“LUZÍA” Author Luz Ortiz Sparks Courage and Individuality in Young Readers
Luz Ortiz is a triple threat creator. As an author, illustrator, and animator, her creative endeavors have allowed her to publish four children’s books and touch the lives of thousands of children around the world. Her most recent book, “LUZÍA,” follows a firefly of the same name who takes readers on adventures through various mediums, including books, videos, community readings, and more.
Before “LUZÍA,” Luz Ortiz made a name for herself as a copywriter for a large international advertising firm, working in both the United States and Spain. After years of feeling like her creativity was being stifled, she took the risk of leaving her comfortable, salaried position for a more entrepreneurial, creative lifestyle as a children’s book author.
Luzía’s story allows children from a wide range of backgrounds to learn crucial universal lessons that aid in the development of courage, confidence, and healthy self-esteem. Luz Ortiz’s mission is to encourage children to be their most authentic, creative, compassionate selves.
“Luz and Luzía” was so successful in the Hispanic community that the book is now being translated into English, and Luz is in the process of animating Luzía for an online episode series. Luzía’s story is born out of Luz’s own courage to accept her individuality and follow her heart – something she encourages each and every one of her young readers to do.
Name: Luz Ortiz
Company: Luz and Luzía
Job Title: Creator/Author/Illustrator
Current home base: Miami
Originally from: Colombia
One thing on your bucket list:
Take some time off to travel around the world and get to know more cultures.
A woman in history you admire & why:
Harriet Tubman. I admire her courage and determination. She not only freed slaves by risking her own life, but she also freed their mentality and belief that they were born to be slaves. She transformed a societal mindset and left her imprint not only on the black community, but on all humankind.
A present-day woman you admire & why:
Malala Yousafzai. Malala’s compassion is an inspiration for me because she transformed her experience into a movement that empowers and inspires women around the world. Enabling women’s education is a huge contribution to world peace.
Quote/piece of advice that you live by:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs
What inspired you to start your current venture?
When I was growing up, I felt like I didn’t belong and I wasn’t smart enough. Then, as an adult, I was diagnosed with minor dyslexia. That answered a lot of questions about why I struggled so much in school.
Many children out there, like me, are afraid because they feel they don’t belong. Feeling different can stem from having a learning/physical disability, a different cultural background, or a different sexual orientation.
Writing and illustrating has become a healing process for me. It has shown me talents I didn’t even know I had. That’s why I created Luzía a character that has the intention to inspire children and adults alike to love and accept themselves. If we encourage healthy self-esteem in young children. we are creating empowered, happier adults.
How are you making an impact and generating positive change through your work?
The tale of Luzía’s journey is about overcoming fears and adversity with creativity and courage, emphasizing values such as compassion, inclusion, and the primacy of family. As an artist and a picture book writer, I feel the responsibility to do this job with integrity and respect for children. It is vital that the content I create will not only fuel their imagination, but also leave seeds of inspiration to do good.
Luzía’s tale has evolved into not only a picture book, but a movement in which both parents and children are inspired to believe in themselves and to do acts of kindness through educational workshops, animated stories, and super hero capes that symbolize courage.
What is one thing you have accomplished through your work that you are most proud of?
I am very proud of my ability to create a positive impact on children and parents while overcoming my own fears in the process. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I worked in advertising as a copywriter, and after several years of feeling mediocre and not passionate about what I was writing, I decided to quit my job. I had no clue what my next move would be.
In the back of my mind, I had this idea of a character for children, but I never really had the guts to truly write from my heart. Everything I wrote in the advertising field was more automatic. But still, advertising taught me an important lesson: communication is a very powerful tool. I wanted to keep communicating, but from another perspective – one that delivers a positive and empowering message.
What is one major work milestone that you would like to accomplish in the next year?
For 2019, my major work milestone is to translate Luzía into English. All that I have done with this character has been in Spanish and geared for the Latino market, so I would like to introduce Luzía into the Anglo market next.
What is one new project you are currently working on that you are most excited about?
Right now, I am very excited to be working on Luzía as an animated character. Recently, I launched the series on Youtube. Each episode has the intention to inspire children to act from their hearts and promote acts of kindness. Luzía sets an example through her own struggles; for example, how she faces bullying, loss, change, and more.
