Whelp; My background is culinary arts and I received my degree from Johnson and Wales University a hot minute ago. I love food and I love to eat, but I love writing even more. I like stories that weave interesting worlds together using science, lore, and sometimes mysticism, but I like to keep my characters and their lives as REAL as possible. I love reading thrillers and ghost stories. My favorite movies are often horror or adventure. I like it when I’m able to pull a story together where the character overcomes a fear or challenge (being afraid or embarrassed was how I thought my life would surely end when I was a kid).
Born and raised in the south, I grew up in Bridgeport, Alabama in the late eighties but now live in California with my husband and our three-legged dog, Moony.
My debut children’s book Beauregard in a Box, Flowerpot Press is for sale now. Go on… give it a search.
Jessica Lee Hutchings was born in East Ridge, Tennessee and grew up in Bridgeport, Alabama, in the late eighties. She loved watching Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, The Ghostbusters movies and cartoon, and Reading Rainbow. She and her brother loved flipping through the Encyclopedia, playing video games, and biking all over the neighborhood. They both drew pictures and created what they didn’t realize were graphic novels and comic strips, along with episodes and movies on VHS and cassette tape.
Jessica invented the podcast on her Tiger Electronics Deluxe Talkboy after she saw Kevin McCallister use his in the 1992 (Rotten Tomatoes 27% acclaimed) movie Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. She carried it around everywhere and documented every mundane moment of her ten year old life on cassette tape, including interviews with family and friends, and solving neighborhood mysteries. Her episodes documented young Jessica solving crime, doing stand up comedy and skits, and recording hit singles. Jessica continues to make false claims such as these.
Childhood Jess was terrified of Halloween and scary movies, but somehow grew into a horror lover and likes writing fiction with science and the super natural weaving through real life scenarios. Jessica always loved to talk and write, and wrote her first story at around six or seven; a chronicle of the sky above us entitled ‘Everything in Spas.’ She did not know how to spell ‘space’ at that time in her life. She also loves writing children’s books about things she loved as a kid.
Jessica moved to Charleston, South Carolina at age twenty to study culinary arts. She received her degree in culinary and moved back home to work in and around the Chattanooga, Tennessee area as a cook, caterer, and chef. Ten years later, she began a short career teaching culinary arts at Calhoun High School in Calhoun, Georgia.
Just before moving to Charleston for school, Jess met an average height, dark, and handsome Australian that she would later marry. Paul and Jess have been married for a very long time and Paul was actually the one that came up with the idea for ‘Beauregard in a Box.’ Jessica and Paul love to travel and have been on several adventures together like the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain, Camping on Kangaroo Island, Australia, and visiting Yellowstone, Montana in February without snowmobile gear.
Jessica continues to dream and write, and is aided by the music app on her phone, utilizing favorites such as: Weezer, Blur, Lord Huron, Aerosmith, Alabama Shakes, Audioslave, Casiokids, The Darkness, Guns N’ Roses, Dio, Iron Maiden, Justin Timberlake, Kings of Leon, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Morrissey, New Order, Prince, Queen, Radiohead, David Bowie, Rupaul, Selena, Soundgarden, St. Lucia, Washed Out, Tame Impala, and Stevie Ray Vaughn to name a few. Without them, it would be much harder to conjure up worlds and emotions far beyond her own.
Jessica’s next childrens book, DeloresThesaurus, published by Flowerpot Press, drops September, 12, 2018. She can’t wait.
Jessica’s debut book, Beauregard in a Box, published by Flowerpot Press, was released April 17, 2018. She hopes you like it.
We had the same hooks along one wall and the same small desks with wood veneer tops, right side arm rests and that metal cubby underneath. Left handed kids had quite the time with those desks. I remember thinking left handed kids were like exotic beings with some special power I knew nothing about. How did they write that way, and with no armrest?
The windows had a view of the playground and I remember being able to hear the distant wails of freedom and joy every so often throughout the day.
I day dreamed a lot. I wasn’t a big talker, I didn’t need to talk. I had entertaining stuff playing in my head all day. I wish someone had suggested I write it down.
My spiral bound notebook had puffy stickers of Michael Jackson all over it: Michael leaning in jeans, Michael in a tuxedo. I loved puffy stickers. I also had a trapper keeper. Look it up.
My desk was at the front of the row, right smack in front of the teacher’s desk. I do not believe this was of my doing. I was most likely moved at some point during the year in an attempt to make me pay closer attention. I don’t think it worked.
My daydreaming was in overdrive at this point in my life. I don’t remember what it was about, like I said, I wish I’d written it down. But this came to a head when Mrs. Paris called me out into the hall one day. Thehall!
