It was the movie Toy Story that inspired Jami Gigot to move from her Madison, Wisconsin home to Vancouver – to study animation and visual effects at Vancouver Film School.
Always enamoured by her love of a good story (“My mom was always reading to me, and I had a big collection of Nancy Drew that I was given by my grandmother”), she dreamed of applying her skills to the movie industry. So after graduating, off she went to work on films in Los Angeles, then London, England – where she met her French-born, Tokyo-raised husband and had their first child.
When the BC film industry picked up, and an opportunity to move back to Vancouver arose in 2010, Jami happily returned with family in tow. It was just after having her second child that she began to focus her energy on working on her own stories and building an illustration portfolio. She soon realized that creating picture books was a true passion, and in 2015 her first picture book Mae and the Moon was published by Portland, Oregon-based Ripple Grove Press. In March of this year, her second book, Seb and the Sun, rolls off the same press.
In the meantime, Jami remains with her day job, Scanline Visual Effects, where she works as a vfx (visual effects) artist and digitally paints various characters, environments and props for a variety of film projects.
Does that make her cool? “Either that or a dork,” she responds with a laugh.
Jami begins her picture-book projects by brainstorming with a sketchbook in hand.
“When I have a glimpse of an idea in my head, I usually start by writing a rough manuscript, and then break it out into thumbnail sketches. My process is a little all over the place, a bit messy, to be honest.” When she assembles together a rough dummy book, she finds that she deletes many of the words she starts with, simply because the illustrations tell the story better. Finally, when the dummy’s ready for feedback, she sends it off to her critique group.
She met her critique partners though an online forum for writers and illustrators called 12X12. Members support one another while endeavouring to put out 12 manuscripts in 12 months. She finds them particularly helpful in that most are writers, not illustrators, and writing does not yet come as easily to her.
The next stop is her New York City-based agent, followed by lots of reworking, the status she’s at with several projects on the go now.
One of Jami’s challenges is finding creative time for picture books between her busy 9-5 and family life. “I try to find time in the little bits and pockets during the day. You have to squeeze in the time when you can; find that creative space.”
She’s enthused about having joined CWILL-BC a year ago. “It has been wonderful to meet fellow illustrators and writers who are so welcoming and have a lot of experience and advice.”
While shy about offering advice when she still feels like a newbie herself, she says what has helped her most is to never be without a notebook in her pocket. “You never know when an idea might strike you.”
Nor when your children just might star in it. Welcome to CWILL-BC, Jami.
— Pam Withers has written 17 YA adventure novels.