Episode 95: On Digging In On Dreams, Drawing Racehorses & Creative Control with Lesley Baumann (Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast)
Episode 95: Welcome to the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast! In each episode, you’ll hear inspirational stories from horse book authors, including writing advice and marketing tips to help you write your own horse book. If you are an author, aspire to be an author, or simply love horse books, then you are in the right place!
In this week's episode, you'll meet Lesley Baumann. You'll learn ...
Watch Lesley Baumann's Interview on YouTube!
Or listen to the audio version.
About Lesley Baumann
Born the year Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown, Lesley A.J. Baumann is a graphic designer, animal portrait artist and the author/illustrator of the picture book J is for Justify.
She grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and earned her BS in Design from the University of Cincinnati before moving to Arizona, California, Vermont and back to Ohio while building her client base. In all aspects of her work, Lesley has a skill for observing a subject and translating it into stunning visuals that resonate with the intended audience.
In her free time, she enjoys riding her American Saddlebred, cheering for her favorite racehorses as they thunder down the stretch, and attempting to keep up with her exuberant young Justify fan.
Lesley Baumann Interview Excerpt
Carly: Tell us how horses have touched your life.
Lesley: Horses have been a huge inspiration to me since I was a kid. I didn’t have one of my own growing up, but their beauty drove me to draw them and paint them at a young age.
As a teenager I was on creative writing team and writing about horse racing in competitions. Then in high school I started doing commissioned horse portraits. I ended up studying graphic design instead of fine art in college, but I always knew that horses would find a way back into my work.
I finally had the chance to become a horse owner as an adult, and I am grateful each and every day for the experience. I am also grateful that I now have professional opportunities to write about horses, illustrate them and do design work for equine businesses.
Carly: You are a graphic designer and nationally-known animal portrait artist. Talk to us about working in that world and how those professions helped with the writing of your book.
Lesley: I think jumping into the creation of a picture book may have been a little more overwhelming without my professional experiences. A lot of the drive to dig into this project came from my interest in working on portraits of famous horses. My portrait work gave me the ability to step back and look at this group of Thoroughbreds and see how they are all related and yet see what characteristics and quirks makes each one of them individual.
I had never gone through the process of publishing a book before, but my design experiences gave me a level of comfort digging in. I’m used to researching vendors and specifications. I’m comfortable working with typography and using the required software. I also set up websites and design marketing materials all of the time so the marketing end of it didn’t intimidate me.
It was such a rewarding experience to put all of these things together.
Carly: J is for Justify is an alphabet book that you wrote and illustrated, inspired by the 13th Triple Crown winner, that features 26 famous racehorses. Tell us about your horse book and what makes a book an alphabet book.
Lesley: Having spent a large portion of my life drawing horses (and sometimes writing about them), I’d always thought that it would be really cool to make a book. That urge got even stronger when my son was born and to my delight seemed to share a fascination with these beautiful creatures. But I didn’t know what to write about.
Then Justify happened. I’d kind of lost track of horse racing during my adult years, and I’d pretty much never been good at picking the Derby winner. But I picked him, and he won. And he kept winning. He actually came back to Churchill Downs on his way home to California after winning the Triple Crown. I went down with my family to watch him parade before a crowd of fans. We were so close to him from our spot on the paddock rail, and he had such a magical presence.
I literally felt like I was struck by lightning and just had to create something in his honor. Over the course of that summer as my son was preparing to start kindergarten and was learning to read, the idea of an alphabet book just came to me. Though I wasn’t sure if I could come up with a famous horse for each letter. After a quick bit of searching, I realized that I absolutely could. And it was on.
Carly: It is said that all stories are "partly personal.” Is there a personal connection in your books for you?
Lesley: Absolutely. This book felt like the way to tie together all the pieces of who I am — horse lover, artist, writer, designer and mother. I wanted to create something that my son would find amusing at his current age and that would remain meaningful on different levels as he grows into an adult who appreciates fine horses. And I wanted him to see that he too can do anything he puts his mind to.
Carly: Is there a message in your book that you hope readers will grasp?
