Rising Stars in KidLit began as a way to highlight my fellow kidlit creators who are working their tails off to birth their beautiful book babies into the world. These interviews cast a light on the wonderful work of pre-published or pre-agented authors and author-illustrators who are destined to be stars! For the next several features, we’re collaborating with the hardworking creators of the PB Rising Stars Mentorship Program, Kailei Pew and Ebony Lynn Mudd, to highlight the wonderful and talented creators who were selected for the 2022 Mentorship Program. Learn more about the PB Rising Stars Mentorship program HERE.
Meet Rising Star
Author Aimee Satterlee!
Aimee Satterlee has always had a deep love of picture books. From the time she was 3-years-old and named her cat Harold after Harold and the Purple Crayon, Aimee knew picture books contain the best answers to life’s questions. After a career reading picture books to kids as an elementary teacher, she is dedicated to a career writing picture books for kids as a full-time author. Aimee is a 2022 PB Rising Star and a member of SCBWI and 12x12 PB Challenge. She enjoys spending time with her hilarious husband, three charming children and one precious pup on the same road where she grew up.
Aimee is currently seeking agent representation.
AD: Welcome to the blog, Aimee! Let’s start with your experience in the PB Rising Stars Mentorship Program. Can you tell us who your mentor is, what inspired you to apply, and how the program is going/went for you?
AS: My mentor, and new publishing bestie, is Kailei Pew! We are alike in so many eerie ways--even our birthdays are just days apart.
I knew immediately when Kailei posted about starting a mentorship program that I HAD to apply to her. For one, a dear and longtime critique partner (Nicole Sharkey) sent me that original post and said Kailei would be a good match for me. Nicole gets props for predicting this pairing from the start! Plus, I had been a longtime follower and fan of Kailei and knew she wrote in a variety of genres like me, so it seemed perfect…and it is!
I could not ask for a better mentor than Kailei. She “gets me” and my work. We set some pretty lofty goals to revise 6 manuscripts as well as get the entire package ready (pitches, query letters, submission lists, etc.) for agent querying after the mentorship. Not to mention getting my author website off and running…But, Kailei has been behind me and believes in me 100%.
AD: Wow! That sounds serendipitous! It's so nice to have guidance in this industry and it seems you've had a pretty productive mentorship thus far. Yay for collaboration and teamwork!
Alright let’s do a speed round…
AD: Okay, now down to the serious stuff….please dish us the dirt on who you are and your journey into the fabulous world of children’s books.
AS: I started writing when my son was born. It was just a fun way to stay awake during late night feedings--jotting stories on my iPhone. My husband, who is a teacher, said he wanted to show one of my stories to his 5th grade class. Little did I know, he stealthily took my story and had it illustrated by a RISD alum as a present. When I opened it, I cried. Actually, I sobbed. To see that little story I wrote on my iPhone as a potential picture book lit a fire from within. I have been learning and growing ever since. When I started, I didn’t even know there were 32 pages in a picture book. Needless to say, that first story was a mess. I can look back at it now and laugh. But, it was the beginning of my official writing journey and for that I’m forever grateful.
AD: Sweetest and most thoughtful gift ever! And as a new mom myself, how inspiring that your spark to write was a result of late nights with your baby boy. Inspiration is everywhere! Although your writing journey started after having your son, did you always know you wanted to be an author? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?
AS: I’ve always loved picture books. My parents tried bribing me as a child to stop reading picture books and start reading chapter books. Looking back, there was a definite reason that the picture book form spoke to the core of who I am. But, I don’t think I *knew* I could actually *be* an author. I grew up in a family of teachers going back many generations. So, naturally I became a teacher. I adored my students and enjoyed reading books to them. Being a teacher and a mom awakened that deep love of picture books. I truly believe everything in my life has led me here. And, I’m really proud of being able to share this journey with my children and hopefully be an example of determination. They have seen how I handle this difficult journey and all the rejections, but always picking myself up and continuing because when you feel a deep passion and purpose, nothing will stop you.
AD: What topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing? Favorite genres you like to write in?
AS: I’m not afraid to go deeply emotional and personal or on the flip side, as one CP said, I can be “fearlessly silly.” I write in many picture book genres (nonfiction, informational fiction, lyrical, humor, STEM, SEL). No matter what genre, I hope my readers feel seen, loved and happy! If what I create means something to a child, there is no greater good or purpose. I love writing and I always want to focus on that deep joy because I hope it will be felt by readers.
AD: Breaking into the publishing industry is not easy! What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far? What have you done to persevere?
