Author Spotlight: Katelyn Aronson
May 22, 2020
We are excited to feature Katelyn Aronson and her debut picture book, PIGLETTE, illustrated by Eva Byrne (Penguin Random House, May 26, 2020).
Enter to win a copy! (Due to the pandemic, copy will be mailed at a later date.)
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Thank you for having me, Kidlit411!
Growing up, my parents read to me a lot. One of my most vivid memories is of my mom reading me The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when I was five. My dad was also a wonderful storyteller, and he often improvised stories for my sisters and me at bedtime. So I came to love the relational aspect of storytelling, whether improvised or read aloud from a book.
Then, it was in third grade that I discovered an affinity for writing. (Up until then, my passion had been always been drawing.) My teacher would give my class fun writing prompts with a little cartoon, and they really fired my creativity. I found myself getting carried away by my own story until I had several pages of writing each time.
Later on, my first job out of high school was in an independent children’s bookstore, where I worked as a hand-seller. (This will date me, but that was also the year that You’ve Got Mail came out, and yes, I wanted to be Kathleen Kelly.) From there, I went on to work in another indie children’s bookstore as manager and eventually purchaser. So I learned a lot about the industry over a six-year period, back at a time in my life when I had a great memory for recalling covers and titles and authors for my customers. (Those days are gone!)
All of these things planted and watered the “future author” seed inside me.
Congrats on your debut picture book, PIGLETTE. Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Probably similar to most writers, my ideas spark from a single encounter, image, or word association. My imagination then weaves a story around that one element. Even though Piglette is set in France, what inspired me was a perfumery I visited in Italy. You can read a little bit more about my discovery of the boutique al Sacro Cuore on my blog.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
On the way to publication, I’ve had my share of stall-outs along the side of the road, but also a few joyrides in the fast lane. Even if the desire to be an author was there from a young age, I grew up and got busy with life. I didn’t actually sit down to make my writing dream a reality until five years ago.
It was 2015; life had finally settled a bit, and suddenly I just felt ready. For once, I had time, energy, and motivation all in alignment, and I began working on my writing day after day. By 2016, I had signed with my agent. Then began a long subbing-and-waiting period, in which we tried to break in at the top houses. It took time. My first offer didn’t come until 2019. Then suddenly, four other offers followed within the same year—I’m still reeling from that. It certainly made up for all the waiting!
You have several other books coming out. Congrats! Tell us about them.
- CLOVIS LOSES HIS COOL, illustrated by Eve Farb, releases from Page Street Kids next spring.
- PIGLETTE 2 comes out next summer, with Penguin Random House.
- POO-DUNIT? A FOREST FLOOR MYSTERY, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis, comes out with Candlewick in 2022.
- And there’s one more release that’s still a secret :)
What are the one or two things that most helped you in your career?
I’ve said it a million times but I’ll say it again: Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 Picture Book Challenge is what helped me raise my game, and very quickly at that. I joined 12x12 in January of 2016, and had signed with an agent by May. I’m sure my progress was thanks to the Full Manuscript section of the 12x12 forum, where members can give and get a lot of feedback, if only they’re brave enough to post their work! It’s a quick way of developing a thick skin, and learning to sort through many different opinions of your work—two things that are absolutely necessary for any writer.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Prolificity is key. It’s important to learn when you need to switch from intake mode (books, how-to’s, and webinars), to output mode (creation). It’s so easy to get caught up in all the chatter, the social media banter, the “rules” of writing children’s books, and what other authors are doing and saying. Those can be positive things, of course, and there is a time for them. But when they become too much (i.e. distracting or discouraging you from your own work) it’s time to take your eyes off the world and focus on YOUR game.
Jealously guard your own concentration, in order to tune into your heart, your voice, your storytelling. Write a lot. Produce as many pieces as you can. And in between projects, get feedback from trusted peers. (This is where the 12x12 community proved invaluable for me. It’s there that I found my talented critique partners).
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Hmm…Here’s something kind of silly. I usually find a personal “victory song” for each new year. I listen to my victory song when I’m out running, and use it to help me stay pumped while envisioning my writing goals. Last year my victory song was Aloe Blacc’s single A King Is Born. This year, it’s Raiche’s single Drive. <—I’ll leave the music video right there, in case it pumps anyone else up. On your personal road to publication:“Keep it in drive”!
Where can people find you online?
@authorkatelyn on Instagram
@mademoiselleK8 on Twitter
Originally from California, Katelyn worked as an independent bookseller for several years before moving abroad to Europe at the age of twenty-five. Today, she lives between France and Switzerland, perpetually deprived of both adequate sunshine and decent Mexican food (but that’s her own fault, eh?)
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