Graphic design alumna Vanessa Flores ’11 recently announced the publication of her first graphic novel, Moriviví. The middle-grade story follows 12-year-old Ángel Ortiz as he navigates the aftermath of a hurricane that isolates him and his neighbors from the rest of Puerto Rico. Along the way, he struggles to manage his relationship with his abuela and the spirits that surround them.
The story, which is set to be published by Dial for Young Readers in Summer 2023, is deeply personal to Flores. “It’s inspired by the summers I spent and the years I lived in Puerto Rico and having to leave it behind in 2007,” says Flores, “as well as the extraordinary stories and colorful traditions that are a part of the culture, the pain I saw my extended family go through after Hurricane Maria and my own mental health journey.”
In addition to writing and illustrating Moriviví, Flores has illustrated other middle grade and early chapter books, including Eat Bugs: Project Startup, published by Penguin Workshop, and Twins vs. Triplets, published by HarperChapters. For Flores, the experience is rewarding: “I love reading the manuscripts and being able to bring the authors’ characters to life through my character designs and illustrations,” she says. “It’s exciting to think a kid is going to read those books and visualize the story through my art!”
Flores looks back on her time at UCF as foundational to her career as an illustrator. “What I owe to UCF are the connections I made with other students who loved illustration as well,” she says. “We became lifelong friends and provided resources, valuable critique and support to each other in our illustrator endeavors once we graduate. It was through that community that I improved my skills and learned the path to become a kidlit illustrator.”
To learn more about Vanessa Flores and her work, click here: vanessafloresart.com.