The new year is here (hooray!) and Rising Stars continues. The goal of this series is to highlight my fellow kidlit creators who are working their tails off to birth their beautiful book babies into the world. These interviews will cast a light on the wonderful work of these pre-published authors and author-illustrators who are destined to be stars!
Meet Rising Star
Author Kim Pfennigwerth!
Welcome, Kim! I'm so excited to have you here and chat about all things kidlit and creativity!
AD: Let’s start with a speed round…
● Top three favorite children’s books of all time?
King Bidgood’s In The Bathtub! written by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood, which is fun
that a child solves the problem not the adults. Poor Doreen, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and
illustrated by Alexandra Boiger; a very unlucky fish’s lucky tale for the storytelling way it is told.
And last but not least, A Sick Day for Amos McGee written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin
E. Stead; a pretty perfect friendship story.
● Coffee, tea (or neither)? Tea
● Where is your safe place? Outdoors or anywhere I can curl up with a book or sit with a laptop
or pen and paper.
● Dogs, cats, (or neither)? Dogs
● Early bird or night owl? Early Bird- I’m out the door with a dog at pre-sunrise when you can
usually see an array of dazzling colors.
● Three words to describe what it takes to make it in the kidlit world…
Tenacity, Revisions, Critiques
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.
KP: I am a mom of four and a nana to four (though more are always welcome!). I have always had stories in my head and jotted onto the backs of envelopes, notepads, etc. My children grew up with me telling them stories. When my first grandchild was due, my oldest son told me that they would need stories to tell his son the way stories were told to him and his siblings. That just opened up the gates of my imagination and my husband encouraged me to keep going with them. When I found SCBWI it was liking finding a piece of heaven. I truly felt like I had found my people.
AD: How nice that your children's words were your muse and you had the support from your partner to dive into your journey as an author. SCBWI is an amazing resource. I'm not surprised that it led you to some amazing creators and community.
AD: Did you always know you wanted to be an author-illustrator? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?
KP: I worked mostly in offices as a clerk or office manager. I never seriously thought I could be an author even though I constantly wrote. I would write poems that were framed and given as gifts for anniversaries, birthdays etc. It was SCBWI that showed a pathway through the publishing journey that I have treasured.
AD: What topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing? Favorite genres you like to write in?
KP: As a writer only - Friendship, family, and humor are the most familiar topics and themes in my manuscripts along with word play.
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?
KP: I am on the quest for my second agent, and I've had a couple manuscripts make it as far as acquisition meetings and then get rejected. So getting over the publishing hump is my biggest challenge. I continue to grow my writing and have manuscripts to work on while other manuscripts rest. I also keep a .doc file of possible titles, plot ideas, and word play. I also have strong critique groups and buddies. They strengthen my writing, and critical thinking, while helping me to stay motivated.
AD: Good luck with the agent search and congrats on the close calls with your manuscripts! Those are big moments! We hear it all the time but it only takes one yes, and if you keep at it, you are bound to find that match! I'm glad you have strong critique groups to help you develop and persevere!
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/illustration journey?
KP: That I have come so close is a reminder to me that I must be on the right path. It is not always easy to keep submitting – that is the thing I have to really push myself to keep doing. Having made so many close friendships with wonderfully creative people helps keep me motivated.
AD: Yes! I try to remind myself that art and writing is so subjective and not to take it personally when I get passes. The beauty of art is for people to interpret it in their own way and sometimes that means connecting with a story or an art piece and sometimes not. The important thing is to find that person who gets it, and shares a vision that aligns with yours. That is who you want in your corner. :)
AD: In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author/illustrator? What makes your art/writing unique to you?
KP: I believe my strengths are finding new ways to tell stories about friendships and family. Family is where we first learn how we are different, how we are the same, where we can fit in, and how to be friends—very universal themes.
AD: What inspires your work?
KP: Reading tons of books old and new. It is a delicious moment when I read words or a phrase strung together that I truly wish I had written. And reading and snuggling with a book and a child is the most precious time ever. So I would love to know my stories are being hugged close like I and my family hug other books.
AD: Yes! Read, read, read! Nothing can compare to a good book!
Tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck?
KP: Most days start with an early morning walk where I can let my mind drift and play with ideas. By midmorning I’m working on something toward publishing. I like to read a positive daily quote and then dig into writing or revising. I also try to have 2 mornings or afternoons just for reading. Whether it is a reminder of the writing in picture books that I love or keeping up with newly published books, reading, reading, and reading some more keeps my imagination bubbling.
Opposite of that—Feeling stuck—is the worst! I go outside to shake it off. I ask ‘What If’ or “What Else’ for my main character and when all else fails I’ll blast some music and dance around!
AD: Wow! Those pictures of the beach walk are amazing. How special to live so close to the ocean and what fun you get to enjoy early morning walks with your pups for inspiration. It looks so peaceful. The ocean is my safe place, and I hope to one day be in walking distance of the beach.
AD: What advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?
KP: Since I only write - Read and write as often as as possible. Schedule time for reading, writing, and revising – treat this like the business it is. Find ways that keep the creative juices flowing for you. Also look at illustrators websites online –their talented images can help inspire new stories! And just as importantly - have a critique group or critique buddies who give you tough, critical comments, who bounce ideas around with you, and who will commiserate and celebrate with you – they break the isolation we often feel.
AD: Great advice, Kim! Thanks for the wisdom!
You can find Kim on social media:
Facebook (though not as often) – kimpfenni1
Kim, thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself and contributing to the Rising Stars in Kidlit series! We can’t wait to read your stories and see your work in the hands of young readers! Stay tuned for next week where we get to meet another Rising Star in Kidlit, and be sure to subscribe so you don't miss out and follow along on Twitter at #RisingStarsinKidlit! Feel free to drop a comment below to support Kim and her work. Good luck with your agent search, too! Fingers crossed!
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.