Featured Author Jami Gigot 2018

12 x 12 member author Jami GigotHello lovely picture book writers and illustrators! What an honor it is to be your guest blogger this month.

You’ve done it! You’re over the halfway mark! I hope all of you have had a productive year so far. As summer rolls in, and the days get very busy, I hope you still manage to find pockets of time to continue your craft, even if it’s just jotting down thoughts on some scrap paper in the car on the way to the campground.

So far most of the 12 x 12 bloggers have been writers, but my background comes more from the art side of things. I have always loved the relationship between words and pictures and the way they magically merge to tell a story. As a kid I would pour over picture books, as a teen I collected graphic novels, and when the movie Toy Story came out, I wanted to get a job creating something, anything, as cool as that.

So I studied animation and visual effects, which led me to a career as a visual effects artist in the film industry. Working on motion pictures over the years has been a fantastic journey, and I have learned much about how elements such as pacing, composition, and even lighting and color can shape visual storytelling.

While, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on some exciting projects with many talented people, something kept coming up in my thoughts. Sure, I was working on these awesome projects, but ultimately, I was bringing other people’s visions to life. Deep down, I really wanted to create my own. There was a little voice inside me that said, “Hey you! You have a lot of ideas! DO something with them already!” I just didn’t quite know how to shape those ideas yet, or how to unearth them.

Then, after my kids were born, and I was reading a lot of picture books again, I realized how much I love this artform. I decided to give it a go and dove in head first, and I’m still swimming.

The journey as a picture book author and/or illustrator is not easy. In fact, it’s incredibly tough. But it’s also very rewarding. It exercises our brainboxes and gives us a creative outlet that is meaningful and amazing. I love this community because writers like you are the hardest working, most creative and passionate people I know. Keep swimming, my friends.

I’ll leave you with a few bits of insight I have learned so far as an author/illustrator. I hope you find some nuggets here that are useful!

1. Let the illustrations “write” the story as much as the words.

One of the wonderfully unique qualities of picture books is their harmony between words and images. Making the relationship between the text and the illustrations interesting, playful, and thoughtful is key to making a great picture book. Be conscious about giving the illustrator space. Much of the story (or sometimes all of the story) will be told through the pictures. The illustrations will reveal details about the characters, the setting, and the action, so there is often no need to add those details in the text. On revision, and especially when I start sketching and visualize things more clearly, I typically end up cutting out a lot of unnecessary text.

2. Create a dummy book, regardless of if you are an illustrator or not.

Take 4 pieces of regular typing paper. Fold them in half and half again, and staple them together. Or, if you prefer, get a few cheap handy little 5×3 sketchbooks from your local art supply store. Voilà – it’s the start of a dummy book!

If you are an illustrator, you can start sketching things out roughly. If you are not an illustrator, you can break up the text across the pages as you would read it. Or draw stick figures or anything that helps indicate your thoughts. I find that making a dummy helps immensely to give a clear understanding of the overall pacing and rhythm of the story.

3. Make use of the page turns.

Can they be used to heighten the drama, make a big reveal, or utilized in other clever ways?


4. Consider wordless pages.

I used wordless pages in both my books and they are some of my favorite spreads. In Mae and the Moon, I have a page that says; The next night the moon was  . . . .

And the following spread is wordless with a black moonless sky dotted with stars.

When I read that to kids, they always shout out “Gone!”

I just love that kids tend to fill in the missing text themselves and add their own little narrations.

5. Be OKAY with making a lot of bad drawings and bad drafts.

It takes a long time to improve and hone your craft. With writing you can revise, revise, revise, and usually shape and rework your story. Sometimes though, it’s best to just move onto something else and hope that the next story is better. It likely will be.

With illustration, you can revise and rework to a degree. In fact, I think I love painting digital mostly because there’s an undo button! But generally, I find the more I draw a character, the more comfortable I get, and the better my drawings become.

6. Experiment, and don’t be afraid of big changes.

Sometimes even really big changes. Both in the text and the illustrations. My two books changed enormously in the process of making them. Mae and the Moon was initially a poem I wrote for my daughter in the first person about the moon following her, and it ended up being a narrative about her going on an adventure to find the moon when it disappears.

In an early draft of Seb and the Sun, he made a solar sail ship. It ended up with him rowing a boat out to sea and catching the sun in a bucket. The stories ended up being completely different from how they started.

For those of you who illustrate, don’t forget to experiment with different angles, (ie. bird’s eyes view, close up, establishing wide angle etc), and color choice. To help your drawing, you might want to build a little sculpture of your character you can use as a model. Definitely experiment by drawing a few versions of your characters before settling on them.

Also one important thing is to not be too precious with your work. I would recommend keeping things rough until you really feel the story is working. Things are apt to change

7. Saturate yourself with inspiration.

Of course read and study picture books. A LOT! But, I would also recommend looking to film for inspiration. Watch a Miyazaki film, or the Iron Giant (I love that film). Seek out new writers and artists. Go to galleries. Spend your lunch hour at the library. Listen to children’s conversations. Take a nice long hike.

