"...I was almost 40 years-old when I started writing. I didn't even know I could write..."
An Interview with Children’s Writer & Author, Wendy Kitts
Wendy Kitts is the author of four non-fiction children’s books: Sable Island: The Wandering Sandbar (Nimbus, 2011), The Art of Graphic Communication (Reference Point Press, 2019), Great Jobs in the Skilled Trades (Reference Point Press, 2019) and Careers in Animation and Comic Books (Reference Point Press, 2019).
Did you always want to be a writer?
No. I never wrote as a kid. In fact, I was almost 40 years-old when I started writing. I didn’t even know I could write. But I was always very creative and loved to draw, paint and sculpt clay. I also remember putting on 45 records and acting out the songs with my sisters. And I remember my cousin and I would come up with skits and try to convince the neighbourhood kids to pay us five cents admission to watch us act them out; though don't remember anyone doing so!
How did you become a writer?
My provincial newspaper ran a contest for stories about "best ever” Halloween costumes. I wrote about the time I dressed up as Bride of Frankenstein and my ex- boyfriend, who was six foot-six, went as Frankenstein. I’m only about five feet tall so it was a pretty funny picture. My story won so I asked the editor if she'd like another story and wrote one about Lenny Gallant, a singer I was obsessed with. This was my first ever paid article.
That was fifteen years ago and today I work full-time as a writer writing everything from magazine articles to political speeches to children's books. Lately I've been writing scripts which is my favourite thing to write so far because I love movies.
Where do you find your stories?
That's the easy part because stories are everywhere. I love to travel and write about places I’ve visited. That’s how my book about Sable Island happened. If you like to travel, being a writer is the best job in the world because you can pay for your travel by selling articles about the places you go to.
How did you learn to write?
When I was a kid I spent every Saturday at the library. My sisters and I would spend hours choosing books. We'd each walk home with a stack of books almost over our heads—I couldn’t wait to get home and read them. But what I didn’t know is that I was preparing myself to be a writer because the best way to learn how to write, is to read.
Think about it—if you wanted to build a house, you’d study other houses, look at their blueprints and see how other builders did it. It’s the same for writing. If you want to know how to start a story or write a flashback scene, read books to see how writers do it.
Also, I'm a dreamer. My mother said I always had my head in the clouds. So I think I was good at imagining, which is important if you want to be a writer.
What’s your best advice for young writers?
Follow your dreams. Don’t let anything stop you. I wanted to go to art school when I grew up but was too shy. I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in. I thought all artists had blue hair and nose piercings and I was pretty uncool.
And don’t believe anyone who says you can’t make a living doing something you love. Many grown-ups told me that and I believed them. I spent many, many years doing something that made me very unhappy until I finally followed my creative dreams.
Everyone has one thing they love to do, that makes their heart sing—do it. Don’t allow yourself anyone or anything to stop you. Not even the fear of not making money. I saw a You Tube video about a woman who builds bubble sculptures...if she can make a living doing that, you can make a living doing anything.
There will always be a need for writers, especially on the Internet. And the world needs to hear what you have to say because you are unique, there's no one else like you.
And don’t think you can’t be a writer because you’re not good in school. Grammar and punctuation are not my strongest skills, but luckily I don’t have to be great at that because that’s what editors are for. Editors polish my writing and make it better. Although, I always say, if I’d known I was going to be a writer, I would have paid more attention in English class!
What's your favourite thing about being a writer?
Two things: One is I get to work in my pajamas all day because I usually work from home (I'm in my PJs right now); and my other favourite thing is that I can do it from anywhere in the world. All I need is a laptop and an Internet connection. And because I hate the cold, I recently moved to California so I could write at the beach year-round!