Liza Woodruff – Illustrator Interview

Liza and one of her pups, Emerson!

[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator?  If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?

[LW] I worked for close to twenty years as an illustrator but am now working on my third authored book. I guess I can now officially call myself an illustrator/author. I usually begin with the words when working on my own stories. That’s the hard part for me. Once I have a story, or at least the beginning of one, I work back and forth between words and pictures.             

[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?

[LW] Wherever I have lived, I have had a strong interest in nature. I have always found time to observe animals and the outdoors. Though I am not a nature illustrator, animals are my favorite subjects.

I grew up in Bristol, Rhode Island. I was able to walk to the beach and to a local pond. I spent a lot of time playing outside.

After college, I lived out west in Wyoming and Colorado. The beauty there is entirely different than in the east. I have a story that I am working on that was inspired by cowboys and the mountainous and rocky landscape.

Before moving to Vermont, I lived in Boston where I could run and walk in public parks.

Currently, I live in Vermont in a little town that borders Lake Champlain. It’s easy to get outside and see amazing birds and animals that live nearby. I think the long and cold Vermont winters have nurtured a love for cozy and snowy scenes in my work.                                  

[JM] My best friends moved last year to Bristol, so I am getting to know it. Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.

[LW] When I was young, I loved making art. My drawings and paintings were not particularly exceptional, but art was something that I enjoyed and worked at. Through high school and college, I spent more and more time working on my skills and eventually I made progress closing the gap between what I saw in my mind and on the paper. My art school professors really helped me develop the tools I needed to work as an illustrator. I began work as a children’s book illustrator immediately after graduation.

After working as an illustrator for many years, I decided to try writing my own stories. This was entirely new for me and I have many terrible ideas and drafts stashed away in file folders. With the help of books, workshops, articles, critique groups and classes I eventually learned how to create stories that worked, but I still find it incredibly hard work.

[JM] What is your preferred medium to work in?

[LW] I love to work with watercolor, pen and ink, and colored pencil.

[JM] Can you share a piece or two for us, maybe from a Work in Progress, and the process of creating them? 

Small Quiet 2

Page 1 Color

[LW] These pieces come from a book that I am working on that will be out in summer of 2019. The first piece is a sample that I submitted with the manuscript. For this piece, I drew the line with a crow quill pen and waterproof ink and then painted over it with watercolor. Because I always prefer my sketches to my tighter finished work, I tried to work more loosely than I am used to.

The second piece is from the same book. It is a more developed piece from the interior of the book. I am still not finished, but you can see the evolution from the first to the second piece. I worked again with pen and ink and watercolor, but the rug is a block print that I scanned and placed with Photoshop.

[JM] Which book do you remember buying with your own money as a kid?

[LW] As the youngest of three, I had a number of books in our house to enjoy and don’t remember buying books on my own. My mother was also a librarian, so we would visit the library to check out books.  One book I do remember cherishing, I received as a birthday present. It was called BABY ANIMALS and contained only photos and descriptions of baby animals.

[JM] What does your workspace look like? 

[LW] Rest assured that my workspace hardly ever looks this neat. Imagine this space covered in papers and paints and you’ll get a more accurate picture.

[JM] Do you have themes or characters that you keep returning to?

[LW] The stories that I often tell feature the triumph of the underdog who usually possesses a quiet and overlooked quality that turns out to be of value.

[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your home? 

[LW] My husband and I met in art school. We have some of his abstract art hanging as well as pieces we have collected or been given along the way.

[JM] Why did you study French and how was your semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence? 🙂

[LW] French is a beautiful language and France is a beautiful country. I began studying French in high school and loved learning about all of it- the food, the culture and the people. My semester in Aix was great. Being abroad and living with a French woman in her apartment really opened my eyes to how other people live.  If I had the opportunity to go back in time, I would have really immersed myself- shopping only at the weekly farmers’ markets, mingling more with the locals, and traveling whenever I had a free moment.

Five Fun Ones to Finish?
[JM]  What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world? 

[LW] I am not sure this is technically a park, but the town beach in Islesboro, Maine is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  After biking around the whole island, my husband and I hung out watching a seal while he watched us.

[JM] Gorgeous. I have been to Little Cranberry and Peaks Island in Maine. Cats or dogs? 

[LW] Dogs!! Angus and Emerson


[JM] Please recommend a coffee shop or restaurant for me to visit in your city/town!

