•  Q&A with WriteByNight Consultant Katherine Catmull

    Katherine Catmull, consultant and coachKatherine Catmull’s (Austin, Texas)
     most recent book, the young adult fantasy The Radiant Road (Dutton Young Readers/Penguin), came out in January 2016 to starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal. Her first novel, Summer and Bird (Dutton, 2012), was named one of Booklist‘s 2012 Top Ten First Novels for Youth and was a Texas Library Association Spirit of Texas Reading pick for 2014-2015. She is also one of four co-authors of The Cabinet of Curiosities (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2014), a collection of horror stories for tweens and teens. She has taught numerous writing classes and workshops for the Writers’ League of Texas, Armadillocon, and The Writing Barn, and appeared on panels about writing at SXSW, the Texas Book Festival, Comicpalooza, and many more. Catmull is also an actor, playwright, and freelance arts writer. Her website is katherinecatmull.com.


    Where are you from?

    I’ve lived in Austin, Texas, for decades now, but I was born in Salt Lake City, and I’ve lived in Atlanta, Tampa, Houston, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon, as well. My youth and childhood were peripatetic.


    Where did you study?

    After a freshman year at the University of Chicago, I transferred to Reed College for my BA in English Literature. My MA in the same subject is from the University of Texas at Austin.


    How did you get your start as a writer?

    I’ve been a stage actor for many years, so I started by writing short plays. In time I started wishing for a project that would be mine alone—no other actors, producers, or directors involved—so I decided to write a book. Which was a thousand percent harder than I realized it would be, but man: when that book was published, it changed my life.


    What is the hardest part of writing for you?

    Drafting is by far the hardest for me, at least once I’m well into a story. Stories are tremendously fun to start, but once I’m in the weeds, I develop a lot of anxiety and blocks. Luckily, once I have something on the page, I’m much more confident in revision.


    What is your strangest writing experience?

    Once as part of a site-specific theater piece, I sat at the top of a tower with a pile of birthday cards beside me. When people climbed up to me, I would ask, “What do you want for your birthday?” Based on what they said, I would choose a card and write a quick piece of free verse intended to give them that gift. It went on for hours, with an endless line. My pen was moving and words were pouring out—it was exhausting, exhilarating, and wild. (And quite the opposite of my normal self sitting anxiously before a laptop.)


    Word association: Literature.

    Ha—to be perfectly honest, my first association is “graduate school.” But I loved grad school; I’m a complete lit nerd.


    What’s the last book you read and what did you think of it?

    Last book was actually a listen to a book I’d read in paper form years earlier, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. It was still a delight—filling all my lit-nerd needs with its splendid writing, while also providing a thrilling story.


    Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

    Neil Gaiman gives the best advice, I think: finish things. Starting is easy, but ninety percent of what you learn, you will learn from finishing. Finish something, send it out into the world (however you prefer to do that), and start something else. And finish it!


    Interested in working with Katherine? Request a free consult now

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