Welcome to our #WinterRead2022 Read for a Better World Author Spotlight Series! We’re thrilled to be featuring 6 incredibly talented authors from our 2022 sponsor Lerner Publishing Group as a part of our 5th Annual Winter Reading Challenge.
This week, we’ve interviewed award-winning picture book author and literacy advocate Katey Howes. Her picture books Be A Maker and Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe are popular in maker spaces and STEM education, and her debut book, Grandmother Thorn, was named an Anna Dewdney Read Together Honor Book. Check out our interview with her below, and learn more about her work here. Follow her on social media on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
What are you currently reading?
Currently reading Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri as well as a stack of picture books with themes of thankfulness that my librarian helped me pick out.
Where is your favorite place to read?
I love to read on my screen porch, where the birdsong keeps me company and the breezes ruffle my pages.
What is your favorite thing you've written? Book or otherwise!
I recently found a book of poetry I wrote and illustrated in 3rd grade. It is no literary masterpiece, but it celebrates small moments that brought me joy - swinging on the swings, watching a bee, feeling sun on my face. That ability to rejoice in the everyday and take satisfaction in simplicity is something I hope I never outgrow, and can always bring to my writing.
What’s your favorite book by someone other than yourself?
Tough question! My favorite books seem to change day to day, based on my mood and memories and motivations. I have probably read Watership Down more times than any other book, though, and always list it among my favorites.
How does reading help us create a better world?
Reading can do so much for us – it can give us an escape, an adventure, an insight, a challenge, a connection, a hug, a laugh, a good cry, a safe space.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? And/or how did you become a writer?
I have always been a writer - as long as I can remember. Even before I knew how to read and write, I made up rhymes and songs, put on plays, and told stories about pictures I drew, toys I played with, or images I found in books. I didn't ever think it would become a career for me – just a part of my personal life. I was shy about sharing my writing outside my circle of family and friends (and sometimes even outside my own head!)
When my kids were little, I made up countless stories for them. Stories to entertain them, to calm them, to distract them, to reassure them. I used stories to encourage them to be brave, to share their talents, to work hard at things that mattered. After a while, they started using my own words and advice to challenge me. They asked me to be brave enough to reach outside my safe little circle, to share my talents with the world, to work hard at something that mattered to me. And so I began working to get published, and my life changed in a million beautiful ways.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
I would recommend aspiring writers never stop reading and making note of the books, poems, phrases, and styles that stay with them that affect them the most. Every reader and writer is different, but recognizing the elements that speak to your heart helps direct you toward your authentic, individual voice.
How does your work encourage conversations around diversity, inclusion, or other social and emotional concepts with parents, educators, and young readers?
My books tend to focus on the strength, individualism, and agency of children, and to encourage them to recognize these things in themselves and others. Be A Maker reminds kids how creative they are, but also how they each will be proud of different accomplishments, talented at creating in different ways, and that these are all valuable and beautiful. Rissy No Kissies brings the message that our bodies and hearts are our own - and that we have the right to choose how to share affection, and the responsibility to respect other people's wishes and preferences.
Any additional information or fun facts?
When my family members are gone at school and work, and I need an audience for my writing, I often read aloud to our dog, Samwise, and my daughter's two pet rats Cinnabon and Barnaby. They are excellent listeners - especially if they get a snack when I'm done reading.
Stay tuned for future Lerner author spotlights throughout #WinterRead2022, and encourage your community to keep reading!