What do you see as one of the biggest challenges facing your industry today?
I think one of the biggest challenges in my industry right now is technology. Don’t get me wrong – I am on board with technology. It is a great tool to reach more people and stay connected. But sometimes, technology can be taken as a replacement for imagination. By this, I mean that children nowadays lack imagination because everything is so digital and delivered in an instant, so they don’t have the time to really imagine a story or a character. I believe it is important for parents to keep the tradition of storytelling before going to bed, rather than relying on their cell phones for entertainment every night.
What is a trend in your industry that you foresee becoming popular in the future?
Times are changing for women. We are speaking out, supporting one another, and creating a community that allows us to share our stories and inspire more women out there. With that in mind, I foresee that more books will highlight strong female characters to keep empowering and growing this new era.
What is one of the greatest challenges you have personally faced at this job?
The greatest challenge I have been facing is playing dual roles of creator and entrepreneur at the same time. The artistic part (writing and illustrating) is a very comfortable place for me. The entrepreneurial role is a place I don’t feel as comfortable, since trying to sell my own work is a bit of challenge for me. You expose a very vulnerable part of yourself, and on top of that vulnerability, it also has to sell from a consumer/marketing point of view. You learn how to deal with rejection and grow from the feedback each person gives you on the entrepreneurial journey.
As an example of a time I screwed up professionally, there was a time when I worked for free for a brand in exchange for exposure. I felt very disappointed in myself because I invested a lot of time and talent on that project. But I learned the valuable lesson that if I don’t respect my time and talents, no one else will. So every bad experience really is a blessing in disguise.
What were you doing before your current role?
Before Luzía, I worked in advertising for several years. I went to to school to become a copywriter for advertising agencies. I started school in Colombia and then transferred to FIU (Florida International University) in Miami. When I finished school, I really didn’t feel my portfolio was strong enough, so I decided to do a two year program at the Miami Ad School, which gave me the opportunity to go to school and work in Madrid, Spain. After a year, I came back to Miami and worked at a Hispanic ad agency.
After three years of really trying to feel passionate about advertising, I just couldn’t take it anymore and quit my job. From that moment on, I started to take my writing career more seriously and moved to New York (originally, I was only supposed to stay for a period of three months. I ended up staying five years). Life started to flow in the direction of writing, and something very magical happened along the way – I discovered that I was an illustrator. That discovery opened up more doors and possibilities that helped me build and shape Luzía, my current project.
What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received & why?
The best advice I receive every time I am struggling is from my father. He reminds me to be patient and persistent. He explains life as a puzzle. At the beginning, you have a bunch of loose pieces that eventually create a masterpiece. Putting those pieces together takes patience and persistence, and sometimes you fail to put them together correctly and you may have to start again. But at the end, everything will fit perfectly if you stay persistent.
What is one of the worst pieces of advice you have ever received & why?
Instead of bad advice, it was more like bad feedback. At this particular time, I was editing my manuscript and it was being critiqued by a book editor. She told me that since I was Hispanic, I should put more of that into the character of Luzía. At that moment, I tried to portray Luzía as a more diverse character, but it really wasn’t clicking for me. I felt that the character lost her authenticity because I was forcing something just for a market trend.
I went with my gut and left Luzía as a character that grows form her fears, like all of us do at some point in our lives. You don’t have to belong to any ethnic background to do so. Fears are human, and therefore, universal.
Can you tell us about a time when you took a huge risk/did something you were scared to do, and it totally paid off?
When I left the advertising world to pursue a dream that, at that time, seemed uncertain and vague. Although there are days that are hard, it has been worth it every step of the way. Taking this new direction has taught me that although I have dyslexia, I can write; even though I don’t know how to draw, I can do collage work; even though I am very shy, I can speak in public and communicate stories and experiences. You grow a lot when you decide to be courageous and jump head-first into the uncertain.
Are there any great resources you have discovered that you would like to share?
When I lived in New York, I took continuing education courses at the SVA (School of Visual Arts) that really helped me shape my illustration work. Also, becoming a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) has really helped me find resources and the conferences that allowed me to network with editors, art directors, agents and fellow colleagues.
I can imitate different accents and people! Most of the voice overs for the animated series on YouTube are done by me.
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