Author Spotlight: Vicky Fang
April 31, 2020
We are excited to feature author Vicky Fang and her picture book, INVENT-A-PET, illustrated by Tidawan Thaipinnarong (Sterling, June 2, 2020) as well as the first book of her early chapter book series, LAYLA AND THE BOTS: HAPPY PAWS, illustrated by Christine Nishiyama (Scholastic, May 5, 2020).
Enter to win a copy of both books!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I’m a product designer who has worked for companies like Google and Intel, where I designed technology products for kids - including DIY robots, coding experiences, interactive storybooks, and voice-enabled games. I started writing children’s books to inspire and empower kids in STEAM, particularly girls and minorities. For me, technology is magical, and I want kids to be able to see that too! My hope is for my books to inspire computer literacy in all kids—while inviting their imaginations to run wild with STEAM possibilities.
Congrats on your two recent books, INVENT A PET and LAYLA AND THE BOTS: HAPPY PAWS. Tell us about these books and what inspired you.
Thank you! Both of these books were inspired by real aspects of my experience as a technology product designer.
LAYLA AND THE BOTS is a fully illustrated early chapter book series about a rockstar/inventor and her crew of Bots: Beep, Boop, and Bop. They combine their skills to design and build fantastic inventions to help people they meet at their shows. From design, to brainstorming, to building and tinkering, the books take readers on a fun adventure through awesome ideas and technology.
INVENT-A-PET is a picture book about a girl who discovers a mysterious machine in her living room and must figure out the formula for her perfect extraordinary pet. It introduces the basic concepts of problem solving, inputs and outputs, functions, but most importantly - the idea that the extraordinary can be found all around us.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
In the world of kidlit, my road to publication has been pretty fast... but it definitely feels really slow sometimes!
I started my journey in 2016. Some early highlights: I received a WWTS mentorship with Peter McCleery, who was amazingly helpful and generous with his time. I joined 12x12, where I was able to quickly learn a lot about the industry basics and get diverse feedback on my scattershot manuscripts. I went to the SCBWI Asilomar conference and met my critique partners, Christine Evans and Faith Kazmi, who remain my CPs and good friends to this day. I continued to improve my craft through editor critiques, Storyteller Academy with Arree Chung, and lots and lots of writing. All of this, combined with the welcoming and helpful nature of the kidlit community, contributed to moving me from beginner to publishable.
Of course, that was only the very beginning of the journey and it continues to this day—I am always learning, growing, and thankful to those helping me along on my journey!
How do you decide whether a book is a picture book or a chapter book?
When I shifted into thinking about chapter books, it was an eye opener for me. My agent, Elizabeth Bennett, had suggested I look at the Scholastic Branches line and something just clicked! I had a vague idea in my head about a story with three collaborative robots, but I could never get it to fit into a picture book format. When I read the Scholastic Branches books, I knew that was the right format. It allowed for just a bit more space to introduce characters and setup and story. I wrote Layla and the Bots and we submitted exclusively to the Branches editors - and I’m so glad they took it, because they are brilliant to work with!
What projects are you working on now? Are you able to concentrate these days?
I’m revising the 4th book of the Layla and the Bots series, which is so much fun! It involves a dolphin rescue, and sound waves, and awesome rock music. I’m also working on a new project that I am writing and illustrating, called FRIENDBOTS, that was just announced!
I am so excited about it and it’s fun to work on something completely different. I am definitely having a hard time finding the time and mental energy to work on stuff as much as I’d like to these days… but deadlines always help!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Find your people! The journey is so odd and long and I really don’t think I would have stuck things out if I hadn’t found camaraderie along the way - from my critique partners, my mentors, my agent, my launch groups, and quite frankly, the generous kidlit community at large. It really helps to have partners along the way to keep you energized and inspired… and sane!
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Ah, I’ve lost track! I used to be an actress? I used to be a game designer? I used to make interactive art installations? I really don’t like it when people put their feet on my pillow? (I really, really don’t like that.)
Where can people find you online?
You can find me on Twitter at @fangmous, on Instagram at @fangmousbooks, or on my website at www.vickyfang.com. Come say hi!
Vicky Fang is a product designer who spent 5 years designing kids’ technology experiences for both Google and Intel, often to inspire and empower kids in coding and technology. Through that work, she came to recognize the gap in education and inspiration, particularly for girls and minorities. She began writing books to provide kids with accessible STEAM-inspired stories that they can read again and again, learning from characters they love. Her goal is for her books is to inspire computer literacy for a wide range of kids—while letting their imaginations run wild with the possibilities of technology!