Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Author Kat Yeh Talks Mentor Texts

I was first introduced to Kat Yeh's work when I read her debut novel in January of 2015. I loved her voice! So when I saw that she had a new picture book coming out in December 2016, with an adorable title like The Friend Ship, I knew I wanted to have her on the blog.  Then I saw the art and fell head over heels in love. What a team!

Welcome, Kat! Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  -If so, how?

Several years ago, at an agency retreat, a YA writer talked to me about how impressed she was by people who were able to write picture books. "I could never do it," she said. I knew exactly what she meant. I've often felt this same way —even though I have two picture books already published and now, The Friend Ship.

The thing about picture books is that you have very few words to tell your story and connect with your reader.  A well done picture book takes you on an entire journey and leaves you satisfied at the end. I love using picture books as mentor texts. I love going through a pile from the library and then reading and rereading the ones that work in that perfectly indescribable way. I think about the rhythm of the words.  Whether or not I was drawn in by the first page. How I respond to the ending. I don't think there is a formula for how to use mentor texts. At least not for me. I look for elements that pull an emotional response from me. And then use that inspiration to write.

How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?

I think that discovering yourself as a writer is something that happens over a lifetime. Every experience you have, all the art you've seen and all the books you've read— all of these things are part of your ever evolving self. Reading picture books influence how I want to say things and how I see them. And because they will forever be associated with reading to my children, they're also part of my heart and memory. I never look at a wonderful picture book and want to copy it or try to Be The Next _________. But I think to myself, "I'd love to write something that makes the reader feel how this book makes me feel."

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of your picture book, The Friend Ship?

The idea for The Friend Ship sat for years in my idea folder as just a title, until one day, I knew the story I wanted to tell. There wasn't a specific mentor text for The Friend Ship, but I did spend a lot of time, reading piles of really beautiful picture books, just immersing in well told stories, so that when I did write I would hold my own work up to a certain level.

I loved your novel, The Truth About Twinkie Pie! How does your novel preparation differ from that of your picture books?

Thanks so much! Novels and picture books are obviously so very different, but for me,  they really start in similar ways. Simply put, I need to feel the heart of my story. Whether it is going to be 32 pages or 332 pages, I have trouble writing unless I know that part. So far, I've published three picture books and two novels (the second novel is in final edits now!) and the process for each has been completely and utterly different. Except for that one thing.  And I know that sounds mushy, but it's true. Once I know the heart of a story, it doesn't matter what my process is, I will do whatever that story needs.

Kat Yeh grew up reading, doodling, and scribbling in Westtown, Pennsylvania. She worked as a copywriter for many years in advertising and sports marketing, while writing poems and children's books in the wee hours of the night. She currently lives on Long Island where she spends any non-writing time being outside as much as possible and exploring all the bay and harbor beaches with her family.  


  1. The book looks adorable, Kat Yeh!

  2. I love the play on words in the title of your latest, Kat, and look forward to reading it in December.

  3. Love it! Very cute title! Thanks for sharing! Congratulations!

  4. Thank you Kat Yeh! I can't wait to read your books.

  5. I also loved Twinkie Pie, Carrie. And The Magic Brush was lovely.

    The cover is absolutely adorable. Can't wait to read The Friend Ship--what a great title!

  6. Such a wonderful interview. Can't wait to read The Friend Ship!

  7. Such a wonderful tip for writers-find the heart of your story- then whatever process to make it work.

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  9. Thank you Kat Yeh! I can't wait to read your books.
    Words Doctorate

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