Publishers Weekly. What you don’t see are the years of work that the writer or illustrator put in before it made it onto a bookshelf. It takes work, but if you love it, don’t give up.”
She suggested joining professional organizations like SCBWI, whose members cheer one another’s successes and support each other. Anchin also credits her husband.
“I would not have been able to make this book without the support of my wonderful husband, Ezra. We’ve been together since I started the program at SVA, and he has been my biggest champion. He’s the first reader for all of my projects, and he’s the first person I turn to when self-doubt strikes. This book exists because of him.”
Find links to purchase The Little Green Girl on Indiebound, Barnes & Nobles or Amazon at www.lisaanchin.com/thelittlegreengirl.