I’m thrilled to welcome Oge Mora to the Brown Bookshelf, just weeks after her debut picture book, Thank You, Omu, was named a Caldecott Honor book, an Ezra Jack Keats Award winner, and — woohoo! — a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner! (Yes, I am definitely Kermit the Frog arm-flailing as I type this.) Prepare to be inspired!
I grew up right across from the public library in my neighborhood so my love of books starts there. My dad would drop me and my siblings off there after school and we’d walk back together in the evening. The library was my second home in a way.I’ve always loved to draw, but my godmother and a dear family friend really pushed me into the arts. My godmother has beautiful artwork by black artists all over her home (she lives right across from me) and so I would always see myself on her walls. We also share a favorite artist of Jacob Lawrence.My dear family friend recommended me for a docent program at the local King Arts Complex in Columbus that introduced to prominent local artists like Aminah Robinson. She also put together a scholarship so that I could attend courses at a nearby art college. The classes I took with her support helped me get into art school.All in all, my community and family play a large role in my work. As a collage artist/ painter, I am dazzled by color, pattern, texture, and form.
I studied Illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. In my senior year I took a children’s book illustration course called Picture and Word. Every two weeks we’d write a new manuscript based on a prompt and make accompanying illustrations. My book Thank You, Omu! actually started out as one of my assignments that I developed into a book dummy for my final.My Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (LBYR) art director and fellow RISD alum asked for the pdf of my book dummy at my final for Picture and Word. My LBYR editor wrote me an email asking to take my dummy to an acquisitions meeting and I started working on my book my last semester in college. My editor and art director believed in my vision for the book and helped me take my writing and illustrations to the next level. I’d always wanted to do picture books and thought I’d maybe get a chance someday. Having it happen while I was in college was quite the whirlwind, but I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share my stories with the world.
Jacob Lawrence, Aminah Robinson, Faith Ringgold, Sophie Blackall, Melissa Sweet, Ekua Holmes, and of course Keats. This list can go on and on. I have a lot of influences!
If I am writing my own story I like to start with the writing first. I start free writing on a legal pad and then type things from there. After a bit, I take what I like and paste it into a new document. I essentially do this till I clutter my laptop with tabs! Eventually I come around to a draft I like. I don’t really outline, but I’ve been told successful children’s books should be able to be summarized in one sentence. Therefore, if I am writing a draft and it is not coming together, I try to parse things down into a sentence. If it is not working, I know I have more work to do.Collage wise, I always start with a mood board and work on multiple collages at the same time. I like to place everything unglued and then shift things around over some weeks. I lay out all my work to make sure my palette stays fresh and cohesive. I organize my paper scraps by color in a system of drawers and I never throw scraps away. My studio is in my home.
My debut book, Thank You, Omu! has been selected as:A New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2018A Publishers’ Weekly Best Book of 2018A Boston Globe Best Children’s Book of 2018A School Library Journal Best Book of 2018A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice Staff PickA Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2018It has also received three starred reviews. It’s definitely been an exciting couple of months!
Under The Radar
I think it’s a little strange for me to deem anyone under the radar considering I’m new as well, but I’d like to shout out my fellow freshmen Julie Kwon, Kaylani Juanita, Priscilla Tey, and April Harrison! Also my friend, entrepreneur/activist Yelitsa Jean-Charles has this amazing company called Healthy Roots. These women are seriously awesome.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I have my Thank You, Omu! followup with LBYR called Saturday which I wrote/illustrated and the books The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker learned to Read (Schwartz and Wade) and Everybody in the Red Brick Building (Balzer + Bray). I’m so excited to share them! More soon!