Sylvia Liu is an environmental attorney turned children’s author, inspired by oceans, kraken, ghost crabs, and cephalopods. Her picture book, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA, illustrated by Christina Forshay (Lee & Low Books 2016) was a New Voices Award winner, and her middle grade novel, MANATEE’S BEST FRIEND, will be published by Scholastic in 2021. Sylvia co-runs the kid lit resource website, Kidlit411.com, named by Writers Digest as one of 101 Best Websites for Writers three years in a row. She grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, went to Yale College and Harvard Law School, and volunteers with stranded sea turtles. She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband, two daughters, and a hypoallergenic cat.
After I quit environmental law, I pursued children’s illustration, which led to writing picture books and the publication of A Morning with Grandpa (Lee & Low Books 2016). About seven years ago, I began to write novels, both middle grade and YA, taking classes and going to conferences and workshops. I completed a couple of manuscripts, and in Spring 2018, I was a Round 4 AMM mentee. My amazing mentor (Tae Keller) helped whip my MG sci-fi novel into shape. After another round of revisions in a whole-novel workshop, I queried and signed with my agent, Jennifer March Soloway, at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, in January 2019. The past year has been a whirlwind. While on submission with my AMM book, my agent sold my contemporary, environmental-themed MG book, MANATEE’S BEST FRIEND, to Scholastic (Spring 2021).
I’m critique partners with a couple of published MG and YA authors and several pre-published writers. I’m also part of a whole-novel workshop at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, Virginia, where we critique entire novels in a classroom setting. I serve as a mentor to teen writers and teach picture book writing at The Muse. All of this has given me experience and insight in providing useful feedback. Also, having been mentored through AMM and by other amazing authors, I’m eager to share what I’ve learned over the years.
I’ve been lucky to have mentors and teachers who’ve helped me at all stages of my writing career and I want to give back and help others achieve their writing dreams. Having co-run the kid lit resource website, Kidlit411.com, for the past six years, and been published as a picture book author, I’m familiar with querying and publication and the ins and outs of marketing and social media. I can help my mentee navigate all these aspects as well as the writing.
Writing novels can be hard and lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve learned you can build a community that will help you grow as a writer and be there for you through the wonderful highs and frustrating slogs and disappointments. I found that community as an AMM mentee and in other classes and online spaces. Having a professional a bit ahead of you in the creative journey believe in your work wholeheartedly and spend time to work with your whole novel is an incredible gift. Sometimes that’s all you need to push you to the next level, and I hope to do that for someone.
I read and write across genres (science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary), so I’m open to all types of stories. If your story has an intriguing hook, compelling characters, great voice, and a lot of heart, I’m there for it. Give me your friendship stories, found families, and quirky kids. If your stories have own voices elements, immerse me in a world I don’t recognize (whether contemporary or fantasy/sci-fi), and make me think, all the better.
- Magical Realism/Fabulism
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
I love all sci-fi, so bring on your space opera, sci-fantasy, cyberpunk, biotech, steampunk, dystopian, time travel, VR, and AI stories. In contemporary, give me quirky kids, friendship and family stories, and environmental themes. I like my fantasy with a dose of reality (urban fantasy, magical realism/fabulism), but I’ll follow a ragtag band of allies on an epic quest anywhere. Throw in a zombie or dragon and I’m good to go. For all genres, immerse me in a new world and show me a perspective I haven’t seen before. Diverse casts and/or own voices (especially Eastern Asian and Latinx) always a plus.
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Skype or phone call
As a mentor, I will do everything I can to help you achieve your story vision. I’ll provide an edit letter gushing about the things I love and sharing big picture feedback (character and narrative arcs, themes and conflicts, plot holes, pacing, etc.), and craft tips if needed. We’ll tailor the mentorship to your preferred working style (whether it’s email or phone calls or carrier pigeons) and figure out a revision plan. I’ll be happy to do a second round read/review and work with you on your query & agent search. I started writing novels as a pantser but have since learned to do some strategic planning at the outset while leaving room for fun and creativity. I’ll share these tips too and work hard for you, and we’ll hopefully have fun through it all.
Your story doesn’t have to be perfect; it can be a grand, weird mess, but you’re passionate about it and believe in it. You’re not afraid to work hard and make major structural changes if needed. You are flexible enough to take constructive criticism and you’ve had some experience receiving and implementing writing feedback. If I pick you, I absolutely believe you can get your work ready to query and land an agent.
- friendship stories and found families
- all flavors of sci-fi
- diverse, own voices characters
- family stories (siblings, grandparents, parents)
- magical realism/fabulism
- twisty mysteries, puzzles, games
- a story exploring environmental themes in a non didactic way (such as DRY by Neal Shusterman or HOOT by Carl Hiassan)
- non-Western myth and fairytale retellings
- a wuxia or kung fu adventure
- a story that ties complex ideas and plots together into a great twist/satisfying ending
- weird, off-beat stories that look at the world a bit sideways
DO NOT SEND ME:
I’m not naturally drawn to horror or historical fiction, but I will consider anything if it is written well. Surprise me.
Give me a MG version of any of these, and I’ll swoon:
TV shows: Battlestar Galactica, The Expanse, The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Dark Matter, Sherlock, Firefly, Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Lucifer, Avatar the Last Airbender
Movies: Blade Runner (original & 2049), Arrival, Strictly Ballroom, Romeo Must Die, The Princess Bride, MCU. Recent fave: Knives Out
Books: too many to name, but recent sci fi faves include Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller, the Murderbot novellas by Martha Wells, and books by Ted Chiang and Charlie Jane Anders; other adult faves: Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Haruki Murakami, Neal Stephenson, and Jorge Luis Borges; YA faves: Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater; Marissa Meyer, and Marie Lu; MG faves: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; The Clockwork Three, by Matthew J. Kirby; Harry Potter series; Holly Black, Phillip Pullman, Brian Selznick, and Kate DiCamillo.