Whether you’re a longtime Illustoria fan like us or a new reader, you’re in for a treat today! Illustoria is a tri-annual print magazine that celebrates visual storytelling, makers, and DIY culture through stories, art, comics, and activities. With the mission of inspiring creativity in kids and the young-at-heart, we’re thrilled to be sharing a sneak peek into their eighth issue all about home!
We’re also excited to be sharing some news from behind the scenes: beginning with its next issue, Illustoria will be published by San Francisco independent publisher McSweeney’s, founded in 1998 by author Dave Eggers.
Not only will McSweeney’s be carrying on the Illustoria mission to inspire creativity in all ages, they also plan to expand circulation with a special focus on schools, libraries, and other organizations who serve under-resourced communities. Readers will also see even more opportunities for young writers and artists to be engaged!
We had a chance to not only look through the newest issue, but also catch up with Joanne Chan, the founding publisher and editor-in-chief of Illustoria, and Amanda Uhle, executive director of McSweeney’s. Take a look below for their insights, memories, and advice below!
If you had to pick, what has been your favorite issue to work on and why?
JOANNE: It’s so hard to choose a favorite so I will have to skirt around this question! Each issue has involved such unique and gratifying collaborations–there was the philosophical conversation (over Skype) about kids and art-making with Hervé Tullet for Issue 2: Canvas; the interview with longtime heroes of mine, Carson Ellis and Colin Meloy, for Issue 8: Home, where they intimately share how they balance home life and creative work; meeting artist and writer Lisa Brown (Issue 3: Outside-In cover artist) over coffee to discuss picture books, teaching, and the importance of print; entering the inspiring space at Case for Making and chatting watercolors and pigment with Alexis Joseph and Lindsay Stripling, whose series “A Brief History of Color” was conceived for Illustoria and first appeared in Issue 4: Grow; the contribution by Cece Bell on the making of El Deafo in Issue 1: Beginnings, which still touches me to the core and completely speaks to why I feel this magazine matters. I can go on and on…. The making of each issue has involved a dozen or more experiences like these plus contributions of art and stories that are gems of delight and wonder, and the combined results–completely unique with each issue–are always greater than I could have imagined.
AMANDA: I’ve been a subscriber for some time, but I’ve only had the pleasure of working on one issue, #9, which is focused on all things food and is due out this July. We have some great student-written work by young people from all over the world, an illustrated look at literary giants and their snacktime habits, and a feature on creative jobs to inspire our young readers. I expect a lot of kids will consider new future plans once they learn that donut decorator is a real career.
What does the move to McSweeney’s mean for Illustoria?
AMANDA: We are dedicated to keeping everything beautiful about Illustoria–its lovely range of different artists and styles, its high-quality editorial content. The look will be very similar. We only hope to add some new content which reflects our focus on the importance of supporting young writers and artists. The magazine will be the official publication of The International Alliance of Youth Writing Centers and we plan to publish youth writing from the 66 (and counting) worldwide organizations plus work from other young people as well. Next issue will see a poem (about potato chips) from a Detroit, Michigan 10 year old and a fiction about an underwater world with animal mashups–ripe for illustration ideas!–from a 10 year old in Louisville, Kentucky. We have a number of interviews with artists and other professionals, and their questions are being written by kids in Greenville, South Carolina and Reykjavik, Iceland. We’re also profiling a young entrepreneur and a young activist from The International Congress of Youth Voices.
What will you miss most about working on Illustoria?
JOANNE: Where to begin? I will miss our team acquisitions meetings, where we throw out pie-in-the-sky ideas and our creative juices are overflowing. I’ll miss seeing a sketch become final art and the delight of seeing a final cover for the first time. I’ll miss getting emails from readers, parents, and relatives of children, sharing with us how a certain issue was enjoyed, shared, gifted, or inspired some interaction in art-making. Perhaps most of all, I’ll miss the process of putting together something beautiful that I know was only possible through the hard work, belief, and commitment of many individuals. There is a rush and energy that comes from collaborative work, a sense of pride and accomplishment that only together could we have possibly pulled this off–it’s something I feel after every issue comes back from the printer. I know I’ll sorely miss being a part of the collective effort that goes into making this very special magazine.
What advice do you have for creatives, or anyone, who are switching gears and beginning new ventures?
JOANNE: For those who are ready to begin a new venture, my advice is to be bold, be original, be true to yourself. Ask for advice, make mistakes, move on, learn, discover new things, delegate whenever and however you can, and keep making progress. Know that you will commit a ton of your time (more than you think!), resources, energy, skills, and passion to developing your new endeavor, and that progress doesn’t come without sacrifices, so be sure that you choose a path that you deeply care about. Make what you do meaningful to yourself first, and that integrity of purpose will resonate with others.
AMANDA: My advice for adults pondering a creative change is to turn to the kids in their lives for inspiration. Young people are the bravest writers, the boldest thinkers. Most of us adults can learn a lot about how to live and to work from the kind of courage that’s overflowing in an average third-grader.
Thank you so much to Joanne, Amanda, Claire, and the teams over at Illustoria and McSweeney’s for taking the time to share their insights with us today!