I am extremely pleased to present this interview with children’s book author Jessica Young, whose debut picture book My Blue is Happy is literally teeming with color. As all of my blog fans know, I love color, so to have a chance to interview an author who shares my passion for our wonderful, colorful world is just so satisfying. In My Blue is Happy, Jessica is able to express her unique feelings for each color as the story moves along. Illustrator Catia Chien’s brilliant artwork enhances the text, and together, the words and pictures immerse the reader into that wonderful, colorful world I mentioned. I have to say, since blue is my favorite color, and has been since forever, I absolutely love how Jessica conveys blue as happy and not sad, the emotion that is usually associated with the color. Think about how many shades of blue there are, from the darkest navy to the lightest baby blue and every shade in between. My favorites are periwinkle, teal, turquoise, and sky blue. So I have to agree with Jessica when she says, “My Blue is Happy”! (P.S. Check out the gorgeous cover image below!)
Enjoy the interview!
Q. What do you enjoy most about writing for children?
JY. Kids are naturally creative, curious, and silly – and they tend to be open to new ideas and experiences. It’s exciting to think that my story might spark a change in perception, understanding, or emotion. Also, I love accessing the parts of me that are five or nine or seventeen. As Madeleine L’Engle said, “I am still every age that I have been.” And I like spending time at those younger ages within myself.
Q. How do you motivate yourself to sit down and write?
JY. I spend so much time wanting to write and thinking about story ideas as I’m doing other things that most often when I do sit down to write it feels relieving. I sometimes leave a difficult piece for a while and entertain a shiny, new idea, or toggle back and forth between two or more works-in-progress, but when necessary, I just try to plow through. Being accountable to my critique partners also helps. And fun snacks and drinks!
Q. What inspired you to write your beautiful picture book My Blue Is Happy?
JY. I can’t remember the exact moment the title and idea came to me. But I’ve always been interested in individual differences and perspective. Blue is one of my happy colors, and I wondered if having a sad association like “the blues” colors people’s perceptions of it. I’ve also observed adults telling kids that colors mean specific things, and that grass is green and sky is blue, and I’ve wondered how kids reconcile that with their own experiences. There are universal/collective ideas about color, but also variations across cultures and individuals. I wanted to explore the concept of subjectivity through the lens of color.
Q. What was it like to work with illustrator Catia Chien? Were you able to collaborate on what the illustrations would look like?
JY. I’ve actually never met Catia, and we didn’t correspond at all while making the book (as is often the case), although I’d seen her art and loved it. I discussed my vision for the story with my wonderful editor at Candlewick and worked with her to develop the text, and Catia did the same with the art director. It was amazing seeing it come together. The illustrations are so imaginative and ethereal – they really take the text to another level.
Q. What’s the first thing you did when you held the completed hard copy of your picture book in your hands for the first time?
JY. I showed it to my kids. It was really amazing for me to have them read it and see their names in the dedication. A good friend and her kids were over at the time, and we all looked at it and took pictures.
Q. Can you tell us what projects you are working on right now?
JY. Several picture books, a chapter book series, and a young adult novel – but that one may take me a while.
Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog On A Blog readers?
JY. I wouldn’t have gotten this book published without joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and finding the support of my writing friends and crit partners. They push me, humor me, cheer for me, and teach me. If you’re writing and thinking about joining a critique group and/or SCBWI, I highly recommend it!