Maryland author, and illustration instructor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Joyce Hesselberth, will be joining the many wonderful children’s authors and illustrators presenting at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21, 2022. Joyce will be a featured presenter along with the equally talented Julia Kuo in the Willa Cather Pavilion (12:15-1:05 pm), immediately followed by a book signing. GBF will be at our new location Gaithersburg’s Bohrer Park, 506 S Frederick Ave, Gaithersburg.
I am not only looking forward to meeting Joyce at GBF, but I am also looking forward to teaching a lesson to my young naturalists this week using Beatrice Was a Tree as my anchor text (a future post will include this library media lesson).
I hope you enjoy my interview with the lovely Joyce Hesselberth.
What is your writing space like?
I have two writing spaces. One is our* studio in Baltimore. It’s a renovated warehouse space and I’m surrounded by all my favorite art supplies there. That’s important because I switch back and forth between writing and drawing. The second place is our den at home, with a cat by my side.
(*Joyce and her husband, David Plunkert, own Spur Design in Baltimore)
How (or in what ways) do you hope librarians will promote your book?
I hope librarians will share my books with kids, and also with other librarians. Just sharing books they love is the perfect way for them to promote authors. I also love when they reach out to other teachers. During a recent school visit, we were able to combine a book reading with a hands-on project that the art teacher and I planned together. It was a great way to extend the reading experience and engage kids who like to tell stories with pictures too!
(Note to educators and parents: Joyce has an Activities for Kids section on her website – check it out for some great extension activities)!
What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your book?
Most of my books look at the world in a slightly different way. Beatrice Was a Tree is a book about why trees are important, but it’s also a book that asks readers to turn inward and imagine themselves as a tree. I hope they come away feeling that they have a connection to nature.
Who is the reader you are writing for? Please describe them.
I think I’m always writing (and drawing) for myself. Or maybe for myself as a kid! It might sound silly, but if I’m not having fun while writing, then my reader probably won’t have fun reading it, right?
What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you?
My family has seven chickens. I can list all fifty states in alphabetical order.
What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your book?
Since this is a book about trees, there are thousands of leaves in it. I loved drawing each and every leaf. There is something so satisfying about those shapes. I also love that on the cover some of the leaves are shiny. The publisher used a special varnish to make them look that way and if you tilt the book back and forth they shimmer!
What has surprised you most about the characters in your book?
Probably that Beatrice ended up having purple hair! I didn’t plan it that way when I started drawing her, but a lot of the book takes place at night, and the purple just seemed to fit with the deep blues in the sky.
(All shades of purple is my absolute favorite color, so I adore Beatrice’s hair)
Which book review or award has been most meaningful to you?
One of my reviewers called my book Kafkaesque and I really like that! Picture books can be weird and imaginative.
(For those of you (like me) not familiar with the term Kafkaesque, per Dictionary.com, Kafkaesque means relating to, characteristic of, or resembling the literary work of Franz Kafka; marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity).
What are you most looking forward to at our book festival?
People! I’m so looking forward to seeing people in person!
I hope you will join me at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21st to meet Joyce Hesselberth!
Joyce Hesselberth’s illustrations have appeared in national ad campaigns, theater productions, and major newspapers and magazines. She writes and illustrates children’s books, including “Mapping Sam,” which won a special mention award in the Bologna Ragazzi non-fiction category. Her most recent book, “Beatrice Was a Tree,” was published in 2021 by Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins). Her work has been recognized by American Illustration, Society of Illustrators, and the Art Directors’ Club of New York among others. She and her husband David Plunkert co-founded Spur Design in 1995. Spur Design is located in a renovated factory building in Baltimore, Md. Joyce is also a professor of illustration at Maryland Institute College of Art.