Welcome, readers, writers, and bat lovers, too! We have the wonderful author and illustrator Kaz Windness on the blog today talking all about her newest book, Bitsy Bat, School Star. When Bitsy arrives at her new school she doesn't quite feel she fits in. Soon, Bitsy doesn't even want to return to school! After some encouragement from her family, Bitsy comes up with a new plan. Will Bitsy be able to finally shine at her new school? Want to know more about Kaz, her new book Bitsy Bat, School Star, PLUS want a chance to win an awesome treat...and wish her a very Happy Birthday, too (seriously, how cool is it that today's her birthday)? Read on...
Q: Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit, Kaz! We’re thrilled to have you Trick or Treat with us (especially on your birthday!), and hear all about your new book Bitsy Bat, School Star. It looks like a ton of fun! Please share a little about yourself and how you got started in writing for children?
A: I’m excited to be here! Thanks for including me. I’m an October baby and LOVE Halloween, which is where the whole bat book idea came from. I’ve written stories and drawn pictures to go with them ever since I was a child. It was always my dream to be a children’s book writer and illustrator. To pursue this goal, I attended The Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design for illustration, and now teach children’s book illustration there as well as advanced children’s book writing and illustration at The Cuddlefish Academy.
Q: In your book Bitsy Bat, School Star, Bitsy is a little different from her classmates - she’s a bat! And we love that she’s in a class of nocturnal animals going to night school! What gave you the idea to write about this?
A: Bats are my favorite animal and my favorite thing to draw. In the fall of 2019, I gave myself the challenge to draw bats every day for 100 days (#100DaysofBats) and post them to social media. During this time, I was talking to an art student who is autistic like me, and I compared growing up neurodivergent to being like a bat in a school for mice. Everything felt all upside down to me, and when I tried to act like a mouse and not flap my wings or hang from my toes, it made me feel dizzy, upset, and more prone to meltdown. I quickly realized there was a story there and began writing and drawing Bitsy Bat then. My publisher talked me into featuring different kinds of nocturnal animals besides mice, and I’m glad they did.
Q: But in addition to just being different physically, Bitsy experiences challenges integrating into the class as it is too right-side up, too sticky, and more, and it makes Bitsy dizzy and upset. What experiences or emotions did you draw upon to create Bitsy’s frustrations in being different and processing differently?
A: That’s easy. I’m a “high-masking” autistic and very familiar with all those feelings, frustrations, and sensations. The 5-Star meltdown page still makes me cry because I know exactly what it feels like to be so overwhelmed that you feel totally unsafe and unregulated. The support Bitsy receives is what I hope for every child that deals with sensory processing issues, neuro differences, or disability.
Q: What’s on your drawing board? What is coming up from Kaz Windness?
A: I’m so glad you asked! I’m working on the second Bitsy book right now. It’s called “Bitsy Bat, Team Star” and we meet a new character, Enzo Owl, who is non-speaking and uses an AAC device and sign language to communicate.
I also have a new leveled reader out now (Aug. 29) from Simon Spotlight called CAT vs. VAC. It was really fun to write and illustrate an action-packed and purely hilarious book about house pets teaming up against an evil vacuum cleaner. They let me draw animals in underpants and make poo and pee jokes, which I love, and I know kids will, too.
Q: What is one of your favorite things about Halloween?
A: Halloween is my favorite holiday because you can be whoever you want to be, and there is no pressure to buy presents or meet family obligations. It’s just spooky fun, and there is CANDY!
Q: BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite Halloween Candy and what candy pairs best with your book?
A: I love Almond Joy candy bars. I will trade anything for them. Bitsy Bat eats bugs, so a gummy cockroach or chocolate covered crickets would pair well with her book.
Thanks again for joining us, Kaz! We can't wait to check out Bitsy Bat!
Q: Would you like to leave a Trick or a Treat for the readers?
A: I’d like to offer a treat! A free copy of “Bitsy Bat, School Star!”
Thanks for such a sweet treat!
Contest Details: To enter to win Kaz's amazing giveaway make sure to 1) share this post on social media and 2) drop an awesome Happy Birthday message or GIF below (since it's her birthday today!).
#SeasonsOfKidLit's Trick-or-Treat Winners will be chosen on or about November 5th.
*Books will be shipped in the US only*
Note: Those who leave a comment on all posts will be eligible to win one (1) of ten (10) Rate Your Story Speed Passes, perfect for quick MS feedback, provided by Agent Mentee Lynne Marie & Author Heather Macht.
About Kaz Windness:
Kaz Windness loves to make her readers laugh. Kaz is an award-winning, genre-crossing illustrator and author of heart-warming books for young readers. Proudly autistic, Kaz specializes in character-driven books celebrating inclusivity, grit, and kindness. Her newest releases include "Swim, Jim!" (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, May 2022), “Worm and Caterpillar are Friends” (Simon Spotlight, January 2023), and “Bitsy Bat, School Star” (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, June 2023).
Kaz is a professor of illustration and curriculum author at her alma mater, the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design (RMCAD, 2013-present) and founder of The Cuddlefish Academy where she inspires students to tell stories with pictures.
Kaz loves squishy-faced dogs, waffles, thrifting, and all things Halloween. Her favorite art mediums are pen and ink, watercolor, gouache, acrylic, collage, and pencil, but mostly Photoshop. There's not much she won't turn into an art supply.
Kaz lives in Colorado with her English teacher husband, two children, and a bunny-obsessed Boston Terrier named Remy.
For more about Kaz, check out the below links:
Teacher lesson plans, Bitsy activities, and book links at: www.BitsyBat.com
The Cuddlefish Academy: www.CuddlefishAcademy.com
To purchase Kaz's books on Amazon, or to leave a review for them, click here.
A special thanks to David Rodriguez Lorenzo for the amazing custom-signatures!