Yuyi Morales shares storytelling secrets in Spencer Shaw Lecture

By Doug Parry Friday, October 15, 2021

We all have stories to tell, author and illustrator Yuyi Morales told the audience for this year’s Spencer G. Shaw Endowed Lecture. And, she said, there are many ways to tell them.

Speaking over Zoom on Oct. 14 from a small community in Veracruz, Mexico, Morales shared the inspiration for several of her books and how she works in different media, including ink, paint and even puppets. She described how she found her voice as a writer and illustrator.

“Sometimes we tell (stories) with words,” she said. “Sometimes we tell them with images, sometimes we also tell them with silence, with empty spaces, with the things that we don’t see and the things that we don’t say.”

Morales’ arrival with her son as an immigrant in the United States provided the inspiration for her book “Dreamers.” In her talk, titled “Our Stories, Our Pages,” she said that while her immigration journey was a relatively smooth one, settling into a new country presented challenges that are relatable to readers.

“This is the story of how I came with my child, and that also made me realize that my immigration story is not only my story. It is my son’s, too,” she said. “It is the story of many, many people.”

Morales urged aspiring writers who might be watching to start with the small stories from their own lives rather than looking for “wow stories.”

“There are things that we do every day that we can tell a story about,” she told the audience. “Go and explore something you don't know right now, go and learn it and tell us the story of that learning and see what happens when you tell us that.”

Morales has authored and illustrated numerous books for children, including Just a Minute: A Trickster TaleCounting Book and Little Night, co-released in Spanish as Nochecita. Her newest book is Bright Star (2021, Neal Porter Books, Holiday House).

Michelle H. Martin, the iSchool’s Beverly Cleary Endowed Professor for Children and Youth Services, hosted the lecture and a Q&A with attendees. The recording was available on YouTube through Oct. 21.

The Spencer G. Shaw Endowed Lecture Series spotlights award-winning authors and illustrators. It honors beloved UW Information School Professor Emeritus Spencer Shaw, who was an internationally known librarian, storyteller and teacher.

In the past, the lecture has featured famed authors and illustrators including Maurice Sendak, Tom Feelings, Ashley Bryan, Margaret Mahy, Gary Soto, Laurence Yep, Theodore Taylor, Susan Cooper, Katherine Paterson, Milton Meltzer, Jerry Pinkney, Jason Reynolds and 2020 lecturer Brian Selznick.