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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Jessixa Bagley

Today, I am super excited to have Jessixa Bagley stop by to talk about her new book Laundry Day and share with us a bit about herself. On her website, Jessixa says - "Follow your dreams, kids! It's not just an empty saying." She should know, her dreams came true.

Hello Jessixa,

ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate?)

JESSIXA: I’m originally from the suburbs of Portland, Oregon and I’ve been making books and comics since I was about seven or eight. I went to my first writers conference when I was in the 3rd grade - it was a writing conference for kids. So I’m basically the same as back then - I’m just taller now.

I don’t even think my writing process has changed all that much. I just write anywhere and anytime I can. Usually it starts in my sketchbook but I will write little notes in my phone, or email- anywhere I need to in order to get the idea down. I don’t have dedicated writing time because of my busy schedule so I write on the bus, on my lunch breaks at work, before bed . . . anytime I can carve out or if I’m really inspired and just have to write. I am mostly drawn to creating work with depth and meaning - something with a lot of heart, but not sappy. I really like to explore emotions with writing and visuals.

What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

Under the right circumstances, I can belch VERY loudly.

Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

I often talk about how Beatrix Potter was a big influence on me as a young child. I loved her delicate animal drawings with their soft yet bright watercolor and her fine line work. There is a sweetness and a sophistication that really resonated with me. My favorite story of hers was (still is) The Tailor of Gloucester. I loved the details of the cloth and the story is so classical. And also the scene in Benjamin Bunny where he finds Peter Rabbit naked wrapped up in a handkerchief still makes me laugh.

What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (as a child or now as a writer or illustrator.)

I guess for writing, I’ve been looking at my personal experiences to inspire my stories, as well as relationships that are close to me. There is so much to be said about looking inward. By taking what is inside and putting it into my stories, I create work that people can connect with - for me that makes the work better.

As far as illustration, I have so many inspirations. From classic artists like: Pieter Bruegel (both of them), Miroslov Sasek, Richard Scarry, all of the Little Golden Book illustrators from the 50’s and 60’s, to contemporary illustrators like Carson Ellis, Jon Klassen, and Isabelle Arsenault. I tend to really love illustrators that have a very strong design sense. My work doesn’t look like theirs in the slightest, but I am very inspired by their graphic quality and the incorporation of fine art sensibilities into their work.

How do you shift between illustrations and writing? (Which comes first? Which is the hardest?)

I sort of ping-pong back and forth between the writing and the illustration. If I get an idea for a story first, I’ll start with that. But then sometimes I get inspired by a drawing and then start playing around with the illustration side to see where it takes me. They both happen so concurrently though - I can’t do one without the other.

The hardest part is easily the writing. To write a good picture book story you only have so much space and words to tell a story - so you have to be so smart and thoughtful. Painting is way less pressure filled - it’s so fun and therapeutic to paint versus the hard thinking I put into the writing. It’s pretty funny because in the scheme of things, the actual writing takes probably a 10th of the amount of time it takes to illustrate a whole picture book, but for me it’s the most challenging!

What's something you want your readers to know about Laundry Day?

It won’t make you cry - I promise! It should just make you laugh. So far my reputation of making people cry with my books has been 2 for 2, but this is just a fun and silly book.

Also, I barley remember doing the art for Laundry Day. I was a new mom to my son so I think I was extremely sleep deprived while making the illustrations. I only remember painting the second to the last page of the book-mostly because I saved it until the very end to paint and I was on a tight deadline and it’s also the most complex page in the entire book.

ME: Jessixa, Boats for Papa and Before I Leave might make us cry, but they are both stunningly beautiful stories that tenderly help children (and adults) deal with the curve balls that life has a tendency to throw at us.

Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

My husband, Aaron Bagley, and I have our first joint picture book coming out next

year about this time! It’s called Vincent Comes Home. It’s about a cat that lives on a cargo ship. I am very excited about this project because it’s completely collaborative. We both wrote and illustrated everything together. There isn’t an aspect of this book that we both didn’t have a hand in. It’s also a book with a lot of heart, so I’m very happy to be returning to this sort of storytelling and to be able to do so with my husband is very special for me.

ME: I am excited to see this collaboration, I am a sucker for anything cats.

Is there anything about writing, illustrating, or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started?

I wish I would have known how nice everyone is! It was so scary trying to get to past the giant wall that seemed in between the publishers and me. I think if I just could have realized that they were all awesome and inspiring people who just wanted to make really good books, I wouldn’t have been so intimidated when putting myself out there.

What is your favorite animal? Why?

I don’t have one (I have a hard time with picking favorites)! Every time I make a new book though, I fall in love with whichever animal that I’m writing about. So with each new project I guess I find a new one to add to my endless favorites list!

To find out more about Jessixa Bagley, or get in touch with her:

Thanks again Jessixa for stopping by to share with us your enlightening and encouraging journey. I can't wait to read Vincent Comes Home next spring.

Come back Friday for my review of Jessixa's Laundry Day on #PPBF.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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