8. Think like a kid!

I love picture books because they not only inspire children, but bring out the child in adults. And let’s face it, anyone who writes or illustrates picture books really is a big kid at heart. Tap into that!


Mae And The Moon_by Jami GigotJami Gigot is the author/illustrator of the picture books MAE AND THE MOON and SEB AND THE SUN, both published by Ripple Grove Press. Jamie also works as a digital artist on motion pictures. In addition to writing and drawing, she enjoys combing the shoreline for treasures with her family. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, she now lives in Vancouver, BC.

This month, Jami is giving away a copy of each of her books, so we will have two July check-in winners. Better get writing!



This Post Has 82 Comments

  1. Jami – I loved your motivation for cutting out my text which is sometimes so hard to do – Let my kid readers fill in the words I would have used!! Thank you!

  2. This is such sound advice, Jami, especially this: Let the illustrations “write” the story as much as the words. But as a “wordie”, I struggle with it. Any advice on how to let go of some words?

  3. Jami, Both these books are delightful to read AND to look at! Thanks for giving us your insights. They’re definitely useful.

  4. I love doing thumbnail sketches of stories. They are awful (and often need labels to identify what exactly is there), but it deepens my understanding of my characters. Your books are lovely. Thanks for the advice–especially about the wordless spreads.

  5. Your insights are great! #6 is hitting home for me this week as I am learning that revision is not only necessary, it sometimes leads in a direction that is completely unexpected but so much better. Thank you for the blog!

  6. Thank you for each piece of advice, especially #6! Reinventing a ms can often feel like failure and it’s nice to reminded it’s just a part of the process. Thanks for sharing how both of your books changed.

  7. It’s always informative to hear the illustrator’s view. I really enjoyed your advice for writers, Jami. You have worked hard to achieve success. Congrats and more!

  8. Thank you so much for your insights. I know I’ve gotten better at leaving room for the illustrator, but there is always room for improvement!

  9. Jami – Lots of excellent reminders in your post. I think # 2 will help a lot during revisions and I will try it out this month. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing your insight as an author illustrator. You have provided me with lots of wonderful information to use as I attempt to become both.

  11. Thanks for sharing your insight as an author illustrator. You have provided me with lots of wonderful information to use as I attempt to become both.

  12. Jami, Thank you for your insights from a perspective I can only allude to when writing. I see in my mind all of the wonderful things I imagine as I write, but know I can never accomplish those ideas in a visual way. You are blessed to be able to carry both talents. Best of wishes for your writing/illustrating journeys.

  13. Thank you, Jami, for your insights from a perspective I can only allude to when writing. I see in my mind all of the wonderful things I imagine as I write, but know I can never accomplish those ideas in a visual way. You are blessed to be able to carry both talents. Best of wishes for your writing/illustrating journeys.

  14. Jami,
    Thanks for your perspective as a writer-illustrator. I am in revisions and it seems endless. Patience I all areas of my life including political is in order.
    I look forward to reading your work.

  15. I loved the advice to let the illustrations help “write” the story. I always feel the illustrations bring my words to life. Thank you for sharing. Writers’ sharing is always inspiring 🙂

  16. I love all the good ideas for illustrators and writers you have written about. I will be re-reading and keeping
    notes on the ideas for my books and re-writes. I wish I could draw and make things as I see them. But thank you for showing things from an illustrator’s point of view.

  17. Thank you for the helpful advice and insight into your process, Jami. I particularly liked learning about the big changes you made to your two books, which I love, by the way. I look forward to seeing more of your work.

  18. Wow, I just love those pictures of the moon! I, too, love wordless spreads in picture books. As the reader (most of the time) I often don’t get the opportunity to sit and take in all of the illustrations, as the kids beg me to “keep reading!” But a wordless spread allows that little pause, and I also enjoyed hearing the kids chime in with their commentary when there are no words.
    Thanks for the great post!

  19. Mae & the Moon and Seb & the Sun are beautiful, powerful books. Thank you for creating them! 🙂 It is so helpful to hear thoughts from an illustrator’s perspective. I love the idea of leaving space for the reader to jump in and fill in the blanks. I wish you much continued success and can’t wait to see what is next!

  20. What beautiful illustrations Jami. The phrase that sticks with me is ” harmony between words and images. Thank you for sharing – Pauline

  21. This quote really resonated with me:

    “The journey as a picture book author and/or illustrator is not easy. In fact, it’s incredibly tough. But it’s also very rewarding. It exercises our brainboxes and gives us a creative outlet that is meaningful and amazing.”

    It is such a hard road sometimes but also very fulfilling. Thanks for a great post!

  22. Thank you, Jami, for sharing your journey and some of the nuggets you learned along the way. I particularly appreciate the advice to be open to changes. So important. But all of your tips are helpful!

