Kiara Valdez & Diana Tsai Santos Auction YA Graphic Novel Stepping Up

Stepping Up is Kiara Valdez and Diana Tsai Santos' debut YA graphic novel together, inspired by Kiara Valdez's life. Stepping Up follows Kiara as her hard-fought place on the stepping team helps her navigate freshman year as one of the only Black students at a predominantly white boarding school, Phillips Academy Andover. Carolina Ortiz at HarperAlley won Stepping Up in a four-house auction, alongside a second untitled graphic novel.

Kiara Valdez & Diana Tsai Santos Auction YA Graphic Novel Stepping Up
Kiara Valdez & Diana Tsai Santos Auction YA Graphic Novel Stepping Up

Kiara Valdez is an Afro-Dominican writer-editor at First Second, but usually when editors write their own graphic novel, it will be published by another company so as to avoid conflicts of interests and has written various IP storybooks, activity books, and picture books for Scholastic. Valdez tweeted out "The news is finally out! @daitsaisan and I will be bringing little Kiara's story to y'all! This memoir is a love letter to Black girls striving in spite of everything and the deep friendships they make along the way. Many thanks to @BrittSiess and @pushthepanorama". Diana Tsai Santos is a Blasian (West African/Taiwanese) cartoonist who says she "who loves experimenting with different styles which they use to tell more interesting and visually compelling stories."

Publication of the first book is planned for 2024; Kiara Valdez and Diana Tsai Santos' agent Britt Siess at Britt Siess Creative Management did the deal for North American rights.

HarperAlley is a graphic novel imprint launched from HarperCollins Children's Books under the direction of former art director and acquiring editor at First Second, Andrew Arnold last year, described as a "collaborative, creator-focused publisher" that will specialize in graphic novels for "readers of all ages." The new line is "looking to publish books that readers of all ages can enjoy, from the youngest readers to teens and adults. We believe that a good story is a story that any reader can relate to. That's what we mean when we say "readers of all ages." HarperAlley is looking to publish about ten books a season, or about thirty books a year and is one of a number of mainstream book publishers that has been rapidly increasing the number of graphic novels for younger readers. And Kiara Valdez and  Diana Tsai Santos have given them another two.

Founded in 2020, Britt Siess Creative Management is a Seattle-based full-service literary agency with an emphasis on graphic novels and illustration.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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