Local author and illustrator Will Hillenbrand has led a picturesque life. He grew up in College Hill, attended the Art Academy of Cincinnati and now lives with his family in Terrace Park, where he’s an award-winning illustrator/author of more than 60 children’s books. He also was the poster artist for the inaugural year of the Books by the Banks festival and is creating the 10th anniversary poster this year.
The new poster will be revealed 6:30 p.m., Sept. 15 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Rookwood Pavilion.
Hillenbrand recently took time to chat about the poster and about the beloved book festival for this Q&A.
1. What do you remember about the first time you were asked to do the BBTB poster?
Well, that was a while ago. What I do remember was that we had just come back from vacation in Maine. I received a phone call and I was very excited to hear that we would be having a wonderful book festival here in Cincinnati by the banks of the Ohio River. I quickly started doing lots of sketches to get ideas for what the poster might be. Of course I was honored to be the first person to start the series. I also knew I wanted to have lots and lots of books in my image. Since the Queen City has such a love affair with pigs, I decided to have the pig wear a sandwich board and have all the books surrounding him near the fountain.
2. What’s it like doing the 10th anniversary poster?
Well I was surprised and amazed and delighted and honored to be asked to do the 10th anniversary poster.
3. Is your creative process the same or different this time in making the poster since you now have the perspective of having attended BBTB events?
Both, it is the same and it’s different. Just like I’m not the same person I used to be because I don’t look that way, but I’m still the same person on the inside. Just as in the first poster, I wanted there to be a strong connection to books and our city, so I’m showing our bridges and the banks to the Ohio River. The relationship we have with books is more than about a day we go to a festival. That day, however, casts a shadow, a shadow of sunshine that leads us down the path of books we’ve collected and the lives we’ll enter as we read about those stories. This year’s poster has a direct connection to a book —my book— the book I did with Daniel Pinkwater, Bear and Bunny. Now the poster can have an even stronger connection to the books that are actually at Books by the Banks. Of course there should always be a book connection and a Cincinnati connection. After all, we’re celebrating books right here in Cincinnati.
4. Has your experience signing books at BBTB influenced your new poster?
Absolutely. Sure it has. How can this event not affect you once you’ve been there? I just want to put some of that joy that I see and feel into the art for the posters I’ve made. From the volunteers, who help make this day happen, to the organizers, authors and the lovely people who come and visit on this day, what a love fest it is. A love fest that gives us common ground in our love for each other, our community, and our love and passion for books and stories well told.
5. Do you have a favorite or funniest BBTB memory?
I think it’s always kind of funny when someone says to me I’m a voice from your past and then I look up. My mind races about a thousand miles per hour. Who will it be? A former girlfriend? Schoolmate? Former teacher? Will I remember them? This is just before a reunion of two people that have drifted away that are now reunited with their love for stories and books.
6. What are you looking forward to most this year at the festival?
The same thing I always look forward to and that is making new friends, seeing old friends, and making memories that will last a lifetime at BBTB.
The 10th annual Books by the Banks Cincinnati Regional Book Festival is set for 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 at Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.
The mission of Books by the Banks is to entertain and enrich the lives of people in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. The organization works throughout the year to present and promote authors, while celebrating the joy of literacy and lifelong learning through reading and writing.
The premiere event is the Books by the Banks Cincinnati Regional Book Festival held annually in downtown Cincinnati. The day-long festival, which is free and open to the public, features national, regional, and local authors and illustrators; book signings; panel discussions; and activities for the entire family to enjoy.