WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
I connected with today’s Will Write for Cookies guest of honor back in 2010. I had contacted Katharine to ask if she would be willing to read my soon-to-be-published book, since one of the picture book stories I recommended in it was Angelina Ballerina. Her answer was an immediate, YES! I was THRILLED when I received her endorsement…what an honor to have the author of over thirty-five children’s books say nice things about my work. And when I invited Katharine to participate in Will Write for Cookies, again she said YES! Hurray!
With experience as an editor, freelance journalist and nursery school teacher, Katharine definitely knew what she was doing when she created the much beloved character of Angelina Ballerina. Angelina recently ‘celebrated’ her 30th birthday – and the books have been translated into over fifteen languages!
I’m so happy to have her here to share her thoughts with us.
Welcome, Katharine! I know that so many writers were avid readers when they were young. From what I read on your website, you were a lover of books also.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
Katharine: My grandmother had a beautiful collection of fairy tales illustrated by Arthur Rackman and Kay Nielson, and I still remember the romance and power of those fantastic stories and illustrations. Later on I read everything by E.B.White and Frank Baum, and adored Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House On The Prairie’ series. Not surprisingly, most of the books I loved had strong female heroines!
ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?
Katharine: I wish I’d known more about how the publishing world works and been a little cannier about my choices. When you first get published it’s such a thrill, and it’s easy to be naïve about contracts and fine print. A good agent should advise and encourage, and also keep an eye on all the contract details.
ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook?
Katharine: Recently my husband and I moved back to the USA after thirty-five years in London, and that’s changed my writing habits in many ways. I used to write in a quiet upstairs room in London, but we travel a lot more now, and luckily laptops have made writing on the go very easy. I sometimes write ideas and thoughts in notebooks, but most of my writing is now on my laptop computer. I do a lot of revisions, and for each story I keep a file with dated changes and rewrites in the computer – it really helps keep me organized! I find all I need is a quiet space where I can sit down and concentrate with the laptop. The location doesn’t matter so much now – if you’re engrossed in a story an airplane can be surprisingly good place to write.
ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?
Katharine: I love the idea of a muse, because there’s always a touch of magic about writing, as with all creative work (Elizabeth Gilbert has a wonderful TED Talk about working with her muse). So yes, I write when the muse inspires me, though deadlines are also inspiring! When I have a story due I become a binge writer and go at it for a entire days at a time, but then there are periods when I’m just humming along, waiting for the next spark of an idea to arise. I’m now writing a new series about ‘TWINKLE,’ a little fairy who lives in a magical fairy world and goes to the Fairy School of Music and Magic – it’s a big change from Mouseland, and I’m enjoying the challenge. (TWINKLE is a Barnes & Noble exclusive, available from B&N and Amazon)
ME: Why do you write for children?
Katharine: I started writing for children when I was in my thirties, at home with two young daughters (and then a son). My daughters loved to dress up and dance, just the way I’d danced with my sisters growing up in Chicago. My oldest daughter was a very determined character, and all she wanted for her fourth birthday was a pink tutu. As soon as Tara put on her pink tutu she magically became a great ballerina, and wore it everywhere. I was doing free lance writing for my husband’s publishing company, Aurum Press, and worked on Helen Craig’s first mouse counting and ABC books. When Aurum proposed doing a storybook with Helen I knew it was my chance to write something special for my daughters. I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a first draft about a little dancing character I called Primrose, and this became Angelina Ballerina. It’s now been 35 years since Angelina Ballerina was published, and recently Helen Craig and I donated all our Angelina archive to the Seven Stories Children’s Museum in Newcastle, England. I was there in September to see ”Twists and Tails – the story of Angelina Ballerina,” a show created from our archive materials, and it was amazing to discover my first hand written draft proudly displayed in a glass case in the center of the room!
There’s more information regarding the Seven Stories Children’s Museum on my Facebook page.
Thank you so very much, Katharine! I’m excited about your new Twinkle series. My little granddaughter will be two years old in April…and she and her parents love fairies.
I know you have grandchildren and we are so happy to have this special smoothy recipe that you make for them.
Katharine: I have two adorable grandsons (still waiting for a little girl who loves pink!)
I’m not much of a baker, but the boys and I like to make smoothies together – they’re so delicious, and I add some Green Superfood flavoured with chocolate!
2 Cups milk or almond milk
1 cup cleaned strawberries, blueberries or raspberries (or combination)
1 peeled Kiwi
1 tablespoon Green Superfood – Chocolate flavour
Blend until smooth and yummy!
Wow! Thank you for your candid and helpful answers, Katharine. And I can’t wait to try your smoothy recipe.
With the holiday just around the corner, I know that parents and grandparents are looking for great gifts for kids – I can’t think of a better one than a BOOK. I noticed there are two different Christmas titles for Angelina Ballerina books, and of course, board books, paper backs, Kindle versions, audio tapes and many other ways people can share the beloved Angelina Ballerina. These are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, indie bookshops and from the Penguin Website, Angelinaballerina.com, Hitshopusa.com and HITEntertainment.com.
