These are both frequently and not so frequently asked questions (FAQ) for writers, illustrators, and kids of all ages. Whether frequently or not, these questions have all actually been asked.
Q: Are you young?
Q: Can you answer some marketing questions for me?
A: My first podcast, Brain Burps About Books answers tons of questions. You can subscribe to it by going here. If you want to know more about craft, listen to my second podcast, Writing for Children by subscribing here. For that show I also have transcripts in the show notes that also have lot of links to resources and places to submit your writing. You can go here to check that out.
Q: When do you work?
A: I write from 9-5 every day, and never look up. Before I make dinner, I clean the house quickly and easily with my children helping me without complaint.
Yeah, right. You didn’t actually believe that, did you? I do try to keep it to regular work hours but if I’m at a difficult part of a manuscript, I can easily fill my day doing PR, email, school visit prep, etc. On the other hand, if I’m cranking on a story, the house will be a wreck and my kids will have mac and cheese until their innards are glued together and they’re begging me to feed them something green (and they are not referring to the foods molding in the fridge due to the fact that I haven’t had time to shop or clean out the refrigerator).
2017 UPDATE: In 2015 my husband Jerry and I took over the almost 50-year-old Institute of Children’s Literature and its sister school, Institute For Writers (formerly Long Ridge Writers Group). Check it out here!
Q: Is your office messy or neat?
A: Every six months or so I try to clean up. I keep it neat for a while, but when I’m really zooming on a project, the fur flies and I’ll look up and it looks like a hurricane hit.
What I’m saving up for is a self-cleaning studio.
Q: How do you play the trumpet?
A: I don’t know. (This was asked at a large assembly by a curious, and apparently, musical first grader. I was not talking about musical instruments at the time.)
Q: Best feature of your office? Worst feature?
A: Being over our detached garage, the best part is it’s far enough away from the house to have privacy and quiet, but close enough to get snacks.
The worst feature is that I’m close enough to the house to get snacks. Plus, I have no walls so there is no place to hang stuff! That is, the walls only go up about 2.5 feet, then angle up to a point because that’s the roof.
Q: Pajamas or dressed?
A: Duh! what would YOU wear if you were alone in YOUR studio all day long?
No, actually I like working out, showering, then dressing in the morning to get me going for the day.
That was last week. I was motivated to get dressed last week. Today I am actually wearing pjs. For real. Pink flannel ones with little snowmen on them. Don’t tell anyone.
Q: Internet a distraction or a tool?
A: Both! On the subject of working for oneself and getting distracted, people always say to me, “Wow, you must be so disciplined!” I’d love to claim to be that righteous, but it’s more that I am compelled to work, so it really doesn’t take much discipline. Now, if someone said I had to work on, say, math all day, THAT would take some discipline.
Q: Music or silence? What’s playing now?
A: I was just listening to Richard Thompson. Now I’m onto John Kale. I stream WFUV a lot. When I really need to concentrate, that is, when I’m writing – books, or email or articles or any other kind of writing – I don’t listen to music, as I need to hear the words in my head and music is an interactive thing for me. I don’t like it as background because I’m too involved in it. However, when I’m doing art or brain-free work, it’s on 24/7.
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: I was never a dog person. In 2007 we rescued a Havanese whom we named Mango. I was stupid in love with that dog. He died suddenly November 2016. We got a new puppy in spring of 2017 and named him Ollie. As Mango used to hang out in my studio, now Ollie comes with me every day, too.
Q: What is the oddest, most unexpected item, on your desk? I always want to know that.
A: Oddest and most unexpected are two very different things so I’ll pick three things and you can decide which is odd and which you didn’t expect.
Item #1: A framed antique postcard I got while working on a Japanese commercial in 1980 which starred the late movie star, Paul Newman. He was supposed to be pretending to write on the postcards. They belonged to me, so after the shoot I went and collected them. It wasn’t until later I saw he’d actually written a note on it, to his wife, Joanne Woodward.
Item #2: Three antique children’s alphabet blocks: one ‘S’ and two ‘H’s. They were a gift from my first editor on I Hate To Go To Bed! Get it? The letters spell “SHH.”
Item #3: A heavy plastic dentist’s model of a mouth – just the gums and some very disgusting teeth. There’s a metal hinge that allows the mouth to open and close. Someone from a dental school sent it to me after I published Mabel the Tooth Fairy and How She Got Her Job.
Q: What were your favorite books growing up?
A: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Magic Finger, Harriet the Spy, Caps for Sale, The Story About Ping, Just-So Stories, An All-of-a-Kind Family, Hello Elephant … I could name a million!
Q: When did you know you wanted to be an author?
A: I never decided I wanted to be an author – but I’ve always been a writer. I kept a journal growing up until I was in my 30’s. It never occurred to me that I could ever be a published author. I never met an author until I was an adult so I never thought of it as a career choice. Authors were ethereal to me. When I realized I could make a career of this thing I’d been doing since my childhood, it seemed too good to be true. Creating is a physical necessity for me, just as eating food, or sleeping is. When I don’t create, whether it’s writing or artor food or movies or podcasts, I get very cranky.
