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.
Kathryn Rammell never wanted to grow up. She loved letting her imagination run wild and playing make-believe. Luckily, she found that with writing and illustrating picture books she can still let her imagination run wild, just like she did when she was little. Plus, now she can eat cookies before dinner. When she’s not writing or illustrating, Kathryn can be found at the beach or on a road trip to a national monument. She enjoys all things KidLit, baking cookies, and being outdoors with her family.
Kathryn is currently seeking agent representation.
AD: Hi Kathryn and welcome to the blog! Thank you so much for being here! I can't wait to learn more about your art and writing. Can you start us off by telling us a bit more about your experience in the PB Rising Stars Mentorship Program.
KR: Hello, Amanda, and thank you so much for having me! My name is Kathryn Rammell, and I’m the writer/illustrator of the PB Rising Stars Mentorship. I was paired with not just one, but TWO amazing mentors: Kim-Hoa Ung and Marietta Apollonio. Kim-Hoa is the author-illustrator behind A Gift for Nai Nai and Marietta is the author-illustrator behind Jack the Library Cat. Both of their books will be coming out Spring 2023 and I cannot wait for their amazing books to hit the shelves!
I first learned about the mentorship program after seeing a tweet and thought WOW wouldn’t that be cool! But during the application period I was having some serious self-doubt and kept debating whether or not to apply. I finally asked myself, when the time comes for them to announce mentees, would you rather be disappointed that they didn’t pick you or disappointed that you didn’t even apply? I took a deep breath and dove in, submitting my application just one day before it closed.
I’m still in shock and filled with so much gratitude that I was chosen. The last three months with Marietta and Kim-Hoa have been packed with so much creativity, growth, and learning. Their encouragement and guidance has helped me SO much.
Wow! Those certainly are two amazing mentors. Sounds like you soaked in all you could during those three months and walked away with many helpful insights and a clear direction forward. I love the outlook you had on submitting to the mentorship. I think many of us relate to the regret or disappointment of not trying versus not getting chosen. I'm glad self-doubt didn't stop you. I'm sure Marietta and Kim-Hoa are, too! :)
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.
KR: My kidlit journey started before I even realized it. There were small moments like making books with my sister when we were growing up, passing notes in high school that were full of funny made-up stories, working at my university library, and taking a college class “just for fun” on children’s books. It was after I had my daughter that I realized I wanted to not just be a reader of children’s books, but a creator. The last seven years I have been working on my art skills and writing, it’s amazing to look back on my early illustrations and stories to see how much I’ve grown. I still have a lot to learn, but am loving every minute of it.
AD: You mentioned those small moments that hinted at your love for storytelling when you were young but did you always know you wanted to be an author-illustrator? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?
KR: I always thought it would be fun to be an author/illustrator, but it seemed out of reach. It wasn’t until my husband said, “Other people are doing it, why not you?” that I felt ready to jump in. My degree is in Art History and Curatorial Studies, which was more about studying art than creating it, but still in the same mindset of examining how art evokes emotions or tells a story. It took some awkward growing pains to pick up a paintbrush and learn about dummy making and story pacing, but it’s been a lot of fun, too.
AD: What topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing/art? Favorite genres you like to write in or favorite art materials/techniques?
KR: I love all things silly and sweet. My goal with my work is to bring out positive emotions, whether that means making someone cry happy tears or laugh out loud. I especially love fantasy and nature themes in my work.
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?
KR: Art is subjective and it’s impossible to please everyone. It’s such a rollercoaster when one illustration will touch one person but then get torn apart by another. Or to receive high praises from your critique group only to be rejected by agents. But at the end of the day I love writing and illustrating, so I let the hurtful comments and rejections slide past me and I keep on creating.
AD: This is so important to remember, thank you. We can't take those passes personally. Similarly, 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/illustration journey?
KR: Being chosen for the PB Rising Stars Mentorship was definitely a big moment for me. I also won an honorable mention in this year’s KidLit411 Banner Design Contest and will be featured on their website in December. That was a meaningful win for me because KidLit411 has been such a huge help in my creative journey.
AD: In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author/illustrator? What makes your art/writing unique to you?
KR: I feel more confident in my illustrating than I do in my writing, so I think my strength lies in my ability to evoke emotion, movement, and whimsy with my art.
AD: I can definitely feel a sense of calm, wonder, and joy in your art and characters. The emotion and mood shine through to the viewer, for sure! This makes me curious, what inspires your work?
KR: I was a very imaginative child so a lot of my work is inspired by my childhood as well as the current adventures I go on with my kids.
AD: Tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck?
KR: It all starts with an idea. But I never know when an idea will hit me, so I keep an ever-growing list in my Notes app where I can quickly jot an idea down whenever it arrives.
When an idea really sticks out it becomes a mad dash of writing, sketching, plotting, dummy drafting and so on. I love this part of the process where new ideas come crashing in, and I find that I have to work fast and focused, otherwise I lose the spark and will end up with a serious case of creative block.
Revising is the hardest part for me because I hate slowing down, but it’s so necessary to really hone in the words and pictures. This is also where critique partners are vital.
The last part of my process is adding the final art. I love this part because everything is coming together, and seeing those vibrant spreads make me think, wow, this really looks like it could be a book.
AD: Yes! Looking at what you've accomplished with the final art can be so satisfying. Sometimes I remind myself that there was literally nothing but a blank page there before but now it's filled with my creations-whether art or writing. The true definition of making something from nothing and learning in the process!
AD: What sorts of things have been most integral in your growth as an author/illustrator?
KR: The PB Rising Stars Mentorship has hands down been the biggest growth period in my creative path. To have so much encouragement and feedback has helped me see what areas I need to work on, both with specific projects and future ones.
I also really appreciate writing groups like KidLit411, Sub It Club, and SCBWI.
AD: What advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?
KR: Let your passion lead your path.
AD: I love that. Simple but so true! We must never lose our passion!
Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
KR: You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, or my website/portfolio. I love connecting with other creatives so please drop by and say hello!
Thank you so much for sharing your art, writing, and creative insights, Kathryn! Can't wait to see your books in the hands of young readers! Feel free to drop a comment below to support Kathryn 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.