Lisze Bechtold is an animator, as well as an author and illustrator of picture books and early readers. Sally and the Purple Socks was a Children's Choice Book, and included in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Literacy Program. The award-winning Buster the Very Shy Dog early reader series (Oppenheimer Gold Awards and Maryland Blue Crab Honor) has been in print for 20 years. She also illustrated Toots the Cat, A Collection Of Cat Poems, written by the well-known poet, Karla Kuskin. Lisze's works-in-progress now include middle grade novels. Her animated film, "Moon Breath Beat", was recently added to the National Film Registry. She currently volunteers as the SCBWI Los Angeles region Illustrator Coordinator. An experienced Authors in the Schools presenter, Lisze lives in California with her husband, sons, and a very talkative cat.
Things I thought as a kid:
Age 5 - If the teacher thinks modeling a horse in clay is too hard, I'll make a giraffe instead.
Age 6 - I can walk home by myself. I remember all the roads Mom drove to get me to school.
Age 7 - Teachers go to the movies!
Age 8 - Maybe Grandma's maid is my real mom.
Age 9 - Why do I have to say a prayer that makes me fall asleep wondering how I might "die before I wake"?
Age 10 - The kids at this school walk really fast, so I should too... and look up so I don't crash into any more poles.
Age 11 - Mom, you've only known him for three months. Don't get married yet.
Age 12 - I can't believe no one recognized me in my new clothes.
I was the oldest child in a fluxuating family that moved a lot. Most of my free time was spent drawing alone or corralling my siblings and younger neighbors into performing circuses or playing "school". I inadvertently taught my little sister to read when she was only three. One summer day, my mother granted my request to paint flowers on the family car. She even gave me some paint to use, no doubt expecting a discrete and tasteful result. Kudos to her for not exploding in rage when I adorned our baby blue stationwagon with gigantic daisies. Ours was the first painted car in town, soon followed by a number of others. My teen years were spent drawing, playing guitar, writing songs, and working at a stable in exchange for horseback riding lessons.
An animation class at a tiny college in Oregon focused my artistic pursuits. Here was a magical, although tedious, way to consolidate my interest in story, music, dance, and art into one project. I transferred to California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) where I created 5 animated films. My MFA project was a multimedia performance of animation projected on to live dancers, accompanied by live music. I was appointed student member of the Filmex shorts selection committee, and later became a full member and coordinated the festival's Animated Shorts screenings. I worked for various studios including Disney Feature Animation ("The Prince and the Pauper"), Kroyer Films ("Ferngully"), and BRC Imagination Arts (short films and multi-media installations). I especially enjoyed animating characters made out of effects, such as the bubble fish for a World's Fair installation. Most recently, I animated effects (falling leaves, fire, smoke) for the animated section in "Mary Poppins Returns".
After the first of three sons was born, I turned to writing children's books instead of filmmaking. Drawing 32 illustrations for a picture book vs. thousands for an animated film was a time-saver. I joined the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), a fabulous resource that led to a wonderful critique group and a long, roller coaster path to publication. It took nine years of quiet membership, then winning first prize at a Writers Day, before I felt ready to submit work to publishers. But publishers were merging and laying off staff at that time, so contracts would fall through before being finalized. It took four years and selling Buster The Very Shy Dog three times before I actually got to sign a contract. It has now been in print for over 20 years!
SCBWI has been a lifeline to my professional sanity, so I have volunteered regularly. At first, I just helped with mailers, then I co-coordinated Illustrators Day, conceived and co-cordinated the Working Illustrators Retreat, served on the L.A. Regional board, and am now the region's Illustrator Coordinator.