Austin Author Spotlight with author Katherine Catmull

This month, The Writing Barn is thrilled to support a Writing Barn regular, author and actor Katherine Catmull, who just released her new YA/Fantasy novel, The Radiant Road, out in January from Dutton/Penguin Press. Katherine has attended numerous workshops and programming at The Writing Barn and we are happy to see her hard work pay off. Katherine is as much of a supporter of the Austin Arts Community, as she is a direct part of it. She’s involved in everything from Austin theatre and music, to Austin’s writing community, and she kills it at everything she does! Support this awesome Austinite in her latest endeavor and pick up a copy of The Radiant Road now!

And don’t forget to come to The Writing Barn, Wednesday February 24th, 7:00 – 9:00, for our monthly Words & Wine Wednesday, where Katherine herself will be participating in a discussion panel about her latest novel, as well as signing copies of her book which will be sold at The Barn on consignment from Book People. There will be wine, cheese, and great conversation. Stop by and keep supporting local Austin Talent.

Austin Author Spotlight Interview

with Katherine Catmull


Please share with us your exciting news!

My second novel, a young adult fantasy called The Radiant Road (Dutton/Penguin), was just published January 19. It’s gotten starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, which is exciting—and it was BookPeople’s Top Shelf pick for January. Plus there’s an audio version read by Colby Minifie, one of the supporting actors in Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. So: it’s an exciting month!

unnamed-4How did studying/retreating at The Writing Barn support you in achieving this goal? What workshop/intensives/or classes have you taken with us?

The Writing Barn is nothing but support. I took a writing and meditation class with Saundra Goldman that was really transformative for my writing process. Sara Kocek’s “Begun to Done: 10 Problems with Your First Draft and How to Fix Them” helped me get over some plot issue roadblocks as I was revising The Radiant Road. Francisco X. Stork’s lecture made me rethink why I write for young people in the first place, in a great way.

And that’s not even counting all the lovely get-togethers at The Writing Barn where I met the warm, generous Austin writing community and got to talk and complain and cheer and compare notes—that’s invaluable, too. I love it at the Barn. It always reminds me I’m not alone—look at all these other people on the same road. There’s something so restorative about meeting other walkers on your road. It’s a wonderful place.

Have you made friendships/colleagues as well? How has that supported you?

Absolutely. I even work with Sara Kocek at Yellow Bird Editors now. And I love going to the book launches of other writers. What I said above about meeting other walkers on your road—it’s rewarding in many different ways.How long have you been writing?

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for about fifteen years, but I started with plays. I’ve been writing novels for about ten. Finished (slowly) my first novel, a middle grade called Summer and Bird, almost exactly five years ago and was lucky to sign with my agent four months later. NOW I realize that was lucky—at the time it seemed like forever. Then in 2014 I was one of four co-authors of a collection of scary middle-grade short stories, The Cabinet of Curiosities (Green
willow/HarperCollins). All of that seems ages ago, it’s been so full since then. And yet really, I’m still a publishing newb.

What fears/hopes did you have before publishing this book?

Oh it’s been a long process with this book (I submitted my first draft in December 2012!), and there were times of great discouragement, when I wondered if it would ever show up between covers. I’m so glad to see it out there; I love what it became in that long process.

Katherine’s Writing Den

Why do you think attending workshops/classes is important to writers at all stages of their career?

A writer with less experience can shortcut a lot of loooong learning curves at Writing Barn workshops. That’s something I wish I’d known. But I still take classes at the Writing Barn—I’m taking one in a few hours, in fact, on the day I’m writing this—to reboot my writing, to get inspired, to get myself out of bad habits that sort-of-work but are dragging my writing down, and just to learn new techniques, new approaches, new revelations. And for writers at any stage, the camaraderie is a blessing—especially when you’re on one of the darker turns of your path.

What is a takeaway you will carry with you far beyond this good news as you continue to build and develop your career?

I have a new understanding that publishing is not an endpoint but the art of a long process. With my first book, once it was finished, I focused hard on getting it published. That was the dream, the birthday present, Christmas Day. And then it came out . . . and then what? Some people liked it, and some didn’t, and new opportunities came along, and I was contracted for a second book and needed to keep working on that. The world kept turning, including my own personal writing world.

This time, with the publication of my second novel, I’m excited and relieved and trepidatious and hoping people will like it. But I’m also philosophical, and looking beyond publication day. The first book seemed like an event; this one feels more like a step forward. Another step on that road.

Any advice you have for writers/creatives having trouble staying the course in pursuing their goals?

Drafting is hard for me—I’m one of those writers who anguishes drafting and prefers the revision process. For me it was hard, and it remains hard, to find that balance between kindness and strictness with myself, when I’m doing the hard part. It’s like I’m trying to learn to be a good parent to myself as a writer, if that makes sense. Ha—i just realized that this is not advice but just me talking about a problem I haven’t solved. I guess if you’re someone who sometimes has trouble sitting down to do it, I’d say join me in looking for that balance. How would you be a good parent to your inner writer? Do you need to be reminded to take it easy, to relax? Or do you need a few limits set?

unnamed-1Katherine Catmull is a writer and actor in Austin, TX. Her new book, a YA fantasy called The Radiant Road (Dutton Young Readers/Penguin), came out in January 2016. Her first book, Summer and Bird (also Dutton Young Readers), was named one of Booklist’s 2012 Top Ten First Novels for Youth and was both an IndieBound New Voices Pick and an Amazon Editors’ Pick for fall 2012. It’s out in paperback as well. She is also one of four spooky-storymakers at the Cabinet of Curiosities website. Last year Greenwillow/HarperCollins published a collection of those stories, which was named one of the New York Public Library’s Best Books of 2014. She often acts on stage in various Austin venues, especially Hyde Park Theatre, and does voice work for games like DC Universe Online (Oracle) and Wizard 101 (Myrella Windspar).

She has written several short plays (you can read one in New Monologues for Women by Women, Vol II), nine of which have been produced either in ScriptWork’s Out of Ink festival or HPT’s FronteraFest. She sometimes writes about arts for the Austin Chronicle, and usually blogs for the Fusebox Festival, an international hybrid arts festival held in Austin every spring.She was born in Salt Lake City and lived in Atlanta, Tampa, and Houston as a kid. She has a BA in English Literature from Reed College in Portland, OR, and an MA in lit from The University of Texas at Austin.