It was dim, maybe the over-head lights were off to cool it down, and the painted cinder block walls were one color on the bottom and a lighter color on top, no doubt adorned with some crap we’d done in class taped along them. The daily polished tiles were gleaming as I stared down at them in shame. Mrs. Paris said she’d have to send me to the principal’s office if I didn’t snap out of it and start doing my worksheet. What she didn’t realize, and what my young mind was not able to articulate, was that I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t stop daydreaming. It was like she was telling me to stop my brain.
I never remember being made to feel like being in my own little world was ok, and perhaps it’s not.
So, it’s as you might imagine, I didn’t stop daydreaming. They may have even called my parents, I’m not sure, but my mom later commented on these years of my life laughing, and citing the movie Uncle Buck. I was the “twiddler, dreamer, silly heart” kid.
One day, after more drifting, dreaming, flying away, I was taken to the hall again and Mrs. Paris put her foot down. She sent me to the principal’s office, Mr. Bain. Yes, Bain, like the villain in Batman.
I don’t remember much, but I know I was terrified, probably burning red cheeks and guts turning flips in my little round belly. I remember his desk seemed long, far from his tall, old body sitting across in that dark suit. He wore glasses. His face was wrinkly. I was terrified. But he was nice to me. He said I was a good kid or something similar and I didn’t belong in his office, but he must have scared me straight because I was never sent again, that I can recall. I must have followed the rules, for the rest of that year anyway.
We used segmented trays at lunch, and little cartons of milk. Sometimes I’d get a wild hair and have chocolate. We had “break” towards the end of the day where I’d enjoy little bags of delicious Golden Flake products.
The New Kids on the Block were my life.
I once wore my oversized NKOTB Hangin’ Tough button to school and a girl asked to “see it.” I did not realize at the time that “see it” was code for “steal it.” She vanished, and when I asked for it back later that day, she assured me that she didn’t have it. She did in fact have her multicolored swishy wind suit jacket zipped up all the way. A zipped jacket inside the building? There was to wind, no weather to warrant a full zip. I was convinced the jacket was hiding my button. I loved that button, NKOTB Hangin’ Tough, lookin’ tough in jeans and vests and jackets with wild hair, kneeling together, bro’s in some ally. I think there might’ve been tags spray-painted behind them. I pressed the thief, but she did not relent. I had no choice.
I told on her.
I remember standing at the front of the class pleading my case. Mrs. Paris forced the girl to unzip her thin, neon emblazoned jacket and low and behold, there was my oversized button, pinned to her thieving shirt. Another SMH moment before its time. I wish I remembered my reaction. Was it Aha! I knew it or embarrassment for the thief. I’m not sure.
In 1990 I entered the Calendar Girl Pageant and won Miss March in my age group.
Mom took me to the Beauty Shop to get my hair blown out, rolled, and teased like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. She didn’t let me wear make-up though, and that was bogus. My dress was stiff and shiny hunter green, a very popular color at the time, and had a puffy skirt and a huge bib collar. I remember my friend at the beauty shop at the same time as me getting lips, rouge, and mascara done. No fair.
Each girl got a number pinned to them, walked onto the middle school auditorium stage, omg, smiled, walked to the left, smiled, walked to the right, smiled, walked to the middle, smiled, and then walked off stage. Yuck. But I remember begging to be in that pageant.
I remember being nervous before it started, standing in the hall with all the other girls and trying to figure out if I was as pretty or prettier than them. Like I said, yuck.
I don’t recall any specific lessons in second grade, like the sun lesson from first grade, only these broken moments, passing blurs of being one year closer to moving into the big kid’s hall.
Through the main entrance of a totally new building, into the lobby area (the lunchroom on the left, the office forward right, and tiny childrens bathrooms to the immediate right) you walked through another set of open double doors, almost all the way down the long, shiny, slick tile hallway to the first-grade classrooms. It was a long way down.
We had little wooden desks with the metal cubby underneath for our books. Everyone had a hook to hang their backpack, and we took naps. I hated nap time. It was so weird to lay on some unfolded blue and red vinyl mat on that filthy floor with all these other random kids and pretend to sleep during the day. What the heck? And if you didn’t like the kid next to you, forget about it. Torment city for what felt like a dimly lit eternity.
We lined up to go everywhere. We’d line up along the painted cinder block walls out in the hall to go to lunch or recess or break or the bathroom. Lining up, ew. More unwanted closeness to others. I realize in this moment I’ve always been like this, forever loathing lines and the aroma of too many bodies. Get away from me with all that.