Lesley: Justify proved that you should dare to dream. If there’s something in life that you want to go for, don’t be intimidated if you haven’t done it before or if you haven’t had a lot of time to rehearse. Fight on through the fog when things get tough. Just pour your heart into whatever is your thing.
Carly: Which route did you take to publish your book?
Lesley: I self-published my book. I wanted complete creative control over the project it. I wrote it, I illustrated it and I designed it. I was very comfortable with the design and production tasks. I also wanted control of the timeline so that I could get it out while Justify was the reigning Kentucky Derby champion. I pulled it off just in time hosting a release party during the Kentucky Oaks the evening before the Derby.
Carly: What do aspiring children’s book authors need to know about working with an illustrator?
Lesley: As someone who both writes and illustrates, I would bring attention to how intertwined they are in the success of a book. If you’re working on a book, and especially if you’re self-publishing and hiring an illustrator, bring them into the process as soon as possible.
Your words will spark ideas for them and what they do with those ideas will probably spark additional ideas for you. The finished piece will be much stronger as a result of the collaboration. Also important — plan on leaving plenty of time for the illustration work. It’s not something that gets added on quickly at the end. It took me the better part of a year to illustrate J is for Justify.
Carly: Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
Lesley: I was very fortunate to have beautifully structured days when I was working on J is for Justify. After my son got on the school bus, I spent a couple of quiet hours writing. I took a break at lunchtime to go ride my horse. Then I worked on the illustrations in the afternoon until the bus came back and sometimes again late in the evenings.
This was all pre-pandemic, and things have completely changed now. My husband and I homeschooled our son for a year in which I barely got anything else done, and it went so well that we decided to do it again. He’s a very curious eight-year-old now which makes it challenging to carve out writing time. However, I do find myself paying extra attention to the types of books that he is really into and thinking about how they might influence my next book.
Carly: How do you reach your readers?
Lesley: I do book signings at festivals and horse shows, and a lot of people buy my book at the gift shop at Keeneland.
Carly: What is the best part about being an author?
Lesley: For me I think the best part is the freedom. I do a lot of graphic design work for other people, and I paint a lot of other people’s animals. Those are all wonderful things. But, when it comes to writing a book, I get play with my own ideas.
Carly: What is the hardest part of being an author?
Lesley: Time. Carving out uninterrupted time to concentrate and write.
Carly: What advice would you give to someone who wants to achieve his or her dreams like writing a book, starting a business, or taking up horseback riding?
Lesley: My advice would be to wholeheartedly go for it. Each of these things can be scary. You will find that there are more things about them that you don’t know than you thought there were. But, if you’re determined, you’ll work through each of them. The reward for going through that process is incredible; and, I can promise that you’ll have a lot of fun and make some new friends who share your passion along the way.
Carly: What might a reader be surprised to learn about you?
Lesley: I lost my horse Clever one week before my book release. He was really special. We were both born on the 19th of May with 19 letters in our full names. He was born on my 21st birthday, and I lost him weeks before his 21st birthday. So in those final stages, I really had to listen to my own advice about fighting on.
Carly: What are you curious about? What’s next?
Lesley: I’m curious about what my next book is going to be. I have a lot of ideas. It’s just a matter of which one comes first. There are definitely more racehorses — maybe a couple of epic rivals from 1989. There are the Saddlebreds that are so much a part of my life. There is a moody mare… And, then there are the types of books that my son is into — like graphic novels and field guides to animals. I’d say watch out for some combination of those themes.
Connect with Lesley Baumann
Website: https://alizarinchestnut.com and https://jisforjustify.com
Books by Lesley Baumann
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About Your Host Carly Kade
Carly Kade is an award-winning author, horse owner, creativity coach, and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast. She helps fellow writers start, grow, and expand their author careers. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle!
Carly's In the Reins equestrian romance book series was written with horse lovers in mind, no matter which discipline they ride. The horses are as vital to moving the story forward as the human characters are.
These books are perfect for poolside reading, taking to the beach, or settling down with after a day of horseback riding.
Books by Carly Kade
Carly Kade writes for anyone who loves horses, handsome cowboys and a great romance. Creative writing about horses makes her spurs jingle!
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