Weekday Adventures: Jessica Hische and John Hendrix

“I am not special and that’s a good thing.”- Jessica Hische

Jessica Hische is an illustrator, writer and letterer. She is a New York Times bestselling author, illustrated numerous book covers, and written her own books including In Progress, Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave, and her newest, Tomorrow I’ll be Kind. She has long been a favorite creative to follow and be inspired by. As luck would have it, Jessica Hische was the featured speaker at an event hosted by The Novel Neighbor bookstore and the St. Louis chapter of the American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA). The event offered tickets for a reception, talk, and book signing with Jessica Hische. I was able to talk to her (confession, I might possibly have seemed a lil’ bit over enthusiastic) about her experiences balancing writing and illustration. She shared some of her story on bettering herself as a writer when publishers prioritized her abilities as an illustrator and letterer. Soon after, the rest of the venue filled with AIGA members and the Q&A began, led none-other by WashU’s own John Hendrix.

“I think every designer should own a copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon.”- Jessica Hische

Hendrix is a wonderful interviewer, and the conversation was engaging. Hendrix is seasoned in the publishing world, he has illustrated and written books including Drawing is Magic and The Faithful Spy, bold and beautiful illustrations to the brim. John’s questions acquired answers that contained both humor and depth from Hische about her work, from a tear shed discussing nurses that distribute her books in the NICU to John’s favorite question to ask illustrators, “What’s your favorite thing to draw?” Followed quickly by “It can’t be a letter.” Cue audience giggling. (To which she responded: the word “yes.”)

Jessica’s books inspire what we all are taught to do each day at WashU, beginning every day by trying to be better than the day before. Her books use whimsical characters such a well-dressed rabbits and quirky moles, expressive lettering, and lyrical poems to assist the reader’s reflection on what they can do better tomorrow and encourage them to forgive themselves what they didn’t do perfectly that day. Going to talks like this can enrich the college experience in so many ways. The content itself can be inspirational, the event can open you up for opportunities for meeting new people and discovering new things or it can even give you a new perspective to contribute in class discussions. Notes from Hische’s talk came in handy just days after I attended when my professors were debating in class about whether children’s books like Goodnight Moon depend more on their writing or illustrations. One thinks writing and the other thinks the imagery, but if you ask Jessica Hische, she’ll say both.

AIGA is an organization with chapters on campus and in St. Louis. As a student at WashU, the on-campus AIGA chapter is free and provides a lot of informative programming as well as an opportunity to engage with members on campus and in the larger AIGA community. The St. Louis chapter of AIGA is also worth joining. Many of their events are available to nonmembers or members of the on campus chapter but joining as a contributing member gives students access to some more unique members-only experiences.