  23. Great post Jami – I am slowly learning to be okay with bad drafts … each story has to start somewhere and a bad draft is definitely somewhere! 12×12 has really helped with this – getting a draft done in a month really focuses the attention. Then comes the revision, as you say, and I love that you are not afraid for a story to go in a completely different direction to the one it started in. Thanks for the inspiration and tips.

  24. Thank you for your helpful insights, Jami! It’s important to hear the illustrator’s perspective, as, not being one, that side of the picture book world is a steep learning curve. Your books are beautiful works of art! Congrats!

  25. Jami – thanks for a great post and for reminding us of the importance of making dummies. I just made one recently and it really helped one of my stories. My plan going forward is: always make a dummy!! Congrats on your beautiful books, and thank you again.

  26. Jami,

    I love your artistry. I find it engaging and thoughtful, pulling me into the story further.

    I featured you in my ongoing #kidlitwomen illustrators post on my website back in April; just search your name on my website and it will bring up the article.

    Keep up the beautiful work!

  27. Fantastic post, Jami! Love your advice – especially to leave things rough until it’s really working. Great tip! Your books are beautiful.

  28. Hi Jami,

    It definitely takes time to go from that place in your heart where a story starts and then evolves into this amazing lighthouse. Even though it takes a lot of time to get there, I wouldn’t trade that process for anything because at the end of the day, something that came from this bubbling spring inside us is going to touch kids in their lives growing up. And, maybe even hold dear enough to share with their kids someday. That’s the real goal. And, having literally just read both of these books a few days ago, mainly for me lol, I thought you did that so very well.

    Can’t wait to see some more!

    With kind regards,
    Mary D

  29. I love your comment about the “harmony between words and images” in picture books. I’m always amazed by illustrations and as writers believe we have to trust that side of the equation as illustrators trust our words. Thanks, Jami!

  30. Jami, this was an inspiring post. It’s always good to read about how writing and illustrating work together. It’s a good reminder for us all. Thank you for the valuable tips.

  31. Great tips, Jami. Thank you for sharing your insights. I, too find dummies really helpful, particularly in revision. Your two upcoming books from Ripple Grove Press look awesome.

  32. Making a dummy has greatly improved my storytelling and I love the physical process of figuring it all out. I just took Mae and the Moon out of the library before this post and now I’m able to study all the points that are mentioned above. You really captured the magic of a child’s world and I look forward to reading more of your books.

  33. It’s been a problem wanting the story to stay the same, but I’m learning to go where it leads. Great advice!

  34. Congratulations on your books, and thanks for your insights! I always love to see how words and pictures come together to make picture books. I’m not an illustrator, but I enjoy leaving as much room as possible for pictures when I write.

  35. Congratulations on your books! What a fantastic background! I’m happy you are using all those experiences to bring your own stories to life. I agree with your comment about sketching things out to reveal the unnecessary text. It’s my favorite part of the revision process!

  36. Jami – thank you for sharing your journey and reminding us to experiment with our work!
    Here’s to inspiring children and the child in all of us through our work!

  37. Thank you Jami! I just had a friend who is also an author-illustrator review my WIP from an illustrator’s perspective. I’d wondered if I left TOO much to the illustrator (like 50% of the story!) and she said it was absolutely okay and also just what you said, that some of the text could be eliminated for wordless pages/spreads. (But that could be done later, to leave the text in).

    I love that the kids finish the sentence! That is so fun and really is in the spirit of a pb!

    Such a valuable post – thank you!

  38. Don’t be afraid of big changes–that really resonates with me. I’ve had to do that several times on projects as large as full-written novels. A painful but necessary reality sometimes!

  39. I love both Mae and Seb. You have really managed to marry your words and text so they are seamless. When you spoke about wordless pages, you use this very effectively. It provides parent and child with a pause – a place to talk, share or just be together in the story. Excellent blog post!

  40. Thank you for the insight into your process and the importance for authors to make their own dummies.

  41. Jamie, this is so helpful. Thank you. I only dream of being an illustrator (no action taken), but your insights give the writer in me a better understanding of the illustrator process and the two forms (writing and illustrating) working together.

  42. I really enjoyed your inspirational advice, especially about wordless spreads. I look forward to reading Seb and Mae. Thank you

  43. As my year in PB making has mostly focused on dummying and illustration, I really needed this particular post full of advice–thanks Jamie! I especially needed the reminder to not be too precious with my art-making too early. It’s a trap I fall into frequently.

  44. Terrific insight Jami! Thank you for the tips regarding text and illustrations working together, making the PB gold.

  45. Jami, your style of illustration is charming. Thanks for sharing the story of your journey from working in the film industry to creating picture books. So interesting! I envy the edge that’s given you! (But then I envy all illustrators being of the writerly persuasion myself.)

  46. Thank you for this post, Jami ~ wonderful insights! I love your books, and your artwork is gorgeous!! Congratulations.

  47. Thanks for sharing your insights, and I have to say that your illustrations are gorgeous! The covers just lure you right in, and as a reader, one can be sure there’s a story of wonder inside!

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