Friday, January 7, 2022

Interview with Kristen Uroda, BIPOC Scholarship Awardee and Featured Illustrator

In a series of quarterly interviews, we’ll introduce you to the four new members who were awarded the 2021 BIPOC scholarships. We begin with Kristen Uroda, an illustrator who harkens from Detroit, MI. Welcome to SCBWI-MI, Kristen!

Kristen Uroda's Winter 2022 Mitten Banner

How will the SCBWI membership be useful to you?


Even in the short time since I received the SCBWI membership, it’s been an incredible resource to learn about the children's book industry, different ways to level up my skills, and discover other illustrators in my own backyard. There’s such a wealth of information and opportunities to connect with the larger community that is rare to find if you’re doing this all on your own. I’ve learned so much already from the digital workshops, I wish I could have joined sooner!


Southern Poverty Law Center
2022 Calendar
We’d like to get to know you! Tell us about your past creative work in the area of children’s literature or related areas of interest or expertise.


I am a Michigan native, born in Detroit. I like to say that I’m a creator, innovator, and storyteller passionate about art and design that makes a difference and makes the world a more beautiful place. I love turning problems, stories, and abstract concepts into illustrations that inspire reflection, action, and social and civic change.


The Skillman Foundation Annual Report:
Celebrating 60 Years of Service (cover)

For the last decade, my sweet spot has been in editorial illustration, mainly for news sites and publications, but I originally went to art school (Massachusetts College of Art and Design) with the intention of focusing on children’s books, comics, and narrative illustration. While I do love the editorial world because I come across a lot of unique stories that I have the honor of visualizing, I’ve been waiting for the right time and opportunity to jump into the children's book industry. I recently got my chance with my first picture book deal that should be completed this coming year. 


What in your childhood or youth piqued your interest in writing or illustrating? What were some of the major influences that led you to this road?


Short Wave Celebrates Black Excellence
In Scienc
The first time I can remember really being in awe of what hands could create with a simple crayon and paper happened one day when I was practicing drawing stars. I was young, maybe 5, and at the time, the best I could do was drag the crayon across the page to make messy lines-criss-crossing stars. And I clearly remember at one point, asking my mom if she could draw stars with me, so she sits down, grabs a crayon and then draws this perfect, no crisscrossed lined star flawlessly and that absolutely blew my mind.


Chemistry textbooks still lack gender and racial representation
At that point, I was forever hooked to the pursuit of understanding the connection between the mind, the mind's eye, and mark making. Every time I came across someone who could draw well, I thought, “I want to do this too.” I think that desire also helped open my eyes to the artists that were around me, mainly in my picture books, which I had a ton of. My favorites were Eric Carle, Don Freeman, Ezra Jack Keates, Dr. Seuss, Marcus Pfister, Ludwig Bemelmans, Tomie de Paola, Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, E. H. Shepard, the incredible duo Leo and Diane Dillon, and many more. A lot of these illustrators inspired me to read, write, and draw stories.


If You Feel Thankful, Write It Down.
It's Good For Your Health
Even today, I’m still a pretty big nerd for picture books, comics, and animated films. I can’t go into a bookstore or library without stopping by the children’s section and being in awe at the number of amazing artists and storytellers out there. And it’s great seeing such a diversity of artists these days too. Throughout childhood and even college, it was rare to see female illustrators and illustrators of color in the spotlight. It’s only within the last decade that I’ve seen illustrators like myself becoming more visible.


Please share anything about your current projects or what’s ahead in your creative work? We’d love to hear about it!


Stop being so mean to yourself.
Here are 5 tips to help you break the cycle
I’m not sure how much I can share as the official press release hasn’t come out yet, but I am currently working on illustrating my first picture book that should be coming out in the next year or so. It’s based on a poem written by a Black artist and activist. It was a product of the grief she felt after Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in 2014 but it’s a really joyful and playful vision of community-building and healing. 


As it’s my first picture book, there’s been a lot of learnings gained, but I’ve had so much fun and the team I’m working with have been great! I’m excited for it to enter into the world and excited for whatever stories I get to illustrate next. 


Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your story and illustrations with our SCBWI-MI community. We look forward to seeing more of your creative work!


 --Isabel Estrada O’Hagin, 

SCBWI-MI Outreach Coordinator



  1. Thank you, Kristen! WElcome. And I love the banner!! Congrats on your book coming up.

  2. Kristen, your work is wonderful! I love your translation of concept into form and design. SCBWI-MI has been an incredibly informative and supportive influence for writers and illustrators here in Michigan. Welcome, and Congratulations(!) on your award and on your first book!

  3. Another SCBWI-MI Kristen/Kristin! Great to "meet" you here and see more of your artwork. Congrats on your upcoming picture book!

  4. Hi Kristen! I love your work and use of color! Congratulations on what I imagine will be your first of many picture books.

  5. Welcome, Kristen! So glad you're part of SCBWI and that you're digging into all it has to offer! Love your examples of your work with NPR and especially SPLC, a group close to my heart. Congratulations on illustrating your first picture book. Fantastic!

  6. Love love LOVE this banner!!! Love your work too, Kristen. You're right, it has taken way too long for illustrators of color to reach the spotlight. Congratulations on what you have achieved without an easy time of it, and thank you for sharing your inspiring words and art here.

  7. Thank you, Kristen, for this engaging interview! I hope someday we'll meet in person. We look forward to hearing more about your work and upcoming picture book.

    Love this banner! I want to hop in and catch a ride on the bike!

  8. Kristen, welcome to the SCBWI/SCBWI-MI community. We're so glad you are here and are excited to be even a small part of your future. It looks exciting!

  9. Hi Kristen! your art is so gorgeous, I can't wait to see it on the shelves. I loved your anecdote about the criss cross stars and admiring your mom's perfect ones- I know just what you mean. (although, I still totally do my stars the same way as when I was a kid) welcome to SCBWI!