Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Abi Cushman

© Abi Cushman

July 3, 2020

We are very excited to feature a long-time friend of Kidlit411, author-illustrator Abi Cushman and her debut picture book, SOAKED (Viking Books for Young Readers) coming out July 14. Enter to win a copy of the book (to be mailed at a later date)!



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

In college, after deciding being a vet probably wasn’t right for me, I turned my attention to visual arts. I took illustration classes and made a picture book dummy (an alphabet book of Australian animals) and sent it out. To crickets and rejections. (Of course!) So I gave up and moved on to graphic design where I could get a job. And I’ve been working as a web designer ever since. But when I had my first baby in 2015, I became immersed again in picture books, and the spark reignited. I’ve heard about many other authors and illustrators starting this way as well. I think sometimes we just need to be reminded that we loved picture books as kids and still do as adults.

Congrats on your new debut as an author-illustrator, SOAKED. Tell us about the book and what inspired you.

Thank you! SOAKED! is about a bear who gets caught in the rain. He’s upset because the rain has ruined his ice cream cone, his sandcastle, AND his cashmere sweater, and he just wants to sit on his log and wallow. But with the help of his friends--a bunny, a badger, and a hula-hooping moose--he starts to see the bright side of things and realizes that having fun isn’t dependent on sunny skies.

I was inspired to write SOAKED! after I got caught in a rainstorm. When I got home, I thought I was going to make this beautiful, wordless book about dancing in the rain. But after months of percolating and sketching, my true voice (which is a lot more sarcastic) kind of smooshed that initial idea down and took over.
© Abi Cushman


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

My road to publication, in some ways, has been relatively short. It took me three years to get my first book deal after I decided to make a serious effort at becoming a published author-illustrator. But I had a lot of near misses, crushing rejections, and devastating critiques along the way. And I doubted myself many times, as both a writer and an illustrator. Luckily, I soldiered on and used those feelings of dejection to develop the character of Bear in SOAKED!


© Abi Cushman
What projects are you working on these days (and can you concentrate)?

I am currently working on final art for my second book, ANIMALS GO VROOM! which comes out from Viking in the summer of 2021. It features diecut windows and challenges readers to guess what goes roar, hiss and honk. I think kids will have lots of fun shouting out answers throughout the book.

I’m also working on a wombat book, which I love, because wombats are super weird.

© Abi Cushman

As for concentration, well the beauty of deadlines is that the work has to get done regardless. But if I’m not feeling motivated, then I listen to an audiobook while working on art. Or I work on something related to marketing instead.


What is your preferred medium/illustration process?
I draw all my characters with a mechanical pencil on printer paper. I scan those in, then color them and paint in the background using a Wacom Cintiq tablet and Photoshop.


© Abi Cushman

What advice would you give to aspiring author-illustrators?

1. Read and analyze a LOT of picture books (or graphic novels if that’s what you want to write).

2. Keep an ugly sketchbook - this is a sketchbook where you capture all your ideas really messily and without judgment.


3. Join a critique group.
4. Actually revise and polish your work and then submit it. A lot of people get stuck on this final stage. You have to do the work and then get it out there.


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

Most people who haven’t met my family don’t realize that I’m half Filipino.

Where can people find you online?

Website:​ https://www.abicushman.com

Newsletter:​ http://eepurl.com/dCUjeH​ (for totally top secret sneak peeks and giveaways) 

Twitter:​ https://www.twitter.com/AbiCushman

Instagram:​ https://www.instagram.com/Abi.Cushman

Facebook:​ https://www.facebook.com/AbiCushmanArt


Thank you, Abi, and we're excited to be part of her blog tour this month. Be sure to visit the other posts:




Abi Cushman is the author and illustrator of ​Soaked!​ (Viking, 2020) and ​Animals Go Vroom! (Viking, 2021). She has also worked as a web designer for over 15 years, creating websites for libraries, towns, and local businesses. She runs two popular websites of her own: MyHouseRabbit.com, a pet rabbit care resource, and ​AnimalFactGuide.com, which was named a Great Website for Kids by the American Library Association. In her spare time, Abi enjoys running, playing tennis, and eating nachos. (Yes, at the same time.) She lives on the Connecticut shoreline with her husband and two kids.
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66 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Abi!! This book looks so fun!

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  2. Congratulations, can't wait to read your book. Looks fun.

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  3. Bear is such a great character! I love the idea of him getting stuck in the rain.

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  4. Congratulations! Looks like a fun book!

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  5. This looks like a fun book to read!

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    1. Thanks, Natalie! I hope everyone has fun reading it aloud in a grumpy bear voice.

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  6. Congrats--this book looks hilarious! Love the illustration of the bear with the rainsoaked ice cream cone:-)

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    1. Thank you! That was the image in my head that made me want to write a whole story about him.

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  7. Congratulations, Abi. This looks like a wonderful book. I love your illustrations.

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  8. Can't wait to see this adorable book!

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  9. I cannot wait to read your book, Abi! So many of the little kids I work with don't know how to have fun in the rain & seeing the wetter..um...brighter side of things :) This book will be a real treat!

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    1. Yes, maybe they all just need a few hula hoops for the next rainy day. :)

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  10. Your wombat has won my heart! Congrats on SOAKED! and more books to come Abi!

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  11. Congratulations Abi! I love your illustrations.

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  12. Great facial expressions on all of these animals!

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  13. Love the book! The moose tried to still the show.

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  14. I am so excited for this book to be real! It is an absolute must have

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  15. Your book looks and sounds like a must read. I'll have to get it and read it.

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  16. Congratulations! I love these illustrations and look forward to reading it. Also excited for your wombat book!

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  17. Super congratulations! Fantastic artwork.

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  18. Great interview and really meaningful advice for new writers!

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  19. Oh these illustrations are ADORABLE! I've worked as a graphic designer for years. I wish I could find a way to bring in design into my writing, but I simply can't illustrate!

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    1. Carolyn- I went to a book signing with Bob Shea a few months ago, and he made a comment about being more of a designer than an illustrator, which was why he didn't illustrate WHO WET MY PANTS, even though he has written AND illustrated many other books. I thought that sentiment was really interesting. I think if you've got design skills, you probably could figure out an illustration style that would work too (if you wanted to). It actually took me several years to figure out my illustration style and hone my skills (and I'm still learning). Of course, that said, there's nothing wrong with being an author-only either. :)

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  20. Congratulations! I love the cover of your book--the expressions are hilarious. I'm excited to read this book.

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  21. This book looks like tremendous fun, grumpy bear and all. Love the skydiving hippo too, looks like he's having a blast. Thanks!

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  22. Congratulations, Abi! Your artwork is amazing and the story sounds so fun! Can't wait to read it!

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  23. I love your art, and your sarcasm and humor. That wombat one looks like it is going to be fabulous too!

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  24. I can't wait to get my hands on this book!!!

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  25. This sounds like a fun book. Congrats on the release!

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  26. This looks like such a cute book.

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  27. I've been looking forward to this book ever since the cover reveal. That poor bear!

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  28. This looks like it will be a fun book to read to my granddaughters.

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  29. This looks like a great book for my 8 year old.

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  30. I love the bear's expressions! Can't wait to read it.

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  31. This books cover and concept are irresistible. I would love to win a copy.

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