[LW] My favorite coffee shop is a short walk from the bookstore where I work—Village Wine and Coffee, in Shelburne. Their lattes and orange scones are the perfect mid-day snack.

[JM] What was your first paid job out of high school?

[LW] I wish I had a more interesting answer, but I worked at the Gap.

[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?

[LW] Nutter Butters and chocolate milk.

You can follow Liza on:
Facebook: Liza Woodruff Wright
Liza Woodruff author/illustrator  @lizawoodruffillustration
or twitter: @lizawo
her website is:

Liza, thank you so much for sharing your life and art with us today, and I wish you continued success as an author-illustrator!

Posted in children's books, Children's literature, Illustrators, Interview | Tagged , | 2 Comments

LIFELINE – YA novel recommendation

Title: Lifeline

Author: Abbey Lee Nash

 Publisher: Tiny Fox Press, 2018

Ages: 14-18

Themes: addiction, drugs, rehabilitation, substance abuse, recovery center

Genre: contemporary fiction


Sudden Death.

First game of the season and we are heading into overtime against our arch rivals, The Wolves. Four minutes left. First goal wins.

Four minutes to prove to coach Wilson and smug Schaffer that they made the right choice by finally naming me across captain this year.


Popular high school senior Eli Ross has the perfect life. He’s captain of the lacrosse team at LionsHeart Academy, and he’s dating Savannah, the hottest, most popular girl at school. But that life comes crashing down when he overdoses at a party and is sent to LakeShore Recovery Center, an inpatient substance abuse treatment program where he’ll spend the next twenty-eight days.

It’s there that Eli meets Libby, the sharp-edged artist, whose freshly tattooed scars mirror the emotional scars Eli tries his best to ignore. Eli soon learns that if he’s to have any chance at a future, he’ll first have to confront his past. (GR)

Why I like this book:

Addiction is a topic I about which I have seen in several YA novels in the last decade, and Nash’s execution is excellent and not the least cliché. It is a sadly pertinent narrative for so many teens, whether from an upscale milieu like our protagonist here, or from a ghetto, and this novel makes a great addition to the library shelves on this subject. Substance abuse is no respecter of class. I actually like the fact that Nash chose to make Eli an all-American teen and then have some contrast with some of the other characters in the rehab center (though it is clearly a center for those with means.)

As with so many addicts, Eli, despite his popularity,  feels very alone and isolated. At its heart, this book is about relationships: relationship to trauma, to drugs, to peers, to authority figures, and to family.

Nash moves the action very early on in the novel to the 28-day detox program at LakeShore Recovery Center. Here she focuses in a very earthy yet readable way on the hard work and choices of rehab any addict must face. Here Eli’s new relationships, Red, Libby, Will and Mo will all play important roles in his process, just as previous relationships played some role in his “fall”. Nash realistically portrays the insidious nature of addiction, and that not all who enter rehab as we sadly know, succeed. 

The portrayal of teen addiction isn’t watered or dumbed down and yet Nash maintains an undercurrent of hope throughout the novel. For a young adult novel, there is an adult character who plays an unusually prominent role, the counselor, Richard “Fish” Fisher. This feels warranted and valuable in the development of Eli’s story. Fish’s counselor/patient relationship with Eli is central to choices Eli will make, and offers a realistic insight into teen rehab and the need to trust and be helped by others. The novel traces this four week process but at not point does the reader get the impression that this is all that is necessary or that there isn’t still a long road ahead for all (including more falls by some.)

I found the book, well-paced, realistic and especially enjoyed Libby’s character and her “romance” with Eli (which I found totally plausible despite rules in pretty much any rehab scenario about not becoming romantically involved whilst in rehab) and the transformation of Eli’s relationship with his stepdad. The family secret which emerges I had already foreseen, but this didn’t make it less important to the backstory and Eli’s trajectory. This is a solid, well written debut novel tackling challenging mental health issues.


I was glad to see that the author had included a list of online resources for teens struggling with addiction (and resources for their family members.)

Book Trailer

Don’t miss the interview I did with Abbey Lee Nash.



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Author Interview – Abbey Lee Nash

So very happy to interview another SCBWI Nevada mentee, Abbey Lee Ash, who has just released her debut YA novel, which I am reviewing this Friday.






[JM] Where are you from and how has that influenced your writing career?

