Hello, everyone! We're ecstatic to have Katie Otey with us today sharing her debut picture book, Every Other Christmas. Every Other Christmas (Illustrated by SJ Winkler) touches on such an important topic for kids: sharing the holidays with parents who have recently divorced. Her book follows a young boy as he spends every other Christmas celebrating the differing traditions between the African American and Colombian sides of his family. This wonderful book is filled with heart, soul, and all the fun of Christmas. Want to know more about Katie, her debut book, and what inspired her to write it? Read on...
Q: Hi, Katie. Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit! I’m thrilled to have you and talk all about your seasonal debut picture book, Every Other Christmas! Before we get started, can you share a little about yourself with everyone?
A: Hello Heather. Thank you for having me. My name is Katie Otey and I am an author and poet. I absolutely love telling stories. Especially ones that make people laugh or open their eyes to seeing the world in new and interesting ways. A few fun facts about me…I still love to play double Dutch, am a music fanatic, an Air Force brat, would love to take opera lessons, oh, and my children and I do a skit, song, or video for the family every year at Christmas. It’s a great time! By the way, I’m an ENFP so if anyone is familiar with the 16 personality types, how I just described myself will now make perfect sense.
Q: Your book, Every Other Christmas, shares a glimpse at how a child with divorced parents may spend the holidays. What gave you the idea to create this important holiday story?
A: I’m divorced from my children’s father and it was my year to spend Christmas with the kids. I was so excited! I bought so many gifts and was in the middle of wrapping them when I got sick. It was the flu which triggered a massive asthma attack. On Christmas Eve, they admitted me to the hospital, where I stayed for almost a week. I missed Christmas and was feeling horrible about it. But my kids showed up and they were so happy to see me. They were a bit rambunctious, and we got talked to at least once about the noise. That’s when I remembered that the biggest hope that I’d had was for them to be happy. And they were. Even if everything didn’t look as I’d planned. Even if I was stuck in a hospital bed. We were having a fun time, and we loved each other, so it counted. I also realized that when I, as the parent, can’t spend every Christmas with them, as long as they’re okay, that’s what matters most. Every Other Christmas was written from my hospital bed that year and it warms my heart that the story resonates with so many people.
Q: That's such a moving story, Katie. Thanks for sharing it with us!
Your main character spends every other Christmas alternating between houses and traditions. What can readers expect to see and experience with flipping through the pages of your book?
A: My Main Character in the book is a child born of parents who are from two different cultures. So, what the reader will see is alternating styles of celebrating a holiday that is very important to both families. The mother is midwestern African-American, and I incorporated many of my family’s traditions into what the child experiences. Everything from the food, dancing, decorations, and songs is a part of this story. The illustrator even designed many of the characters after my real-life family members so it’s an extra special gift to everyone I love.
The father in the book is Colombian. At the time I wrote it, there was someone in my life who was from that country. I’ve visited Colombia and spent many years building close relationships to many people there. It is both visually beautiful and the people were so amazing that I wanted to showcase that in the book. So that is why the reader gets to travel with the Main Character to Colombia and experience some of what Christmas is like there. There are similarities and differences, of course, but the main experience is the love they all have for one another.
Q: What makes your book the perfect holiday, or anytime read?
A: Every Other Christmas is the perfect holiday read because it literally embodies the meaning of Christmas. It covers why we celebrate and shows there’s no one right way to do so. It’s a literal invitation for the reader to reflect on what makes Christmas with their family so wonderful. There’s a whimsical and fun look at what’s important to the child at Christmas, what he notices, and how he views the distinct personalities of his family members. There’s imperfection there, but love smoothes all of that over. I’d be surprised if any child who reads this doesn’t get excited at how they spend Christmas with their own family. It’s an inclusive and inviting experience that any child should be able to relate to.
Q: What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
A: Honestly, I’ve written so many books, I am hoping you can read something else from me soon. My favorite genre to write is middle grade humor. I’ve written two of those, several humorous picture books, and a young adult novel that’s more urban contemporary but with comic relief throughout. I’ve also founded an independent publishing company, Phoenix Media & Books. Our debut title is a picture book entitled Sister, which is a foster to adoption story told from the family’s daughter’s point of view. My goal is to open up opportunities for more people to tell amazing stories while also providing a mentoring experience for them. So, there will be many debut authors and illustrators, a plethora of unique stories and ideas, and authentic representation throughout. I think every one of us have value and our lives and experiences should be reflected in the media we consume. I’m only one person but I’m steadfast in my belief that all of us humans have more in common than the differences that sometimes divides us. What better way to show the world than within the pages of a book?
Thanks again for joining us, Katie! We can't wait to check out this book and look forward to many more to come.
Q: How would you like to Spread Joy this holiday season?
A: My way to spread joy this season is to remind the reader to look for the seed of hope in moments of pain. It may be tiny but it's there. Hold on to it and know that after every winter, comes spring. Flowers can bloom even after the coldest frost. All you have to do is hold on. The season will change.
That is such an important message. Thanks for sharing that with us all!
Everyone, please leave a comment below and thank Katie for stopping by.
Reminder, those who comment on every post will be eligible to win (1) of (5) RYS Speedpasses or a special book package!
About Katie Otey
Katie Otey is an author and poet with a passion for spinning heartwarming tales laced with humor. When she’s not writing, she’s singing, performing skits with her kids, studying languages, traveling, and making her family laugh.
For more about Katie, you can follow her here:
@KatieOteyWrites on FB, IG, Twitter, and YouTube
Author Website: www.katieoteywrites.com
Publisher Website: www.phoenixmediaandbooks.com
To purchase Katie's book, or to leave a review, click here.