An illustrator Ascension worked with several years ago recently posted on social media about her experience working with us. We strongly disagree with the allegations in her post and we are confident that our approach was consistent with the law and industry standards. Nevertheless, as a leader in Catholic publishing, Ascension aspires to hold itself to a higher standard and we will therefore be voluntarily discontinuing sales of the book in question.
In 2019, Ascension invited Fabiola Garza to illustrate a book for us about Catholic princess saints after hearing her discuss this topic in a podcast. While this idea is not new, we entered into a mutual NDA (nondisclosure agreement) to facilitate discussion of our respective visions for the work. During the course of our discussions, Fabiola publicly shared the artwork of St. Joan of Arc she was developing with Ascension on Instagram. The posts have since been deleted or expired.
We worked on the project with Fabiola for nearly a year. However, in November 2020, Fabiola decided she would prefer not to illustrate for Ascension. As we each had different creative visions for the project, we continued our vision with a new illustrator. We chose different saints for our book alongside a different storytelling style and different illustrations. For background on the project, we provided the new illustrator with the single image of St. Joan of Arc that Fabiola had shared publicly. Our new illustrator went on to create illustrations for 80 pages of stories about St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Bathild of France, and St. Jadwiga of Poland.
This fall, when we announced Catholic Princess Saint Stories, Volume I, Fabiola contacted us to say she was disappointed that we had continued with the idea and that she felt the artwork was too similar to hers. She told us she would be releasing a princess saint book with another publisher in 2024, and while she was not asking for our book to be discontinued, she did ask us to pause our marketing for the months surrounding the debut of her book. We agreed to honor her request.
Any similarities between Fabiola’s St. Joan of Arc drawing and our illustrator’s depiction of St. Margaret of Scotland (such as a banner, ribbons, a crown, and a blue garment) are incidental and common in portraits of princesses in works by other artists. Nevertheless, we understand and respect that Fabiola is deeply invested in her artwork, and we acknowledge that a better course of action would have been to use other public sources rather than her drawing as a reference for our illustrator.
Out of respect to Fabiola, we agreed to honor her request to pause marketing for our book in 2024. Further, although she did not ask for this, we offered to change the specific illustration she felt was too similar, and to change the name of our series to further differentiate the two projects. We made these proposals because we wanted Fabiola to succeed, and we believed there is room in the market for both books. As shown in her email correspondence with Ascension, Fabiola initially indicated that she was satisfied with our proposed solution. We were surprised when she changed course two days later and posted her allegations on social media.
Our email communications with Fabiola about this issue can be read here.
While we strongly disagree with Fabiola’s legal and ethical characterizations in her posts, we do not wish to see our book become a distraction from a mission we share with Fabiola—reaching the most young Catholics possible with stories of saints to inspire them and grow their relationships with God. Therefore, we reiterate our regret to Fabiola for her experience and will discontinue the sales of our book, donate remaining inventory to charity, and audit our NDA processes so that our creators, as well as our own staff, have a clearer understanding of their respective rights and responsibilities to avoid misunderstandings in the future.
With these actions, we hope to demonstrate the higher standard Ascension aspires to for creator relationships, and we wish Fabiola success in her future projects.
Media inquiries contact Lauren Joyce: LJoyce@AscensionPress.com