Creative Careers in the Arts

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Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

Kathleen Rembisz: Children's Author & Artist for Desert Dog Designs

By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated June 9, 2018

After years in healthcare sales and marketing, Kathy Rembisz turned her energies towards more creative endeavors. In the same year her first children's picture book, Hair, Hair, Everywhere! was published, she began working with beads and textiles. The scarves and jewelry she creates have developed into a line of women's accessories, Desert Dog Designs, available at art shows and several specialty boutiques and resorts throughout the country.

In addition, she is a freelance writer/reporter for several local newspapers, covering feature articles as well as writing a bi-monthly column. Kathy shares her love of creating with others through the volunteer work she does in her community. She enjoys teaching knitting and beading classes for seniors, being a guest speaker at schools and libraries, and helping local girl scouts achieve their "Write All About It" badges.

Q: What was your first job as a young woman?

A: The first job I remember was babysitting at the age of 11. Then, I moved on to house and pet sitting. But, from a very early age I was an avid reader and used to profess, "I'm going to write a book someday." So, that desire was always there.

Q: You started your writing career as a children's author. What made you decide to shift gears and try your hand at adult fiction and journalism? Discuss the differences inherent in writing for such diverse audiences.

A: My first children's book was something I had written years ago, but just placed it on a shelf in its original form — construction paper and pictures from magazines — until it was published in 2005. A few years ago, I became quite ill and had plenty of time on my hands. I filled this time with writing. For some reason, I was drawn to adult fiction, so I just went with it. About a year ago, I was looking for a more steady type of writing so I pursued freelance reporting/writing. I wasn't sure I would like newspaper writing, but I've actually found I really enjoy it. None of these steps were really planned, they just developed. Writing for different types of audiences is challenging. But, as a writer, I think it helps to sharpen your skills and keep you on your toes. Just as with any career, continuing to challenge yourself as a writer is important. Plus, it allows you to try different things and discover what you like.

Q: Describe a typical day at work. How do you schedule time for so many different creative projects?

A: Currently, I don't feel I have a typical day at work. However, I'm working on bringing more routine into my days. I would like to spend mornings working on administrative tasks such as phone calls, e-mails, and planning speaking engagements. You'd be surprised how much time these tasks take! I would hope this would free up my afternoons to just work on projects. While that sounds great, it doesn't always work that way in the real world. Still, I feel a certain amount of routine is important so I'll continue to strive for that.

Q: What other projects are you working on?

A: My second children's book is currently being illustrated. I Smile Inside is a children's picture book in verse that touches on all the wonderful things a child can experience in life — a hug from grandma, meeting your first friend, and a bright, sunny day. It has been well received by the few select groups I've shared it with, so I'm quite excited about it being published. Waves of Irony is my first adult novella. It deals with the complexities of modern-day relationships and the issues that coincide. That book became very challenging for me at times so I'm very relieved it is finished!

Q: Are there any special challenges inherent in writing books for children?

A: With children's books, fun and interesting characters are important as well as vibrant illustrations to keep the readers attention. At the same time, if you can incorporate a lesson in the storyline, that would be fantastic. Not all children's book are successful in all of these areas — it is a challenge.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?

A: I really love visiting schools and libraries. The children are usually very interested, full of questions, and fun. It's very rewarding when they tell me, "You're inspiring" or "Your book is awesome." Plus, because my first book is about my Golden Retriever, Spencer, many of my speaking engagements encourage me to bring my dog along. He has a blast meeting all the children!

A: Doing creative work carries with it a whole host of challenges — worrying that you have no more ideas or having an idea but not getting a good response to it, to name a few. But, I think the greatest difficulty is the aspect of working alone. While I'm pretty self-motivated and self-sufficient when it comes to my work, there are just some days when it feels like I'm spending too much time alone. I have attempted to connect with other creative people, but it just hasn't worked so far.

Q: Do you illustrate your own books, or collaborate with a professional illustrator?

A: Unfortunately, I don't illustrate my own books since I'm not very good at even stick figures! However, I have found a very talented illustrator, Laurie Faust, who illustrated my first book and is currently working on my second.

Q: What are some of the challenges you faced in finding the right illustrator to bring your vision for your books into the realm of visual art? Describe the collaboration process and special challenges or rewards you discovered in working with Faust.

A: I saw some of the work Laurie had done on other books and knew she would represent my book well. Working with her has been a great experience. I provide Laurie with the text for the book and any specific ideas I have in mind. For example, in my first book I wanted my Golden Retriever, Spencer, to be the main character. Then, she'll provide me with some rough sketches to ensure we're on the same page with the project. I provide feedback regarding details, colors, etc. The whole process only took a few weeks. I will tell you I had an experience with an illustrator prior to Laurie that was not positive. His sketches were wonderful with tremendous detail, but he constantly bumped back our deadlines and I could never get in touch with him. I finally dropped him, although I did like his work. As with any partnership, I think finding a good fit with an illustrator is crucial.

Q: How do you deal with writer's block?

A: I have a number of writing exercises I turn to when I experience writer's block. Sometimes just focusing on a completely different subject is helpful. But, none of these ideas are foolproof. I have an entire file full of ideas that haven't materialized into anything. I think it just goes with the territory.

Q: Do you have any advice for writers hoping to break into the children's book market?

A: I would say know the market well. Most people think it's enough to write a cute story with nice illustrations, but it's not. I have watched many people walk away disappointed from a conference thinking they had the next best seller, only to be told there was no interest. As with any other industry, the children's book market is a business, too. Popular themes and subjects from this year may not be popular by next year. You really need to know and understand the market to be successful. Did I mention that a little luck usually helps, too?

Q: How do you deal with the "business" aspects of your career? Do you have a literary agent, accountant, or business manager? What advice would you give for those choosing the right people to represent their work?

A: My husband and I both have sales and marketing backgrounds, so we both play a part in that aspect of my writing. Promotion is a very important aspect of selling books. So, I would strongly suggest a writer find someone to promote them if they don't have experience in that area.

I have not been successful in finding an agent, which I think has been a bit of a drawback for me. An agent really could open doors if they have relationships with the appropriate publishers. So many publishers these days will only accept submissions through agents. Unfortunately, there are so few of the large publishers anymore, too. I don't mean to sound discouraging, but the industry certainly has gotten tougher. I have found that many writers have family members as business managers as they become busy enough. Right now, my husband and I share this responsibility, which includes the marketing aspect I previously mentioned, administrative tasks, accounting. Some days it really does feel as though I spend too much time on this aspect of the business and not enough writing!

Q: Do you ever find that the Muses have deserted you? How do you entice them to return to your studio?

A: Unfortunately, this happens too often! I have found a change of scenery helps with new ideas. I always have success if I indulge in a massage, too.

Next Interview: Anne Marie Bennett SoulCollage® Facilitator

©2007 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.

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