The teacher once washed my mouth out with soap in the bathroom at the back of her classroom. A girl told me to shut up, so I said shut up back. We both got the soap. I think that was the only time it happened. My mom later said had she known, she would’ve given that teacher a piece of her mind, or something to that affect, but she didn’t know, because I didn’t tell on grownups. I didn’t know I was allowed to.
The classroom bathroom was a tiny torment in itself. The door was narrow and tall with what seemed like a very big brass knob, but it was most likely the ratio of tiny child hand to adult size doorknob. I had horrifying fantasies of being locked inside this bathroom. During Halloween, a life sized cardboard skeleton with grommet joints, long arms and fingers of bone, and hollow horrid eyes hung on the back of that bathroom door. You had to do numbers one and or two with that skeletal menace staring at you with its sinister smile. I hated that bathroom. There was also the fear of someone walking in on you somehow. Horrible all around.
During a science lesson one day, teacher asked “how do you think the sun comes up?” How does the sun come up? What is that thing up there? How does it not fall on us and burn us all to a crisp? Is it alive? What the hell is that thing? I wasn’t sure. It was some kind of celestial space creation and I didn’t know how it worked, but ohmigod, she’s going to tell us. I’ll finally know! “…the birds” she said. The birds? Yes, she’s said the birds sing in the mornings and wake up the sun. What the hell? I had no idea about earths rotation or anything space related at that age, but I did know it wasn’t the damn “birds” that made the sun come out. Come on, teach! This is a vivid SMH moment, before SMH was even a thing. I don’t remember anything else I was taught that year.
I don’t remember much else at all, probably because this was a traumatic time in my new life. I was a quiet, weird, shy, worry wart of a kid whose entire life had been turned up side down. I wasn’t at WonderlandKindergarten anymore. We had to be at this new place at some ungodly 7:45am or something like that, and stay until 3pm. No more 9-12. My creature comforts had been demolished, my routine gone. I had to start all over again.
I remember being spoken to by teacher in a calm, nice, somewhat condescending voice about not doing as well as I could, or something that leaves me with the feeling of having been disappointing. But I was disappointed too. First grade, and this Elementary school was some kind of never ending, monotonous nonsense.
I can still see us, our class photo, all lined up 3 rows deep, or maybe just two, with the brick of the building behind us and our “teachers” flanking. I say “teachers” because I’m not sure if they were certified in early childhood education or anything, but surely, they were. This was a nine am to noon Christian preschool that a lot of kids in my town went to.
I remember the playground, with its pine needle floor, plenty of cones and big shady trees. There weren’t a lot of pieces of playground equipment back then, it was the 80’s, but we had a cluster of bushes we’d pretend was a kitchen. There were plenty of wide tree trunks to run and hide around. We enjoyed it. I remember a boy hiding behind a bush on several occasions and showing everyone his tiny little boy penis. I don’t remember my reaction, possibly disgust. And his sister would show everyone her tiny little girl vagina. That was shocking to me because I had one of those and I couldn’t imagine someone seeing it. What was this brother and sister combo’s deal? What must their home life have been like? Were they raised in some kind of new age hippy self-acceptance walk around naked society? If so, it wore off in their later years, because that little boy left his free self-loving ideals behind to become very conservative.
I had the same bowl haircut every girl had back then, Beatles inspired, and probably wore a lot of corduroy and overalls with generic animal characters on them. I remember sitting cross legged on the floor of the classroom, learning the presidents and the states and capitols. At one point in my tiny child brain I could recite them all, every president in order ending with George Bush Sr. I’d imagine, and all the states and capitols. My child mind was far superior to my now adult mind as I have forgotten all of this information. (After a quick Google check, I stand corrected: Ronald Reagan was still the president in 1986/87. See, I told you I didn’t remember any what we learned)
In the beginning, we wore large laminated (or perhaps not, they may have just been cardboard, this was possibly before the time of lamination) cut outs of rotary telephones with our phone numbers on them, and houses with our address, around our necks. Our first lesson and assignment was to learn and memorize this personal information. This was before the internet, and it was prime child abduction time (as told by the media, though I’m not sure of the actual statistics) I had to learn my name was Jessica Lee and I lived at 26 Grace Ave. (I think— because some years later, 911 addresses became a thing and our street address became 103. 103 Grace Ave. would become the address I put on older kid stuff like letters to my friends, and cousin in Roanoke, and the address on any mail of preteen importance such as Bop magazine and NKOTB fan club) and my telephone number was 495-2355.
