Monday, February 2, 2015

GUEST POST: "How My Day Job Makes Me A Better Kidlit Writer" by Katie Sparks

After you publish your first book, it’s not uncommon to hear friends and family say: “Bet you can’t wait until you can quit your day job, become famous, and let the riches roll in…cha ching!”

Yeah, right.

As you might have guessed, writing for children is NOT my full-time job.

By day: editor for parenting books

By night: children’s author

After college, I continued to foster my passion for writing, and took the following steps to immerse myself in the publishing industry:
·         Began as a creative content writer
·         Took some crazy but well-paid off risks, such as quitting my day job to take a non-paid internship and moving back home, and got my foot in the door of a popular and widely successful independent publishing company
·         Dabbled in editorial, customer service relations and eventually became the Assistant to the Publisher
·         Moved on to a non-profit medical association in 2010
·         Three years later, hired to manage the consumer product line of parenting books

From bubble baths to naptime, poopy diapers and dinnertime messes, feeding routines and potty training, the parenting books I acquire cover it all.  Using my journalism background and my own experience of the industry, I develop resources sure to bring comfort and information to even the busiest of parents: helping mothers balance work-life environments, offering strategies to dads for bonding with their children or guiding first-time parents to raise healthy twins.


Obviously you do not need to be an editor of the genre you write in for you to become better at the craft of writing. There were times in my previous job, working so closely with children’s books all day long, that I found myself burnt out once I got home and had the opportunity to work on my own stories.  Now in this current role, there’s something refreshing about being able to work with authors, medical editors and pediatricians on different manuscript topics that reach millions of parents, while still finding the energy to craft my own stories at home. 

Being an editor also offers me the wonderful opportunity to work alongside many talented doctors and writers. By embarking on a literary journey with them and hearing funny stories about their children, I have found ideas and inspiration for my own stories.  From imaginary friends with a sneaky pet mouse to balloons animals who have feelings, nothing is too small or too insignificant to bring life to my stories.   
Since I am not yet a parent, it’s these special moments that ring true when weaved together in a picture book.  Being a twin myself and helping develop a guide on raising multiples added authenticity to the personalities of twin siblings in my middle grade novel, REALITY NATALIE, as well as for a picture book I wrote on some crazy and fun double trouble twins! 


Working for a company that specializes in giving authentic advice to parents weighs heavily on the decisions I make regarding the books I edit. This mentality recently filtered into the decision regarding my own novel’s cover design. Initially the cover photo for REALITY NATALIE depicted a girl with her forefinger and thumb out. Unsure of any unknown symbolism this could represent or be perceived as guns, my publisher and I opted to edit the forefingers out from the photo. Now the cover successfully depicts a girl with attitude who is giving thumbs up to the TV world, perfect for Natalie and for readers alike.

So while the odds of me quitting my job, becoming famous and making millions are as likely as winning the lottery, I can admit to waking up everyday and loving what I do.  Being an editor is not an easy job but it is definitely one that is priceless because it makes me happy – just like writing!

 (Credit: all photos courtesy of

At a very young age, Katie Sparks discovered the magic of books. She counted on weekly library visits and treasured receiving her first library card at the age of five. At six, she wrote her first story called Baby Carrie (still in her collection today!)

Katie knew then that writing would be in her future. By day, she is an editor for the parent consumer line at a non-profit medical association and enjoys working closely with authors and industry professionals. Immersed in the publishing industry in both her professional and personal life is a dream come true. On weekends you will often find her writing and sipping coffee at one of the many unique coffee shops in Chicago, spending time with family and friends, or curled up with a new book.

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