Coffee and Conversation with Jess Tice-Gilbert

T minus 3 days and counting until Team SCBWI! Yesterday, Laura gave a round up of our faculty interviews and then welcomed our keynote speaker, Betsy Bird, into the Cyber Café for a chat. You may think that’s a wrap before the big weekend…


We have another faculty member! That’s right! All you have to do is read on and you get an interview with Jess Tice-Gilbert!

Jess Tice-Gilbert is many things: an experienced designer, a paper engineer, an innovator, an artist, and a creator of publishing novelties. But most of all she considers herself a Military Brat who discovered a lifelong passion for the arts thanks to her family’s numerous travels during her youth. It was in 2004 that her travels led her to New York, where she began an internship with pop-up book authors Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart. It wasn’t long before she was invited to join their studio full-time and contribute to such best-selling titles as Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs (2005), Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy (2007), and Beauty & the Beast (2010). During this time, she also headed up the Museum of Modern Art holiday card line for 7 years, earning her studio –and herself– a bevy of prestigious awards.

Today, you can find Jess’s work and keen eye for design under Scholastic’s Cartwheel imprint, where she spends her days as a full-time Senior Designer of novelty books. Notable titles include Carry and Learn Colors (2015), Are You My Daddy? (2015), and If You’re a Robot and You Know It (2015).

On Saturday, Jess will present “What Makes a Great (Novelty) Picture Book.” She will be back on Sunday and co-lead the workshop “A Type of Magic:  Turning Words into Illustration, Typography, Lettering, and/or a 3-D Pop-Up Galaxy” with Mallory Grigg. In this lively look at the children’s book artist’s creative process, you will take a step back and think about what is best told with illustration, and what is best left written in the text or expressed in a more novel way. How do you, as an illustrator, take the text you’re given, and add to it? What else can you give the story? This is just the surface of what will be an amazing and in-depth workshop!

Welcome, Jess! Let’s get started. First off, what’s your favorite coffeehouse beverage?

If it’s in the morning, I’ll usually order a double tall soy latte or cappuccino.  I need that one coffee in the morning to get me going.  After that, I’m a tea junkie.

And your favorite snack?

Right now, at this very moment I’m really into wasabi dusted almonds.

What was your favorite book as a child?

UnknownMouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh.  It’s a very simple book about mixing colors and the paper collage style is perfect.  As a child I was always drawn to the books about art or that were made of predominantly pictures.

Love the cover! And now, what’s your favorite book as an adult?

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  Oh man, this is such a great mystery!  I love the way the story is told, it’s almost like the movie Memento.  And that’s all I’ll say, I can’t spoil it for anyone!Unknown

You magically find a $100.00 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it? (Key word: Frivolous!)

I would definitely go straight to the art store, probably touch every colored pencil and tube of paint, and then buy some different colors to spice up my watercolor palette.

You’ve been locked in a bank vault Twilight Zone style, so you finally have time to read!  Your glasses are fine (whew!) so what’s the first book you crack open?

I’ve had Cloud Atlas on my bedside table for about 6 months and I still haven’t read it.  This sounds like a good time to start.

If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now?

Thankfully my career path would be similar.  In high school I wanted to become a graphic designer of CD covers.  Though I’m very happy with where my career path has taken me so far, working with illustrators and designing books is just as fun!

For one day, time travel is a reality and you can visit any famous deceased author you want.  Who do you pick?

I’d actually really love to meet Mary Blair.  Yes, she’s not an author per se, but her illustrations told incredible stories.


I just found her biography on Wikipedia and wow! Folks, if you have a chance read it. A woman ahead of her time. The above illustration of her is there as well. Just had to share it here. Okay, time to refocus. What’s your favorite motivational quote?

“Credendo vides” which is Latin for “By believing, one sees.”  I stumbled upon this saying from another favorite book of mine as a child, Voyage of the Basset.  It’s a beautiful fantasy novel that is fully illustrated.  It’s a must read in my book!

Perfect quote!

Thanks for stopping by, Jess. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the conference!

Thank you!  I’m so stoked to join you all!

About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
This entry was posted in Conference Information, Interviews: Art Director, Interviews: Illustrators. Bookmark the permalink.

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