We broke out of the cross-legged circles at certain parts of the day to do various activities, one of which was art, my favorite. I remember creating a crayola landscape portrait of a scene with the sun drawn into the right corner of the page, rays of orange and yellow streaking out, and I added long blue rain drops. The boy coloring next to me said “raining while the suns out?” in ridicule, and I was mortified. He was cute and popular and I was apparently an idiot, but I was sure that I’d seen this inspiration first hand. Every time the sun comes out when it’s raining I think about this little turd.
I remember pick up time at noon. Parents and grandparents and siblings or whoever would line up around the parking lot of this Church of Christ to collect their children. Some days my Nana’s long blue Caprice Classic would be waiting, one of the first cars in line. Other days I’d stand around. One by one the crowd of children thinning, more, more, like weeds pulled from my Papaws tomato patch, until all I saw around me was the silver of lonely cement. And I’d wait, and I’d wait. A “teacher” would check on me softly and I’d shrug, or toe the sidewalk with my Velcro shoe, or turn slow circles in nervous energy until FINALLY, always in a different car (a big gold el Camino, a red 1960’s sports car, a 1950’s prop from the movie Grease, an old pickup truck) my dad would pull into the parking lot. I’m sure this was only ten minutes or so past noon, but to a tiny child, it felt like seven hours.
There was a graduation ceremony every year complete with a “program” and I only really remember one of them (I went to this school, Wonderland Kindergarten, for two years) It must have been Disney themed because I was in the Winnie the Pooh skit and I played Piglet. My only line was “I’m Piglet.” I agonized over this for weeks, had countless bouts of bubble gut and loose stool, and finally, on the night of the show, I meekly muttered the words, with the tail of my costume threading through my fingertips in nervous agony. Then we’d march in with our cap and gown and take our rolled-up diplomas. One kid was called to receive his and he faced planted down the carpeted steps, graduation cap askew, “teacher” rushed to his aid, helping him up and dusting him off, rearranging his gown. At least that wasn’t me, I remembered thinking. My brother and I would later play and rewind this fall over and over on the VHS recording. I’m sure we ruined the tape.
Last fall I messaged one of my Instagram followers to ask about how she does her podcast.
I’ve thought about doing a podcast myself, so I’ve been slowly collecting how-to information for a while now.
She said she’d tell me how easy it was IF I’d let her interview me for her podcast, Selfish.
Of course I said yes!
From Selfishthepodcast.com: Selfish is a podcast, hosted by Allie Martin. The show encourages focus on one thing: you! Each episode, various lifestyle and selfishness experts will guide us through the risk they took in being selfish and how we can improve our lives, one interview at a time.
I love reclaiming the word SELFISH.
I had such a great time doing this and have gotten to know Allie in the process, such a gift! She even came out to my McKay’s Book Signing in Chattanooga, TN, where we finally had the chance to meet face to face!
Check out Selfish Podcast Season one NOW on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts (I use Podcast Addict) and Season Two goes live this MONDAY, June 9
At ALA Annual Conference this year, I got my hands on Delores Thesaurus, my much anticipated (by me) second book! This was our ONLY copy because Delores is fresh off the presses. I can’t wait to get my copy.
Delores Thesaurus, a fun adventure with synonyms, releases September 12, 2018!
Another signing at the American Library Association Annual Conference in New Orleans on June 22 and again on June 23. We had two great lines full of librarians and educators excited to get a copy of Beauregard. I’m starting to really dig ALA!
I went to my first American Library Association conference this February, the mid-winter meetup in Denver, where I had my first OFFICIAL book signing for Beauregard. So, I’ll never forget it and it will always hold a special place with me.
This ALA in New Orleans was a week to remember:
Michelle Obama as the opening speaker was a moment checked off my bucket list.
Tons of free new books is ALWAYS a great part of ALA.
Signing, Smiling, Laughing with educators and librarians, some of them standing in line for Beauregard; priceless.
And meeting up-and-coming authors, well known ones, and those I fangirl and admire like Renee Watson, founder of the i, too arts collective (I literally ran up to her like a Beatles fan, it was great.)
So thankful of all the amazing stuff I’ve been a part of with Beauregard in a Box!
McKay’s Used Books was a tiny shop in the early 90’s where I’d buy my Baby Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High, Goosebumps and Christopher Pike books.
In other words, the best place ever.
I did a signing in their newest location, right off interstate 75’s exit 7, next to Thunder Creek Harley. The tiny bookstore is now a 27,000ish square foot first floor, and 15,000ish square feet second floor with 800 subcategories of books. (Information from Times Free Press, March 19th, 2009 article by Jason Reynolds)