If you want to connect with Katharine, you can visit her amazing website: http://katharineholabird.com/
And if you are interested in viewing the Elizabeth Gilbert TED talks she mentioned, here they are:
What a way to end Will Write for Cookies for the year. I started this series in January. Have you read all twelve posts? Here is a list with links so you can catch up on any you might have missed:
And 2015 will be another exciting year – Katie Davis, Laura Gehl, Julie Rowan-Zoch, Donna McDine, Marty Banks, Suzanne Williams, Artie Bennett, Miranda Paul, Becky Gomez, and more authors and illustrators will be stepping into the Will Write for Cookies spotlight…I hope you won’t miss a post.
And, if you still have any vision left after this ultra-long post, head over to Susanna Hill’s blog and read some of the incredible stories that have been entered in her 4th Annual Holiday Contest: http://www.susannahill.blogspot.com
What a treat, Vivian! This is an amazing insight for us. Thanks so much. Angelina Ballerina is a timeless classic.
Thanks, Catherine! Angelina Ballerina would make a great mentor text in any picture book writing class…it’s got all the elements needed…no wonder it became a classic. 🙂
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Great interview, Vivian! My daughter has enjoyed many of the Angelina Ballerina stories. That museum sounds like it would be a fun place to visit, too! I liked hearing about Katharine’s process. I’m an “anywhere and a laptop” writer, too.
Glad you enjoyed the interview, Carrie. 🙂 And yup to writing anywhere, anyhow…just give me a scrap of paper and a pencil. I do write my stories on the laptop, but most of the time, the original ideas are written on paper.
Terrific interview, Vivian and Katharine! I am a HUGE fan of Angelina Ballerina. Thanks so much for posting about your process. It was interesting hearing your thoughts about first contracts and just being eager to have book. I think many of us feel that way. Happy holidays, Vivian and Katherine!
Happy Holidays to you, Robin!!!I know Katharine will be happy to know there are so many Angelina Ballerina fans out there. 🙂 I agree…I think it’s important to get guidance and advice from those who have been there…the publishers have their own best interests at heart…as they should..so we must protect our interests. 😉
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My daughter loved all her Angelina books and longed for a tutu as well! True classics in the picture book world. Katharine’s answer to “What do you know now that you wish you had known” made me a bit sad, imagining that perhaps her initial contract signed away too many rights to a character that absolutely exploded into a commercial success. I do hope that is not the case! Wonderful interview Vivian
Cathy…I wondered about that also. But her story about how she came to create the character of Angelina Ballerina was so inspiring…and it made me think…hey, maybe one of us is right at this moment creating a character that will become a classic one day…that is an uplifting feeling. 😉 😉
And I’m so happy you enjoyed the interview!
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Angelina is a special member of our family! It’s fun to learn her history! Thanks for another great interview!
Yay…glad to hear that Angelina lives in your house also, Rhythm! It was wonderful to reconnect with Katharine and I was so happy she agreed to the interview. 🙂
A wonderful interview to finish the year on, Vivian. I have come across Angelina Ballerina and it is inspiring learning how the story came to be. Twinkle also looks a beautiful series. Thank you, Vivian for a great year of cookie interviews. 🙂
Isn’t Twinkle lovely, Diane? I’m heading over to Amazon to see what I can purchase for little Sophie. 🙂
Fabulous interview, Vivian and Katharine! How fun to get to know the creator of Angelina Ballerina! Thanks!
Glad you enjoyed it, Tina! I loved hearing Katharine’s story of how the character of Angelina came to life. And guess what…there is also a story behind how Angelina’s Christmas was conceived. It’s so much fun hearing the back story…I agree. 🙂
You have introduced me to an author I haven’t read! How could I have missed these books??? I’m kind of embarrassed.
Thanks so much for a great interview. I just put four Angelina books on hold at the library. I’m so excited and can’t wait to read them 🙂
That’s because you are a young’un, Penny. 😉 😉 😉 So glad you’ve discovered Angelina…and Katharine, of course. Enjoy!
What a wonderful interview. My daughter enjoyed the Angelina Ballerina books. Will have to share this interview with her. She gave some really great advice.
Oh yes, Pat…share it with your daughter…she will be tickled to read about an author whose books she grew up with. 🙂 Glad Katharine’s advice struck a chord with you.
Another wonderful interview, Vivian. 🙂 Your line up for 2015 looks great too!
Thanks, Tracy! I’m excited about 2015…it’s going to be a wonderful year. 😉 Happy Holidays to you and your family…I just used several of your awesome note cards!
I’m excited for you too! And thank you so much for letting me know you’re using the greeting cards. You made me grin. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for 2015. 🙂
Wonderful interview! Ms. Holabird sounds like a nice lady! I’d like to try that smoothie!
Maybe, after a bit, you can create a cookbook from the recipes! Maybe call it “Food For Thought: Writing Recipes”! 😀
That’s a very creative title, Erik! I like the way your mind works. 🙂 I’m actually putting together a book of the interviews and recipes…I was going to do a baker’s dozen…but maybe I’ll include more.
Another great interview and fun recipe. (I’m way behind on reading blogs this month…. ) I wonder what on earth could be happening that has me behind.
Hahaha…perhaps a job and a toddler and a husband and Christmas preparations and…. 🙂 😉 Glad you were able to read the interview, Stacy!