children's book author, advocate.
"I'M ALRIGHT IF I KNOW HOW I FEEL AND HAVE THE SPACE TO BE WITH THAT—OTHERWISE, LOOK OUT."
Anastasia Higginbotham is a children's book writer and illustrator, as well as a social justice advocate. Anastasia authored the Ordinary Terrible Things children’s book series: Divorce Is the Worst, Death Is Stupid, Tell Me About Sex, Grandma and Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness, published by Dottir Press. Her books are made of recyclable material and "demonstrate a way for kids to cope with change and loss by making meaning out of whatever broken, ragged, or unraveling life circumstances they face."
Who is someone who has inspired you?
Reverend angel Kyodo williams’s writing, teaching, and friendship has transformed my relationship to being here on this planet in this lifetime in this body in this geographical location. I experience more connection and receive love more deeply because of how she embodies and shares what she understands. She removed the veil between giving and receiving, and now I am in love all the time, the way a water creature is in water all the time. It’s what I live and breathe.
What inspired you to become an author and start making children's’ books?
Pain and internal conflict from my childhood followed me into adulthood. I had to understand its impact because it was in my way and I wasn’t well and I wasn’t treating other people well either.
Describe a typical day in your life.
I wake up and sit in a rocking chair by my apartment window to watch the sky and treetops and cars. I talk to my family and text people I love. I read, write, and remember what I’m supposed to be doing that day. Sometimes it’s family stuff (be with my children, get groceries, do laundry, run errands). Other times it’s work calls, deadlines, and meetings. I live in Brooklyn so there’s a lot of walking, bus, subway, and biking to get to places. My favorite days include hours alone in my workspace, drawing, organizing, making pages. Evenings are about dinnertime and bedtime, sometimes friend time. Some nights are devoted to work that didn’t get done during the day.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
I enjoy being asked to write something the way I want to write it, or make art the way I want to make it—and then, to experience it being received with appreciation. It feels best when I’m paid for it. I need the pay and don’t take it for granted. In terms of my job as a parent, the most enjoyable part is any time I actually have what it takes to meet that moment’s challenge, whether the moment calls for a band-aid, a firm limit, a clear decision, or me looking the other way and not trying to influence the situation at all. Any time I have the patience, skills, and confidence to do what’s required feels amazing.
What has been the biggest honor of your career?
When Jennifer Baumgardner started a publishing company so she could publish my book about whiteness, it was the biggest honor. She believed in me and in that book that much. She invested her whole savings, put in a ton of hours to figure out how to make it happen and do it, and continues to put fire under my cauldron. Her trust and our creative business partnership honor me every day.
What has been the most memorable moment you have had in your career?
t’s happening right now. I’ve made work I love that exists beyond my own desk and am preparing to make more. This is it.
“I have never felt anything but absolutely bombarded by inspiration.”
"I dedicate my success to my mother and father, and theirs. All of this is from them."
Before publishing “Divorce Is the Worst” and the rest of the Ordinary Terrible Things series, did you think these works would have made the impact it has done today?
I knew they were needed. I don’t yet know the impact they are having, but your excitement about the books is extremely gratifying and thrilling to me. I want them to go far and penetrate in a deep, forever way.
How has your social activism changed your life?
It gives it direction: what I eat for breakfast, the fact that I have any breakfast available to me at all, what I wear, how I do my day, with whom, how much I talk or listen, how I spend and whether I can save any money. When the goal is liberation, all of that has a quality of mattering—but not like: This is all so serious and has to be done perfectly! It’s more like: Does this flow with or against my/our purpose? If the answer is “with”—alright, awesome, go, do it. If it’s against, I have to reconsider.
ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS...
If it gives and brings joy or solace, if it calms your body and frees your mind, if it heals injury and makes you feel more alive and connected to this life, do it. If it causes pain and more confusion, if it forces you into competition when what you wanted was a connection, step back and reconsider. Notice whether your joy depends on “being a writer.”