[ALN] My parents had a serious case of wander-lust, and so I’ve lived in some pretty interesting places, including on a Christian farming commune in rural Georgia, above a third-world craft store in Kentucky, and on a Salvation Army retreat center in the Pennsylvania mountains. I currently live in a small, close-knit community outside of Philadelphia, which, in many ways, inspired Grandhaven, the fictional town where Lifelinetakes place.

[JM] Tell us about your book! Pretend we’re in an elevator and instead of us all looking around nervously, you tell us all about what you wrote! Go!

[ALN] Popular high school senior Eli Ross seems to have the perfect life. He’s captain of the lacrosse team at LionsHeart Academy, and he’s dating Savannah, the hottest, most popular girl at school. But perfect isn’t always what it looks like. Suffocating under the pressure of keeping up appearances, Eli has turned to opiates, a habit which has quickly become a heroin addiction. When he overdoses at a party, he’s sent to LakeShore Recovery Center, an inpatient substance abuse treatment program where he’ll spend the next twenty-eight days.  

There Eli meets Libby, the sharp-edged artist whose freshly tattooed scars mirror the emotional scars Eli tries his best to ignore. Eli soon learns that if he’s to have any chance at a future, he’ll first have to confront his past.

[JM] How did you get into writing? Is it something you’ve always been into?

[ALN] I started writing in second grade when my grandmother gave me my first journal. I’ve had a nearly daily practice of journaling ever since. I’ve always enjoyed writing fiction, but it wasn’t until college that I started to toy around with the idea of writing a novel. In 2008, I decided to go back to school to earn my Master of Arts in English at Arcadia University, and I actually wrote my first (unpublished) novel as my thesis project. The last ten years have been an emotional roller coaster, full of incredible highs and the kind of lows all writers can relate to—rejection, disappointment, and self-doubt. To finally have a novel reach publication is a dream come true!

[JM] What inspired LIFELINE?

[ALN] Lifeline was inspired by my younger brother’s struggle with addiction. Similar to Eli, we grew up in middle-class suburban areas; both of our parents are educators with master’s degrees. But addiction doesn’t discriminate by age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. In writing Eli’s story, it felt important to create a character who seemingly had everything going for him—athletic prowess, popularity, and a loving, supportive family—and yet still suffered from the disease of addiction. It’s my hope that Lifeline can help to reduce the stigma that often surrounds addiction by starting conversations that will hopefully lead to increased awareness and prevention.

[JM] If you like [fill in the blank], you’ll like LIFELINE….?? 

[ALN] If you liked Crank by Ellen Hopkins, Looking for Alaskaby John Green, Crackedby KM Walton, or The Weight of Zeroby Karen Fortunati, you’ll like Lifeline. I hope. ?

[JM] How Important has SCBWI been in your writing journey?

[ALN] Huge! The connections and support available through SCBWI have been tremendous. I was lucky enough to be selected for the 2012 Nevada Mentor Program, where I learned so much and met so many incredible people, including Miss Marple! ?I even found my critique partner of almost ten years through my local chapter of SCBWI. If you write books for children and teens, and you are not yet a member, what are you waiting for?

[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your home? 

[ALN] What a fun question! It’s always been important to me that the artwork in my home has meaning. This painting by Bronwen Henry, an incredibly gifted artist and one of my dearest friends, is called “Held.” If you’re curious about Bronwen’s process or want to see more of her work, you can visit her website here (

[JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world? 

[ALN] With two children under twelve, I haven’t yet had many opportunities for travel outside of the states. But we’re lucky enough to live close to many beautiful state parks and preserves. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite—if the sun is shining, and my kids are having fun, I’m happy.

[JM] Cats or dogs? 

[ALN] Dog. This is Brooke, my jogging partner and snuggle buddy extraordinaire!


[JM] Adorable! Please recommend a coffee shop or restaurant for me to visit in your city/town!

[ALN] Be Well Bakery is one of my local favorites—lots of yummy breakfast and lunch options, great coffee, and incredible desserts.

[JM] Cheers! What was your first paid job out of high school?

[ALN] I worked as a summer camp counselor in high school and college. This also happens to be the setting of my current work in progress, so stay tuned!

[JM] Oo, I am a big fan of camps as a setting. The novel I am subbing right now is set in a camp, though not one you’d want to attend! Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?

My kids and I have a new favorite—we make a smoothie with frozen banana, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and cocoa powder. It tastes like a (healthy) chocolate, peanut butter milkshake—delicious!

Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Abbey, and I hope everyone will come back on Friday to check out my review of LIFELINE.

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