Author Spotlight: Kerri Kokias
Mar. 2, 2018
We are pleased to introduce author Kerri Kokias and her debut PB, SNOW SISTERS, illustrated by Teagan White (Random House, Jan. 2018). Be sure to enter her giveaway!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I started writing picture books when I left my social science research job to be a stay-at-home mom. At first, it gave me something fun to focus on while using the same energy I drew from to parent. Before long I knew writing children’s books is what I wanted to do as a career. I’m always at my happiest when I’m creating, and kids are my favorite kind of people, so writing children’s books is a good fit for me. Which doesn’t mean it came easy- but more on that below.
Congrats on your debut SNOW SISTERS! Tell us about it and what inspired you.
SNOW SISTERS! is the story of two sisters’ different experiences during a snow day. It is told in the structure of a reverso poem, which means that mirrored language is used. In this case, the text builds up to the middle of the book and then repeats itself backwards for the second half and the two sisters’ stories are told in reverse of each other. A lot of the plot and character development in this story take place in the illustrations done by Teagan White.
SNOW SISTERS! primary inspiration was its structure and it took me quite a while to arrive on these particular characters and the snow day setting. Once I found my sisters, the characters seemed perfect for the reverso poem structure. I like how the text of their stories being the same but in opposite order heightens how the siblings are different but also connected.
Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?
Long and bumpy! It took me around 12 years from when I first started chasing this dream of publication till I spotted SNOW SISTERS! in the wild. (This is the phrase authors like to use when they spot their books in a store.) I had a lot more than I realized to learn. I am fortunate to live in Seattle where there are many great authors and a strong regional chapter the Society for Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators (SCBWI).
I also completed an advanced education certificate program in Writing for Children at the University of Washington. I read a lot, both books on the craft of writing and many, many picture books. But mostly, I wrote, I revised, and kept writing. It took me a long time to reach my goal of being a published author. There was a lot of stubborn persistence involved and a lot that was out of my control and was dependent on the right story getting in front of the right editor at the right time.
What projects are you working on now?
At this exact moment I’m between writing projects and schooling myself on marketing and publicity. I’ve been doing a lot of story times at libraries and bookstores and am working on developing school visit curriculum.
What is the hardest part of writing for you? the easiest?
For me, the easiest (and most fun) part is coming up with ideas and researching/brainstorming ways the story could go and things that could be included.
The hardest part is turning that list of random thoughts into a first draft. And although I like to revise, I do find it hard to do major revisions where I’m trying to really overhaul a story. I can tweak little things happily and forever but if someone I trust gives me feedback that I want to try but isn’t totally in line with my original vision I can really get stuck.
One trick I found that is probably old news for a lot of writers but was life changing for me is that it helps me to revise if I simply rename the document and treat it like it’s an entirely different story.
What is a piece of advice you'd give to your younger self? Is it the same as you'd give to aspiring authors?
I think I would tell my younger self to be patient, there is a lot in this business that is outside of your control. And yes, I think that’s good advice for aspiring authors as well. As you’re moving through your writing journey pay continuous attention to what is in your control and what is outside of it and focus your energy on the areas you can control.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I got stuck on this question and solicited help from my family. My husband suggested I mention that I had a pet hedgehog that lived loose in my college bedroom and would run laps over us all night while we slept on a futon mattress on the floor. My daughter suggested that most people don’t know that I’m really good at stalking people online. (Although maybe I should keep it that way?) And my son thought that most people don’t know that I’m 40 years old. (But really, I’m 41, so I guess my age truly is a big mystery even within my own family.)
Where can people find you online?
You can find me online at www.kerrikokias.com, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter @KerriKokias.
Learn more about Teagan White and her children’s illustrations at tinymothstudios.com. Or connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook @tinymothstudios.
Kerri Kokias credits most of her story ideas to her “fly on the wall” personality. This means she’s both a keen observer of social interactions and a nosey eavesdropper. Snow Sisters! is her first picture book. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her family.