Leeza Hernandez: Fueled by Sour Patch Kids

leezaI met Leeza Hernandez years ago, and I’ve always felt she was waaaaaaay cooler than me. That’s hard for me to admit. Add to that her incredible artistic talent and way cool accent (she hails from the south of England), and I almost don’t want to talk to her. Except you can’t help but talk to Leeza — she’s too much fun, she’s got too much energy, and she’s way too smart. Read her interview — you’ll see what I mean.

As I said, Leeza is originally from England, but has been living in the USA since 1999. In 2004 she switched from newspaper and magazine design to children’s book illustration and writing. 2012 marked a milestone for her as she celebrated the release of her debut-authored picture book Dog Gone! (G.P. Putnam’s Sons).

Leeza is currently working on revisions and sketches for two new books due out in 2014 and just finished final art for a picture book written by John Lithgow (wow!!!!!!), due for release in fall 2013. She’s also the Regional Advisor for the New Jersey SCBWI chapter.
In her spare time, Leeza can be found either playing school, carpet picnic-ing or making art with her daughter, or cleaning the litter box. Coffee and Sour Patch Kids fuel late deadline nights which is also when the the cat likes to present her favorite fur balls under the art table!
Thanks for joining us, Leeza! Let’s get started…If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Middle school: DUCK!

(Oh, that’s hilarious. sorry for interrupting!)

High school: You might not be good at that and that’s okay. It in no way means you are a failure, simply do your best!

That’s great advice — I wish someone had told me that in high school! Moving forward in time, though, you’re now a professional artist. What are your favorite things to draw?

I love drawing chubby chickens wearing boots, scarves and/or earmuffs. There’s something very funny to me about that image. Makes me smile.

That’s made me smile, too! How do you see the books that are being published today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?

Showcasing any female character who, when faced with adversity, finds victory and overcomes chaos in clever, articulate and intuitive ways is a sure fire way to empower girls. I think that society is more open to embracing these types of characters and therefore today’s books have become the perfect platform to inspire nerdy chicks, help them be smart and know that anything in life is possible.

I agree — finding great examples in literature is a way to inspire girls to go after their dreams. Can you tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her?

Roald Dahl’s Matilda has to be one of the first “fictitious nerdy chicks” I ever remember having an impact on my life. There’s so many things to love about her- in spite of a difficult home life and an atrocious headmistress, she sought and found solace in books. With an insatiable appetite for learning she discovered the power of knowledge. Two other fictitious nerdy chicks whom I admire are Alice Pleasance and Violet Beaudelaire- smart girls who knew how to keep it together!

I love those characters, too! (See — I told you Leeza is waaaay cooler than me!) You truly are a Nerdy Chick, Leeza. What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a Nerdy Chick?

Oh wow, now you’ve put me on the spot! Okay, sorry if this sounds cheesy, but getting in to college was a big deal for me. Going through high school, and knowing that there was an exciting world filled with mystery and yet-to-be-discovered opportunities beyond the waters that surrounded the island I grew up on, were what made me more determined to study and get to college. That was my gateway to a new world. I absorbed myself in my art especially, and getting into art school will always be one of my favorite achievements. Debuting as an author/illustrator last year felt pretty good too!

I think college was a pretty big deal for a lot of us — doesn’t sound cheesy at all. It’s very inspiring to hear how you used college to open up a “new world,” as you put it. I think that’s what college is supposed to do.

Let’s shift gears a bit and have some fun…Do you have a personal “theme song,” perhaps one that speaks to your inner nerdiness?

Hmm, I never thought about a theme song. Ziggy Marley’s “Believe in Yourself” perhaps?

Love it! If someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it?

No brainer! Books and art supplies.

Can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?

Cheese: a good strong cheddar. (Hate to think what my cholesterol levels are like though!)

Ha! LEEZA HERNANDEZ, LOVER OF CHEESE. I think I love that even more! And finally, is there anything else you want to share with us that has made you who you are today?

Well, aside from art, sports and French were my favorite subjects throughout most of my school years. I was terrible at science. Also, I played cello for three years in middle school, but only because all the flutes were taken in the school orchestra. I can’t play cello anymore, but I do still play descant and tenor recorder.

Thank you, Leeza, for this great interview. I will never look at chickens without boots or earmuffs the same again!

If you want to know more about Leeza and her work (and who wouldn’t?), you can find her on the web at www.leezaworks.comHer books can be found at www.doggonethebook.com and www.eatyourmathhomework.com. Follow her on Twitter: @leezaworks


14 comments on “Leeza Hernandez: Fueled by Sour Patch Kids

  1. literaryfriendships says:

    What a fabulous way to start the week–a delicious mix of my favorite things: nerdy talk, cheddar cheese, and Leeza Hernandez! I also loved learning the real-life reason Leeza studied cello….Thanks for the great post.

  2. Susan Brody says:

    I just had dinner Sat.night with Leeeza! Well, me and about a dozen other New Jersey SCBWI members, at the national conference in NY, but still… Leeza and I shared A Moment! And you know what? She’s every bit as cool in person as on the page. Glam on the outside, secret nerd on the inside! A fabulous combination.

  3. laurimeyers says:

    Great interview! Leeza was a ball of energy at the NJ SCBWI event in the fall, even while dealing with hurricane Sandy issues- impressive!

  4. Leeza says:

    Aw, thanks everyone for such lovely words and so glad you enjoyed the interview. But seriously I am not THAT cool. Just happy to hang out with everyone and have fun. You are all so awesome to me and thank you again for having me over at NCR! Hugs to each of you. 🙂

  5. kamikinard says:

    Thank you Leeza for jumping in! I’m with you on the strong cheddar!

  6. :Donna Marie says:

    Well, THIS was fun to read! It’s amazing where ONE tweet (or was it facebook?) remark from Ame Dyckman can lead! lol It was to your interview with John Schumacher, which led me to your blog, Kami, then your twitter page and your tweet to THIS interview lol It all makes me happy to know all of you 🙂

    And I’d spend my $75 on the same thing, Leeza! lol

    Btw, Kami, now that I’m following you on Twitter, if you follow me I can message if I ever need to 🙂 Oh, and this is Donna (DisneyMuse)—my twitter ID is @writersideup So glad to be in touch more now! Well…that’s when I actually start frequenting all the social media! lol

  7. kamikinard says:

    Thanks Donna! Glad you found us here (and on Twitter). Hope your writing is going great!


    • :Donna Marie says:

      Thanks, Kami 🙂 I’m glad, too! I’d like to say the writing is going great, but life hasn’t allowed for it just yet. But it’s coming! 😀

      • kamikinard says:

        Never too late Donna. But do yourself a favor and set your kitchen timer for 30 minutes a day and force yourself to work… you’ll make more progress than you realize!

      • :Donna Marie says:

        Thanks, Kami 🙂 Actually, the problem is that I have to do a lot more fleshing out of characters and replotting and I can’t do that in such short snippets 😦 By the time I got going, the 30 minutes would be up! I WILL get there, though. I’m determined! 🙂

  8. […] Leeza Hernandez,Dog Gone: When a playful pooch goes a little overboard with a stuffed animal and gets in trouble, […]

  9. […] Leeza Hernandez, author of DOG GONE!: “Middle school: DUCK! High school: You might not be good at that and that’s okay. It in no way means you are a failure, simply do your best!” […]

  10. […] Leeza Hernandez, NEVER PLAY MUSIC RIGHT NEXT TO THE ZOO […]

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