Q: Is Katie your real name?
A: Yes, my name is really Katie Davis, though I was born Kate Ilenna Freedman.
Q: How old are you?
A: None of your beeswax but older than I think I should be.
Q: When is your birthday?
A: January 4, and I don’t believe in that grownup “oh, no presents for me” stuff.
Q: What is the square root of 10,468?
A: Only kidding. No one ever asked me that.
Q: What is your Angel Policy?
A: My Angel Policy:
- You may use my art for stamps to create hand crafted items for sale, but ONLY if you hand stamp the images and your products are not mechanically produced. The stamp may only be used to create products sold in craft fares and markets and not over the Internet or in permanent shops.
- You must include the following on all crafts produced with my art:
Artwork ©Katie Davis, www.katiedavis.com
- If you use my art on cards, please include the following on each card:
Image used with permission
Children’s Book Author/Illustrator
Visit www.katiedavis.com for more art
- If you create and sell over 25 items with the same image, you need to contact me to arrange a licensing deal in order to pay me for the art you are using.
- Please take note: My policies are not designed to inhibit the creative output of crafters and in fact help protect the hand stamping business, by ensuring that stampers who want to sell their hand crafted products can do so without the fear of competing with mass produced versions of the same image.
Comments or questions are welcome.
Q: Do you make money from writing books?
A: I make my living from my books and through speaking engagements and school visits. I get an advance against sales when I sell a book to a publisher. It’s usually at least two years before the book comes out, after all the editing, revising, and art gets done. Then the sales from the book must exceed the advance I received and then I start getting royalties, which I get twice a year when my statements come in. However, not a single writer or illustrator I know got into this business for the money. We are compelled to tell stories!
Q: If I want to be a published writer or illustrator, what do I do?
A: Here are some things I would suggest:
- Consider joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) as an associate member. SCBWI provides excellent services including regular newsletters, conferences, and booklets on various topics such as finding a publisher or an agent.If you go to any of their regional or national conferences, you will have access to editors and agents. You will also have a better chance of having an editor read your manuscript when they receive it. For both SCBWI and CANSCAIP (the Canadian Society of children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers), even if you’re not published, you can join as an “associate” or “friend.”
- Read the kind of books you want to write or illustrate, and stay current with what’s going on in publishing now. To learn what to read, consult children’s review journals such as the Horn Book Magazine or School Library Journal, or ask the children’s librarians at your local library for recommendations.
- To keep up with publishing trends, read Publishers Weekly. These periodicals are probably available at your local library or you can subscribe online.
- Read books on writing and publishing in general, and on writing for children in particular. A wide variety of these are available at the library and in the writing section of bookstores.
- Purchase the most recent Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators Market for a huge listing of publishers and the kinds of work they are looking for. Good luck and keep at it!
Q: How did you first get published? Did you know a publisher or have an agent?
A: I joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I met lots of people in the children’s book world, made connections, learned a lot, and got a lot of rejections. I met a writer who knew an agent. He liked my work and signed me. You don’t have to have an agent to be published, but for me it works. I hate sending out all those letters to different publishers, the follow-ups and inquiries. There are some publishers who will no longer accept un-agented material now, though. My agent sent my books to different publishers and Harcourt Brace ended up publishing me. I would also advise purchasing the most recent Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators Market for a huge listing of publishers and the kinds of work they are looking for.
Q: Could you illustrate my book so when I submit it, it looks professional?
A: Actually, it is the editor’s job to put the right illustrator with the right manuscript. If you are not an illustrator, don’t include art with your submission.
Q: How long does it take to write a book?
A: It depends on the book. And sometimes picture books take me longer than novels!
Q: How long does it take to write a book?
A: It depends on the book. And sometimes picture books take me longer than novels!
Q: Do you write the story first or draw the pictures first?
A: I usually think of the story first, though since I’m an illustrator too, I tend to visualize what I’m writing about at the same time. But I never draw something and then try to stick a story around it.
Q: Do you only write picture books?
A: No, I wrote a middle grade novel called The Curse of Addy McMahon, that’s a kind of traditional/graphic mashup, and I have a YA (Young Adult) novel that I’m trying to get published, among other things, like a graphic novel for the very young, a weird illustrated novella…the list goes on.
Q: Do authors ever get a break?
A: No. Yes. Some of the time, just like everyone else. (I love this question, asked by a second grader in Naperville, Illinois).
Q: How do you present your illustrations?
A: In a dummy. You can listen to a podcast on how to make a dummy on my podcast page. A dummy is a mock up of a book. Since I both write and illustrate, I submit my books in a dummy. People who only write usually submit their books in manuscript format though some send in a dummy to show page breaks and pacing, and people who only illustrate can submit portfolios. If you send a dummy and you hope to get it back, make sure to include an SASE. And be very patient, I’ve known many hopeful writer/illustrators to wait months upon months.
Q: Does my geographic location matter if I want to get published?
A: No. I have friends all over the world who are published in the U.S. Especially now, in our techno world distance is not a problem.