Illustrator Spotlight: Edna Cabcabin Moran


© Edna Cabcabin Moran

May 1, 2023

We're excited to feature illustrator Edna Cabcabin Moran and her banner design for Kidlit411. Also, enter to win a copy of her picture book, HONO AND MOA (Beachhouse Publishing 2018) (a Hawaiiana spin on the Aesop fable The Tortoise and the Hare) along with a stuffed green sea turtle!

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


As a self-described "multi-artist," I am at home in various art disciplines having practiced them my whole life. In grade school, I was one of the "classroom artists" which meant that I was the go-to gal for drawing people--my friend, Belinda, drew the horses and Harold drew the cars. I loved reading and frequented various neighborhood libraries. I started journaling in middle-school and continued with it in high school. I wrote short stories and poems for my high school's magazine. 

I grew up enjoying street dancing and studied hula at a hālau (school of hula) in my teens. These experiences paved the way for me to  become a professional dancer and performance artist in children's entertainment.

© Edna Cabcabin Moran

For a while, I worked both in entertainment and graphic design. However, after I had my first kid, I realized that I'd put off my long-held interest in illustrating and writing picture books. So, I started taking classes with a professional children's book illustrator who taught from her studio and I began to build my portfolio. I was hooked. I loved the process of creating picture books. As I delved deeper in my learning, I found representation. However, my timing was a bit off--the picture book market and interest in folktales took a dive. Once during a portfolio visit, an AD told me that if I had walked into her office five years ago, I would've "walked out with a book contract." I was simultaneously surprised, somewhat flattered and deflated at that remark. Shortly after, I took a break from my publishing pursuits.

© Edna Cabcabin Moran


When I returned to "the publishing path" a few years later, I became a member of SCBWI and joined an Artist Way-based accountability group which helped me focus on my publishing goals and mindset as a writer/illustrator. My first book, The Sleeping Giant: A Tale from Kaua'i (which I wrote and illustrated) was actually plucked from an actual "slush pile"at a time when hard copy submissions were the norm. I've since published traditionally in picture books and poetry anthologies and have done illustrations for a few indie publishers. While my path has meandered, I'm grateful and dedicated to writing and illustrating for kids--they're awesome! I enjoy connecting with readers, fellow writers and artists, and of course, my inner storyteller.


© Edna Cabcabin Moran


Congrats on your banner design! Tell us how you approached the project.


© Edna Cabcabin Moran

I thought it would be fun to do something whimsical with animals "traveling" on top of and with opened books. This concept was inspired by quote from an eight-year-old kid who said something like "You can travel through books." I recreated the archway of books I had seen at The Last Book Store, a quirky, must-visit bookstore in downtown Los Angeles.



Tell us what inspired your picture book, Honu and Moa.

I wrote Honu and Moa, in part, as an homage to Hawaii's delicate fresh water and eco-system and to help shed light on some of the attitudes existing around water rights and environmentalism in the Hawaiian islands. More about my Hawaiiana spin on the Tortoise and Hare fable, as well as, cultural and historical references may be found in my author's note in the book.


What projects are you working on now? 


I have a middle grade graphic novel in the works. It's based on my middle school years growing up in a Navy town at the tail-end of the Vietnam War. I also have a lyrical, nonfiction picture book in the works. The PB manuscript recently earned an SCBWI Equity and Inclusion Award and I'm currently revising the finished art in the book dummy for that piece.



What is your preferred illustration medium and process?   

As a self-taught artist, I love both traditional and digital media. In first grade, I created my own "fingerpainting style" before moving on to brushes. My teacher, Miss Henderson, had an easel in the corner of the classroom which I visited frequently. I experimented with different drawing styles what were influenced by my love of comics. My art teacher in h.s. taught watercolor techniques and gave us ample time to paint freely. 

work in progress © Edna Cabcabin Moran


work in progress © Edna Cabcabin Moran

These days I work in digital paint programs. I love the ease and convenience of mixing traditionally wet and dry media--mimicking the effects through digital brushes. However, the tactile experience of working with traditional media is often more satisfying. So, I try to mix it up a bit--drawing and painting at various stages, scanning textures, doing character studies, sketching scenes, and simply doodling. Traditional media will always be part of my process.

high school self-portrait @Edna Cabcabin Moran


What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?


I'd like to offer two pieces of advice:

1. Be true to your own aesthetic. It's great to practice and hone your skills learning from and emulating other artists--that stage teaches you about technique and process. However, at some point you need to give yourself the space and freedom to explore who you are as an artist. Don't take for granted the things that come easily or naturally to you but also venture out there, dig deeper and take risks. It's a paradox but that's how you find your voice.

© Edna Cabcabin Moran

2. Work on mindset as hard as you do on craft. Creating and putting your work "out there" can feel scary because you're entering the unknown. Thankfully, people have written books on the subject. Get your hands on: Art and Fear, by Bayles and Orland, Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and if you feel ready for some tough love, check out The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.


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


I'm an introvert and naturally shy. I might come across as outgoing because of my work in children's entertainment (in my previous life), as a dancer, an author/illustrator presenter and teaching artist. But I was very shy in my youth and that side of me can crop up sometimes. I relate to folks, especially kids, who are bashful or on the quiet side. I suppose I've morphed into an "ambivert" as Susan Cain (author of "Quiet") calls it which I attribute to hanging around an extroverted, social butterly of an older sis.

© Edna Cabcabin Moran



Where can people find you online?


My website is I plan on revamping it this year :). To find me on Instagram visit: @kidlitedna I like to post sketches, process work and finished work on occasion.



Edna Cabcabin Moran is an author/illustrator, multi-disciplined artist, educator, and advocate for youth voices and diversity in publishing. She has served on a number of nonprofit committees including We Need Diverse Books and the SF Bay Area's Project Youthview: The Power of Youth in Film. A storyteller at heart, Edna dances with acclaimed hālau hula and dance company, Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu. As a teaching artist, Edna specializes in STEAM and integrative arts, working with schools in the SF Bay Area. Ednaʻs poems have been published both in childrenʻs and adult anthologies including the award-winning title, "ThankU: Poems of Gratitude." Ednaʻs latest picture book, HONU AND MOA received an 2019 Aesop Accolade from the American Folklore Society.








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