Student Success Stories: Vicky Fang
Today, I'm excited to update an earlier post with the prolific Vicky Fang! The first time around, Vicky had one picture book announcement. She has since added two more book deals: one for four chapter books, and another for two board books. I don't think we have an announcement to share for the board books, but here's one for her chapter books!
Myrna: What is your background?
Vicky: I’m a designer at Google. I’ve been an interaction designer in technology for over 10 years, designing tons of cool projects—like interactive buildings, or robots you can make at home, or games you can play with your voice. For the last 5 years, I’ve been designing experiences for kids, often with STEM goals in mind.
Myrna: What a cool job! What made you want to start writing and illustrating picture books?
Vicky: I started writing because I wanted to empower kids in STEM and I saw picture books as a unique opportunity to do so. Working in Silicon Valley, all of my design for kids has been built on digital technology. But as a designer, I see picture books as an amazing interactive experience, with no technology at all. This is what inspired me to tackle this craft: a new opportunity to connect with kids to delight and empower them.
Myrna: How long have you been writing?
Vicky: I started writing about two and a half years ago. I joined SCBWI about six months in, and that’s when I started to understand the hill I had just signed up to climb.
Myrna: Are you involved in any writing communities that have contributed to your success?
Vicky: The kidlit community is so inviting and there are so many groups that I lean on for advice, support, and inspiration! In particular, I continue to find inspiration from 12×12, Writing with the Stars, and of course, Arree’s Storyteller Academy.
Myrna: Have you ever felt frustrated by trying to get a picture book right?
Vicky: All the time! I feel like writing a picture book is like trying to put together a puzzle where the pieces keep changing shape. It's incredibly frustrating, but that's part of what makes it so rewarding.
Myrna: When and why did you take Arree Chung’s Making Picture Book Stories and Dummies? (This class has since been split into two classes: Crafting Picture Book Stories and Making Picture Book Dummies.)
Vicky: I took Arree’s Making Picture Book Stories and Dummies about a year into writing (so in summer 2017). I had seen a free webinar he had posted to promote the course. The webinar was so helpful, I knew I had to sign up for the class, and I’m so glad I did!
Myrna: How did taking Arree's class change the way you write picture books?
Vicky: Arree’s class really helped me understand how to make headway in improving my craft as a writer. At that time in my writing journey, I was pretty aware of my larger strengths and weaknesses, but I didn’t have the tools to meaningfully move myself forward. Arree’s class really helped me understand the details of how to analyze story structures, character, and visuals to actively improve my craft. The materials and guidance gave me practical tools to write and pitch better stories. I also signed up for 1:1 sessions with Arree, and his personal feedback and advice was so important in helping me better understand myself as a writer and the industry as a whole. Arree is such an open and supportive teacher, with tons of knowledge and insight.
Myrna: Agreed! I wish I'd had his class as early in my journey as you did! Could you tell us about your recent book deal?
Vicky: My debut picture book, Invent-a-Pet, is scheduled for publication in Spring 2020 from Sterling Children's Books. Pitched as Dear Zoo meets Ada Twist, Scientist, it’s a STEM-based story that introduces basic coding concepts, as a girl programs a mysterious machine in a quest to develop the perfect pet. It’s being edited by Rachael Stein and illustrated by Tidawan Thaipinnarong. Special thanks to my wonderful agent, Elizabeth Bennett, for seeing the potential and finding the right home for this book.
Myrna: I can't wait to read it! Do you have any advice that might help our blog readers find satisfaction or joy in writing picture books?
Vicky: Find a great critique group! It's so helpful to have friends to learn, commiserate, and celebrate with in this painfully slow industry. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my amazing critique partners, Christine Evans and Faith Kazmi. (You should definitely pre-order Christine’s beautiful debut book, Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist.)
Myrna: Critique groups are the best! What’s next for you?
Vicky: I'm starting to think about promotion for my first picture book (yay!!!). I'm also working on edits for a not-yet-announced deal that I'm incredibly excited about. Plus, I have a couple other projects out or going out on submission soon and am always trying to brainstorm new ideas.
Myrna: Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us! Where can we find you on the Internet?
Vicky: Find me on Twitter: @fangmous or on my website: www.vickyfang.com. I'm also part of an awesome 2020 debut picture book group, @Soaring20sPB. Follow us to hear about the journey of a talented crew of 2020 debut authors!
Myrna: Thanks, Vicky, for sharing this first part of your journey with us! I'm so excited to read your books.
And thank YOU (yes, you) for reading!
Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems.
Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award.
Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.