Kate Petty | Author

Featured Artist | June, 2015


Bio: Kate’s storytelling humbly began at the age of three with a mystical scroll of stories (i.e., a bamboo sushi mat) and an awe-stricken, captivated audience (i.e., two very amused parents). Eventually she traded the sushi mat for a notebook and then a computer, but she likes to think she’s maintained the same spirit for invention and creativity.

Kate studied filmmaking and screenwriting in college. Her background includes documentary production, corporate videography, photography, and editorial writing. The variety of her experiences opened the door to work as the Director of Marketing for a technology company in Dallas.

She worked with the company until she decided to craft a life better suited to her passions and talents. Kate now focuses on encouraging others to pursue their own passions while maintaining her commitment to live intentionally and with purpose.

Age: 22

Favorite Dallas Restaurant:  Velvet Taco

Favorite Dallas Coffee Shop: Union, mostly because of the wonderful people who work there. But their coffee is great too.

AHD: June 4, 2015, is a big day for you. Why is that?

KP: June 4th is the official release day of my first novel, Holes in the Plan. The book tells the story of a brother and sister starting a doughnut shop. June 4th is also the day before National Doughnut Day which, believe it or not, I did not plan intentionally.

I should also clarify that the book is about more than doughnuts. On a higher level, it’s about finding the things you love and are well-suited to do and going after them.

In our society, we go through the first twenty-odd years of our lives developing plans for how we’re going to spend the next forty years. There’s still this expectation that you’re supposed to go to college, get a degree, and then go find a career in that field. Holes in the Plan follows a brother and sister who get into their careers and see the flaws, or holes, in the plans they’ve crafted for themselves.

AHD: What, or who, has helped you achieve such a major accomplishment as writing and publishing your first novel? How so?

KP: So many circumstances and people went into making my goals a reality, it’s hard to describe succinctly. I went through a pretty bleak season of life before really pursuing writing, and I will forever be grateful for the people who stuck by me during that. I know I wasn’t a lot of fun to be around. An eclectic group—my family, a few friends, the occasional stranger—walked me through the challenge of moving past all of the negative voices, both internal and external.

It surprised me, really, how much negativity I encountered, and a lot of it by people I expected support from. I don’t feel any bitterness toward them. In the end, they were just another piece that pushed me forward, and none of them intended to be hurtful. I think their reactions were more a function of them not understanding me than anything else.

You just have to pick up, move on, and surround yourself with your people which, for me, didn’t really come together until the last year or so. It was such a poignant experience to have people say, “I understand,” “I’ve been there,” or “I know how you’re feeling,” and then let me lean on them during a time when I had very little to give. In short, community played the biggest role in getting me where I am.

Community is something that gets talked about a lot and frequently gets pigeonholed as this formal, rule-abiding, cohesive group of people. For me and a lot of other people, I’m sure, that’s not what it looks like. Community is a mom who only needs to take one look at you to say, “I’ll pray for you just in case you can’t pray for yourself right now.” It’s a friend who says, “Do your thing right now, but if you’re still in this same spot in a month we’re going to talk about it.” It’s a brother and sister who take you to Austin and then to Colorado to get you out of town and remind you that there’s more to life than the little bubble you spend most of your existence in.

AHD: For a long time you were fairly certain you were going to seek traditional publishing. Why did you ultimately choose to self-publish?

KP: From everything I could gather, the popular thought seemed to be that if you were capable of doing your own formatting, marketing, promotion, and distribution and you were willing to do it, then you should self-publish.

My pride really wanted that publisher’s stamp of approval on my work, but I know a lot of really talented writers go unpublished just because the market is so saturated. Even getting an agent to look at my book looked like it was going to be next to impossible. Meanwhile, everything I needed to publish myself was well within reach.

Looking back, I can’t imagine giving up any of the creative control I got to experience things like the cover design and the layout.

AHD: So you’re a writer, but we know you do more than that. What are your other creative pursuits? And how do you see those areas of creativity interconnect with your writing?

KP: I also work as a videographer, photographer, and front-end web developer. In my mind, it’s all about telling a story, and I love how many different outlets I get an opportunity to do so. They’re incredibly different, of course, but strategizing with a company on the best way to communicate their brand has all the same elements of writing a novel: start with the big picture—who you are and what you’re about, drill down into the details, the voice, etc., and then come up with a clever and creative way to communicate it.  

AHD: Do you ever wrestle with your identity as a creative?

KP: Not as much as I used to, but I imagine it will always be something of a struggle. For a long time, my main issue was giving myself “permission” to claim what, in my mind, is such a noble and arbitrary sort of calling. Now I tend to get hung up on appreciating the role of the process versus the outcome and what I achieve.

We were talking about this in our Art House Dallas writers group one day when Sarah Kay, one of the writers, asked, “Is it what I hand into a publisher that makes me a writer, or is it carving out time every day to sit at my desk and write?”

I try to remember that when I’m feeling frustrated with my resume, as it were, because I’m such a goal-oriented person that I forget to honor and appreciate the journey. Both parts are important. You can’t have one without the other.

AHD: If someone wants to pursue full-time work in their particular area(s) of creativity—as you did in the last year—what advice would you give?

KP: Do it. Be smart about it, but absolutely give serious consideration to doing it.

My dad always pushed me to make decisions by thinking of my Big Life Goal and then working backward to determine what needed to happen to get me there. For me, the BLG is doing the things I believe I’ve been uniquely created to do, i.e., writing, communicating, and whatnot.

On a practical level, that looked like living at home, saving a third of my paychecks for nearly a year, working my tail off to get freelance jobs, and ultimately looking for, waiting on, and having faith in the Lord’s provision to make it work.

But you have to have something resembling a plan. I’m a huge advocate of forgoing a status quo lifestyle in the pursuit of a more meaningful existence (obviously, I wrote a book about it), but that does not mean marching into your boss’s office guns blazing, quitting with a  passionate diatribe about the ills of corporate America, and burning all your business casual wardrobe.

AHD: Is it too premature to ask what your next book is going to be about?

KP: Not if you’re okay with a vague, abstract description! My next book explores the idea of “grit,” defined in Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED talk as the “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,” i.e., the intangible thing that brings success to people who have every excuse to not become successful.

I’m incredibly intrigued by how there are people who find joy and purpose in life despite rough backgrounds or painful childhoods, and then you also meet people who are bitter and calloused, that when you hear their story you think, “Oh, that makes sense.” What’s the difference between them? What variable accounts for such a difference in outcomes?

AHD: Where should people go if they want to learn more about Holes in the Plan or your photography and videography?

KP: My website is generally the best bet: KatePetty.com, but I definitely am better at staying up to date with the little details on Instagram (@kate_petty).