T. Katz, a resident of Southern California, has been involved in the children’s entertainment industry since the early 80’s working on hundreds of episodes of animated television and since then as a music instructor to hundreds of very animated children. She is also the honorary conductor of a four-part harmony household, consisting of her two children (three, count her husband on a bad day) and Alice the cat. She lives by the motto “a good book, a cup of tea and somehow all is right with the world” and feels that her adventures in life are adding welcome lines of character to her face and scattered optimistic silver linings all over her head.
Welcome to Beyond the Books, T. Katz. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published? Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?
Miss L’eau was my very first children’s chapter book to be published and immediately following was another children’s chapter book, Pythagoras. I feel very fortunate that these two “babies” of mine have found a home in the world, sort of the way I imagine it will be when I send my own kids out into the world once they’ve graduated!
What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
My very first book (unpublished and unpublish-able, to be honest) was about a little ghost who lived on a dusty fireplace mantle whose tears of happiness could be wished upon. He disappeared once the lady-of-the-house decided her living room needed a good spring cleaning! This was book written for my eyes only and when I did decide to send it out into the cosmos it was promptly and severely rejected.
For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
Over the years I had probably sent out close to a hundred query letters about Miss L’eau to agents and publishers who all refused it, but then I started revising like mad and re-tooled my query letters until I felt ready to re-send again. When my daughter was in junior high, she asked me to help her with a Teen Issues career assignment on the Life of an Author and when she received an A on the assignment she said, “Well, if you’re so smart – why don’t you DO this?” I sent out a handful of queries and manuscripts, thinking I’d teach her a rather smart lesson in rejection and the difficulties that are encountered in the writing profession and to my surprise, I received a couple of positive responses!
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
With the first 75 rejections of my writing life (through letters, phone calls and/or emails) my usual coping method was a combination of crying and shaking my fist at the skies. Somewhere around rejection #76 I came to the realization that much in the same way I don’t find every flavor of jelly bean in the bowl to my liking, particularly the blue ones — who try too hard, in my opinion, to BE blueberry and always taste a bit off — it was just that I was probably somebody’s blue jelly bean and not to their liking. I learned to accept the dismissal of my work and move on to other people and projects who might like me.
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
It was my final decision to go with Windstorm Creative (now Orchard House Press) a small, independent publisher in Washington and I chose to work with them partly because of their mission statement of publishing books that entertain and enrich. They have been nurturing and educational at every turn in the process of publishing both of my titles, Miss L’eau and Pythagoras.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
When I received the phone call that Miss L’eau would be published, at first I thought it was a joke. It took a few minutes for it to sink it that it was a bonafide offer and when I hung up I danced around (in my pajamas) then called my husband and just about blew his ears off with the whooping and hollering! Then, I closed my eyes and said a prayer of gratitude that someone might come to love Miss L’eau as much as I did.
What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
The very first thing I did for the promotion of Miss L’eau was to contact every local media outlet in my area with a press release about “local author to release children’s chapter book” so they would cover it. To my delight, they did and those are still some of my most favorite articles.
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
There have been days when I questioned the way things were being done, especially early on, but I have learned so much by working with an independent publisher because they were willing to communicate with me about every step that was being taken. That might not have happened if I had gone in a different direction. I am very grateful to my publisher and editor for their willingness to answer all of my questions, no matter how small or naïve.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
When my second book, Pythagoras, was going through the same steps as Miss L’eau I was not as diligent in some areas and I feel that some mistakes were made, mostly on my part. The growing pains are still taking place and as I experience more ways to stretch as a writer, through social media and other avenues, I realize there is still so much more to learn.
Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
While I might have been eager for my work to be published earlier in my life, I don’t believe I was ready at that time, not as a writer and not as a person. As far as mistakes that might have been avoided, I know my top two faults were impatience and a thin skin. Those two character flaws prevented me from taking the time to appropriately revise my work and bravely and persistently submit my work.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
By far, the greatest thing to happen since Miss L’eau was released has been the positive reception of the oceanic community, both non-profit and otherwise. In my heart, Miss L’eau has always been “the little book with the big message” and hearing that sentiment echoed from organizations like the Ocean Conservancy in WA, D.C., WiLDCOAST, Save Our Seas, PADI and many others has been heartwarming.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
Mrs. Santa Claus, because she gets to rock the white hair and apron like nobody’s business and live where it’s frosty hot tea and toast weather all the time. I’m terribly envious of her.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
The beauty of being a storyteller is that I can create the worlds my characters walk in, like the world’s most awesome interchangeable dollhouse, and in some ways that then gives me the freedom to create the world I walk in. There is a great joy in creative independence.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
Rocking the white hair and apron and continuing to tell my tales to anyone who will listen. If time has taught me anything, it’s that we continue to evolve and grow if we keep our minds and ears open. I am excited to see what stories will come forward to be told as the next decade unfolds.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Behind my desk is a small postcard with the words “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out” by Robert Collier and when I am tired and my brain hurts it reminds me that drops fill the bucket if I keep at it. I would submit that gentle reminder to other writers and the added advice of patience and persistence.