Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Cassandra Federman



© Cassandra Federman


Aug. 23, 2019

Today we are excited to feature author-illustrator Cassandra Federman and her debut picture book, THIS IS A SEA COW (Albert Whitman Publishing, September 2019). Enter to win a copy!

Welcome, Cassandra!




Tell us about your background and how you came to write and illustrate for children.

I’ve always been into storytelling of one kind or another. For about a decade I helped tell stories as an actor, a casting director, a hand model, and more. About five years ago I realized that writing stories came more naturally to me than performing them, casting them, or pretending I’m someone else’s hands in them. I began writing for kids and bought myself a sketchbook for the first time since I was a teenager. My initial attempts at writing and illustrating left a lot to be desired. It took patience, practice, and a membership to SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) to get me where I am today. I’ve still got more growing to do, both as a writer and an artist, and I’m excited for the journey.



© Cassandra Federman


Congrats on your debut picture book, THIS IS A SEA COW. Tell us about the story and what inspired it.

Thank you! This Is a Sea Cow is a fourth-wall-breaking picture book designed to look like a child’s school report on sea cows. The subject of the report does not like her portrayal, so Sea Cow--or Manatee as she prefers to be called-- comes to life to set the record straight.


© Cassandra Federman


The seeds of inspiration for this book came from a college semester I spent abroad in Belize studying the manatee population and rescuing orphaned manatees. Years later, in my sleep-deprived-new-mom-brain, those seeds sprouted into an argument between a sea cow and a land cow. It made me giggle, and then... EUREKA, This Is a Sea Cow was born! 


© Cassandra Federman


Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

Probably something in between. I got serious about writing and illustrating around 2015 when I  joined SCBWI and attended my first LA SCBWI Summer Conference. After winning 2 mentorships in 2017 (SCBWI LA mentorship, and the WWTS mentorship), I finally had a polished dummy worth submitting to agents. I ended up with a few offers of representation and teamed up with the amazing Jenna Pocius at Red Fox Literary. I created my dummy for This Is a Sea Cow shortly after signing with her, and she sold it within 48 hours! (That last part of the process was unusually short and sweet!)



© Cassandra Federman


What is your preferred medium/ illustration process?

I mostly work digitally, but I scan traditional elements into my art. However, This Is a Sea Cow called for a very different type of illustration process from me. I’d never photographed objects and digitally collaged them before, so I had to teach myself some new photoshop skills--fast. Though terrifying at the time, I’m thankful to work in a field that pushes me to evolve as an artist.


What projects are you working on now?

I’m hoping to announce some good news about another confusingly named sea creature soon. I’m also diving into the world of early graphic novels. I’m definitely keeping busy!

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators or author-illustrators?

I’ve never met an artist who doesn’t suffer from some level of imposter syndrome. If people (who aren’t your parents) love your art and/or your writing, then keep at it. And don’t continually move the bar on yourself. If you achieve something you set out to achieve, celebrate it. (After you’ve celebrated, then you can move the bar.)

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I worked in the east coast independent wrestling circuit for a short time when I was in college and later worked in casting for WWE. It was strange to go from hanging out with wrestlers who were trying to break in, to being a “gatekeeper” to that world. 

Where can people find you online?

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @CassFederman and check out my website www.cassandrafederman.com

Cassandra Federman is an author/illustrator living in Los Angeles, California. She is originally from Massachusetts, but like manatees, she hates to be cold. She wanted to grow up to be a comic book artist and a marine biologist. She decided this book accomplishes both of those things. In college she studied abroad in Belize. where she rescued an orphaned manatee. She hopes this book will result in the rescue of many more. 





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30 comments:

  1. Congrats--such a clever idea! And how fantastic that your debut book sold so quickly--kudos:-)

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  2. I am so excited to read this. I've loved following your journey. Congrats, Cassandra!

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    1. Awww thanks Lindsay! I really appreciate you being a cheerleader! XO!

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  3. Congrats! Love the concept and the collage style of your fabulous art!

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  4. I really love the fun and very kid friendly details given throughout the text. Great images as well! I think I need this book :)

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    1. Thanks Lydia! I hope lots of people think like you--that they need this book :)

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  5. This looks very original and fun! Amazing!

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  6. I am so happy for you and this book! I haven't even seen it yet and I'm already eager to see what comes next!

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  7. I'm all in to help the manatees. Best of luck in your quest!

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  8. This idea is so clever! I'm looking forward to reading it and seeing your idea come to life. Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks Danielle, hope you get a copy or rent it at your local library!

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  9. This book looks so cute!! And I love Cassandra's advice to celebrate before we move the bar! Great advice!

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  10. This sounds like a fun, informative book. Manatees are definitely interesting creatures. Wishing you continued success.

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  11. I loved the fact that THIS IS A SEA COW sold in 48 hours! Congrats to you!

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    1. Right?! I'd love that to happen again one day, but lightning doesn't usually strike twice. :)

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  12. I love this book idea! And thank you for the encouragement for us along our own journey. =)

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  13. So fun! This book looks hysterically funny! Congratulations!

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  14. The sketchbook quality of the illustrations is fantastic.

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