Six Questions with Juliann Law
Juliann Law writes and illustrates stories for children. Her debut picture book, The World's Longest Sock, published Nov. 1, 2022.
Juliann freelances and teaches design classes at Salt Lake Community College. She has a B.F.A. in Illustration and worked for nine years as an in-house illustrator and concept artist at an educational software company. She is a member of SCBWI and is a recipient of the illustrator mentorship program from the portfolio showcase.
She has two daughters, a dog, and a husband. She loves to bake, read, garden, take her dog on walks and hunt for vintage kitchenware at estate sales and thrift shops. Juliann grew up in the Great Pacific Northwest and now calls the mountains of Utah her home. Visit Juliann's website to learn more about her and her work.
1. Did you have a favorite teacher when you were a child? What made them so special?
I had wonderful teachers. In first grade, Miss Tietjen showed us how to bind pages of our stories together like a real book. I made hundreds of books after that. In third grade, with Mr. Clingon, I won a young authors contest and got to go to an all-day conference where I learned from real authors and illustrators and realized it was something grown-ups could do for a living! I met Steven Kellogg, among others, that day and have wanted to be an author/illustrator ever since.
But if you ask me about special staff members of my school growing up, my absolute favorite was Craig the Janitor. He made school magical. On good days, we would walk into the classroom, and he would have drawn something silly and wonderful and surprising on the chalkboard the night before. He had a set of characters he would draw that I can still see in my head. On days when he would wash the blackboard, that’s when he’d really go all out and leave a masterpiece on that clean, fresh board. Maybe at his request, most of my teachers pretended like it was elves or someone mysterious drawing on the boards, but I put two and two together and figured it out. I loved those magical, surprise chalkboard drawings. Thank you, Craig the Janitor!
2. What one piece of advice would you like to give to aspiring kidlit authors?
The advice I give aspiring authors is to treat other creators as community, not competition. This will save you heartache and jealousy when those publishing announcements come out. Trust me, their book getting a deal doesn’t mean yours won’t. That’s not how it works! The more the merrier! And if you celebrate others’ success, you’ll have a bigger cheering section when your announcement is made. Put that energy into cheering others on, learning from their journey and sharing your thoughts and insights along the way. Celebrate both the baby steps and milestones with your peers, your critique partners, your agency siblings and the random strangers who post good news. I truly believe that’s the only way to last in this industry that takes so much time and patience.
3. When you begin creating a book, do you always know where the story is going?
So far, yes. All the stories that I really feel attached to and take from an idea stage to a dummy, are ones that have a punchline or big reveal at the end. Not all books are like that, but those are the ideas I’m drawn to! The end determines the rest of the book--once I know what the end is I can build up to that point.
The World’s Longest Sock started with the title and the last spread. . . I just imagined the world wearing a really long sock and it made me laugh! But really it couldn’t just be one, of course it had to be two really long socks. How would those socks get there? Who made them? Those questions and that silly image in my head were enough to get me started.
4. What was the process or timeline for The World's Longest Sock, from idea to publishing?
2018 - Idea spark, several months of sketching and story concept, showed several drafts to my critique group
2019 - Submitted to agents, signed with an agent
2020 - After months of refining and revision went on submission to publishers
2021 - Under contract!
2022 - January art submitted
2022 - November 1 Book Birthday!
5. If you could tell readers one secret about The World's Longest Sock, what would it be?
Here is a secret I’ve only told a few people. . . There is an important page in my book where you see the whole world and it has a face on it. But I thought, if the world has a face on it shouldn’t other inanimate objects also have faces? I asked my early readers and critique partners and it didn’t bother anyone else, but to me I didn’t want it to be out of place. So, if you look carefully at the pictures of televisions and radios and even Chuck’s shack, with some imagination you’ll see some faces! Then my publisher asked if I wanted to do a map of the world to go under the book jacket and I jumped at the chance. I love maps in books! I worked in a lot of fun facts and other superlatives (ie. World’s Longest Road and the Biggest Roller Skate!) on the map to match my title The World’s Longest Sock, but I also got to make a sun as a compass rose and it has a lovely traditional compass-appropriate face on it. Finally, I felt satisfied that my world face was not an anomaly in my book!
6. What was the most challenging thing you faced while writing/researching this book?
The World's Longest Sock has two main characters and they’re both adults! This made it quite hard to find a home as most publishers want books with young characters! So, one of the solutions was to add more kids as supporting characters which is awesome and makes the picture fun and interesting but also challenging. At one point, I emailed my agent and said “THIS SPREAD HAD 28 PEOPLE ON IT!?! WHO PUT ALL THESE PEOPLE HERE?” (That’s a lot of hands and feet and facial expressions to draw!) We laughed and she said, “It’s the hardest pages that my illustrators always end up being the most proud of. . .” and she was absolutely right! It felt like a huge accomplishment and I’m very proud of the work I did and how it turned out.
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