When Laura Weymouth set out to write The Light Between Worlds, she was responding to an unfilled niche in the market. “In 2016, I saw a tweet that a publisher was really interested in acquiring a book about Susan Pevensie after the end of the Narnia books, because Susan has always seemed to get such a raw deal,” she says. For Weymouth, who had always been interested in exploring the transformative and traumatic aftereffects of adventures in children’s literature, it seemed like a sign. “I had to write this book.”
Creating picture books was never a foregone conclusion for Oge Mora, whose Nigerian immigrant parents are what she calls “science-minded.” Still, they supported her decision to pursue an art degree at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Mora’s author-illustrator debut, Thank You, Omu!, which began as the final project in her picture book making class at RISD, pays tribute to her heritage. “I really love that I could combine Nigerian and American traditions and create a book that exists in a third space like I myself do,” she says.
A freelance journalist since the ’90s, Damien Love has had his plate full covering art and pop culture for various outlets in his native Scotland. But, he says, “I’ve always wanted to write fiction.” Love’s first foray into middle grade, Monstrous Devices, could be pitched as Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Toy Story. “The book is kind of like an inventory of my influences. It’s also my way of thanking all the creators who’ve inspired me,” he says.
Molly Brooks was working all day digitizing comics, freelancing all night drawing comics, and struggling to find the time and creative energy to do what she really wanted to do—make her own comic. So she teamed up with her friend and fellow creator Andrea Tsurumi to make a minicomic together. That project became the starting point for Brooks’s first original graphic novel, Sanity & Tallulah, about two friends who are traveling through space and exploring areas they shouldn’t. “I had a lot of ideas for ridiculous situations that I could drop them into,” she says.
Darius the Great Is Not Okay is Adib Khorram’s first published novel—and a finalist for the William C. Morris Award, given to debut novelists. But, like many other writers, Khorram did not find success with the very first novel he wrote. “Depending on how you count, I have four or five in the drawer,” he says. His breakthrough came when he began to consider a novel based on his own experience as an Iranian-American adolescent in the Midwest.
Illustrator Jessica Hische wasn’t sure exactly what kind of artist she wanted to be—until the day she fell in love with typography. She calls lettering a “sweet spot between drawing and design—more concerned with solving problems than with being expressionistic.” As a graphic designer and lettering artist, her clients have ranged from the New York Times to Wes Anderson. In Hische’s debut picture book, Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave, the words come to life on the page, as if becoming characters themselves.