AS: One of my biggest challenges was actually turning down an offer of representation last fall. The Call was on my actual birthday! (Complete with zombie unicorn ice cream cake…) It felt like a real birthday wish manifested. So, for me to say “no” was difficult. I’m grateful now because I would not have actually written the lyrical piece of my heart that touched Kailei, my mentor, and had this incredible opportunity of a mentorship. Everything is meant to be including all the times I applied and was not chosen for other mentorships. I keep showing up for opportunities, learning and growing. Perseverance is my superpower! I also find that eating a lot of Crumbl cookies along the way is essential.
AD: What an interesting situation. Thank you for sharing that. I think so often we are so excited to get that initial offer that we can overlook our gut feelings when making the decision to move forward in a partnership or not. Thanks for that reminder that it's okay to pass on opportunities that may not align at our core, knowing that in the end, the decision will lead us to where we are meant to be. And I need to try some of those Crumbl cookies! Yum!
Crumbl Treats Photo Credit: © Aimee Satterlee
AD: As creators (and humans), we tend to focus on the flaws of our creations or areas for improvement. This helps us grow and develop, but we need not forget the many things we are doing well. With this in mind, what has been your biggest accomplishment or something you are most proud of thus far on your writing journey?
AS: I think there were over 400 applications for the PB Rising Stars Mentorship. So, being chosen was a really big deal. I feel fortunate for the opportunity to learn and grow with such an amazing mentor. I have had writing contest wins that have been meaningful. 2022 and 2019 I was a winner for Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words, and in 2020 I was Honorable Mention. I don’t have the time to enter in all the amazing writing contests out there, but I always make 50 Precious Words a priority because it challenges me to really focus on word choice and tell a complete story in so few words. I also won Honorable Mention for Kids’ Choice Kidlit Writing Contest 2022. This contest is judged by real kids! So, for kid readers (who are not my own children) to actually like my story enough to vote on it meant so much.
AD: Woohoo! So many wins and reasons to celebrate. More Crumble cookies perhaps?!?
Speaking of accomplishments, what do you feel are your strengths as an author? What makes your writing unique to you?
AS: One of my strengths is the creativity of my ideas. Tara Lazar says that “concept is king.” Ideas come easily to me. My list has almost 500 ideas on it right now. Granted only some of those will rise to the top of the list to become manuscripts, but I seem to have a knack for coming up with unique ideas with multiple hooks and kid appeal. I have a specific voice that my mentor and CPs says comes through no matter what genre I write in. I think it’s “miscellaimeeous”--sometimes quirky, sweet, funny, deep. I write with the intention of bringing extra hope, comfort and joy to readers.
AD: Love that “miscellaimeeous” word play ;)
What inspires your work?
AS: I’m inspired by kids! My own kids, former students, my inner kid, kids just being kids!, kids with big feelings, and kids who need a reminder that they are loved. I care so much about my future readers. I know there are children out there who need my books. I won’t give up on them.
AD: Tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck?
AS: Tara Lazar’s Storystorm is a treasure. I always participate in the month of January and generate so many idea “jewels” for the whole year. As far as being stuck, my best advice is take a break. Don’t force it. Switch to something else you are working on. I usually have multiple projects I’m working on at once. So, if I am stuck with one I move to a different one. That time away is usually enough to provide clarity and get me moving again in the right direction.
AD: I love Tara's Storystorm! So many jewels can come from it!
AD: What sorts of things have been most integral in your growth as an author?
AS: Some of the organizations and groups that have been the most beneficial to my growth as an author are: SCBWI, 12x12, Kidlit Twitter and #PBChat. I’ve been a part of many writing conferences, and numerous webinars with outstanding authors and industry professionals.
Critique groups!!! I’m currently a part of 4 CGs. No one can do this journey alone. I’m lucky to be part of critique groups with such talented writers!
Reading! Reading! Reading! I’ve calculated that I’ve read more than 7,800 picture books since starting my writing journey. I always check out a huge stack of books each week from the library. I even have a whole file dedicated to analyzing picture book texts.
AD: What advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?
AS: Keep going! Good things are already on the way to you!
AD: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
Thank you so much for sharing your insights and creative journey, Aimee! We can't wait to see your heartfelt books in the hands of young readers! Feel free to drop a comment below to support Aimee and her work. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss out on the next Rising Stars in Kidlit feature and follow along on Twitter at #RisingStarsinKidlit!
Who Am I?
Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. Amanda is the author of the award-winning picture book, 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag, Moonlight Memories (summer, 2023) and a yet to be announced forthcoming title. She also has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology: Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. Amanda has over ten years of experience as a classroom teacher and was selected as Massachusetts Secondary Art Educator of the Year. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her family and her rescue pup, Cora. You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art.