Author Interview: KAT HARRISON
I'm absolutely delighted to welcome a picture book author to the blog today whose gorgeous debut was released earlier this year. OMG it's soooo cute!
Check it out...
Kat Harrison is a writer, editor, and chronic illness advocate from Michigan. Her writing has been featured in various print and online outlets such as Real Simple, New York Family, The Mighty, and Yahoo. She lives with a not-so-fun buffet of chronic health conditions and has recovered from fourteen surgeries, but she keeps her sense of humor thanks to an incalculable amount of coffee and brightly colored headbands. Her debut picture book, SURGERY ON SUNDAY, was released in March 2020 by Warren Publishing. It’s illustrated by UK-based artist Shane Crampton.
Sunday – a kid with an ocean-sized imagination -- is nervous about her upcoming ear surgery. Mom and Dad tell her to put on a brave face, but how can she when she has so many questions? Will it be scary? Will it hurt? (And what does it mean to put on a brave face anyway?) When surgery day rolls around, Sunday’s stomach is in knots like a triple-tied shoelace. But thankfully, she has her BFF, Octavia the Octopus by her side. With the additional help of a few “rules,” her parents, kind doctors and nurses, she soon learns surgery isn’t so scary after all. It actually makes her feel a whole lot better!
Written with spunk, humor, and a lot of love, SURGERY ON SUNDAY teaches kids they can be brave, even when it’s hard.
Who are you and what do you write?
I’m Kat Harrison and I write health-focused picture books as well as personal essays about chronic illness, mental health, and disability. Do you sense a theme?
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
I’ve always been a writer. In fact, I can’t remember a time when writing wasn’t my go-to outlet creatively and emotionally. But after incurring a medical trauma at the age of 15, my seriousness about writing exploded tenfold. I was determined to make my voice heard and to become an unforgettable storyteller. I strive to get a little closer to that, day by day and draft by draft. Without writing, I’m not so sure I’d know how to breathe.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
I got my start in lifestyle journalism -- primarily in the parenting and beauty sector – as a magazine editor. I didn’t start writing about health until I wrote a feature story on migraines for Real Simple in 2014. Fast forward to 2016-2018, I recovered from four major surgeries and wrote 27 essays for The Mighty about my life with chronic illness. To be honest, I can’t imagine writing about anything else now. Health narratives are what I’m most passionate about and translating that point of view into picture books has been equal parts terrifying and fulfilling. Kids tell it like it is!
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
Without a doubt, the hardest part about my publishing experience with SURGERY ON SUNDAY was getting others to believe the story had a purpose and a place in today’s market. I received so much feedback about there not being enough value for “niche” stories like mine and for a while, it led me to believe I was rooting for a project that wouldn’t see the light of day. But eventually I learned to quiet the voices of the crowd. As for the enjoyable part, when I first saw the initial round of color interiors that Shane Crampton whipped up, my heart burst into a million Monarch butterflies. I was so proud I didn’t give up on Sunday (and she is too).
Would you go back and change anything?
My biggest regret is not arming myself with more market research whenever I spoke with publishing professionals. I read so many comp titles which helped me write the best and most unique story I could, but I lacked evidence in the business department. Comprehensive research as to why there was a much-needed place in the market for a book like mine would’ve given the story deeper and more obvious roots.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
I’d like to be far, far away from operating rooms. But health catastrophes aside, I hope to have written many more stories for kids. And maybe, just maybe, have completed my memoir. It’s always there, looming like a shark, but I haven’t had the patience and tenacity to give it a go.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
Learn how to take criticism gracefully. While writing is inherently personal, it’s important to compartmentalize feedback for what it is – a tool for improvement. Good feedback will make you a more nuanced self-editor and elevate your craft. Oh, and don’t forget to read. A lot.
And most importantly...
Ketchup or Mayo? I can’t choose, so I’ll go with Mayochup! (Apparently that’s an actual product now. What a time to be alive.)
Night or Day? Daytime, preferably morning.
Inside or Outside? Inside. My chronic pain is very dependent on a controlled environment but I also love a good stroll.
Dogs or Cats? Despite my namesake, I’m a dog person. My rescue pup is my whole life!
Twitter or Facebook? Neither. Instagram all the way.
e-book or Paperback? Paperback. There’s nothing like the real thing.
Sun or Rain? I write better when it’s raining but sunshine is my surefire mood booster.
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? Keyboard. My laptop is like an extra limb.
Comedy or Drama? Drama. I love to laugh but I’m more satisfied when I feel deeply.
Chips or Chocolate? Please don’t make me choose. Salty and sweet is my favorite combo!
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