Tuesday Debut – Presenting Katie Mazeika!

Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s edition of Tuesday Debut!

Today’s debut-ess, Katie Mazeika, is both author and illustrator, so she knows both halves of the picture book publication journey. Let’s have a look at her fascinating book, ANNETTE FEELS FREE: THE TRUE STORY OF ANNETTE KELLERMAN, WORLD-CLASS SWIMMER, FASHION PIONEER, AND REAL-LIFE MERMAID, and hear about how it got from idea to bookstore shelf!

by Katie Mazeika (author and illustrator)
S&S/Beach Lane Books, Sept. 13/2022
Nonfiction PB Biography, ages 4-8

The incredible true story of “The Original Mermaid,” Annette Kellerman, a girl who wanted to dance, swim, and feel free—and who grew into a woman who fought for the right to do just that!

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Katie! It’s always a treat to have an author/illustrator because we get to learn about both sides of the picture book writing process. Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

KATIE: I did an illustration of Annette Kellerman in 2017 as portfolio piece. At the time I read a little bit about her, and found her story intriguing.  I think I related to Annette’s disability, having lost my eye as a toddler, and so I continued researching her.

The words and images came together for ANNETTE FEELS FREE (and with my current picture book biography). Once I began researching Annette, as an illustrator, I couldn’t help but visualize her story. Certain events stood out to me, and I knew I wanted to illustrate them for the book. For example, Annette swimming in the Melbourne Aquarium as a teen (the first spread of the book) and the confrontation between Annette and the police officer on the beach.

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write/illustrate this book?

KATIE: To get to the first polished dummy was probably 9 moths. But it was in spare time between other illustration projects. Once we sold ANNETTE and I could focus on it full time I finished the art in about 3 months.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

KATIE: I did one giant overhaul of the dummy. After some feedback I made some major stylistic changes. Once ANNETTE sold my editor and I spent time going through the text and removing anything unnecessary or expanding where it was needed. And after the final art was turned it we did the same-fine tuning the images to make sure they read clearly and there was plenty of room for text.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

KATIE: I am represented by the wonderful Sorche Fairbank at Fairbank Literary Representation. She helped me with putting together a proposal and then she submitted that, with the text and dummy to a list of editors she thought might be interested.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

KATIE: It was right before my birthday. I got a text from Sorche that said “call me!!” with a line of swimmer emojis. When I called her I learned that Allyn Johnston at Beach Lane wanted to acquire ANNETTE.

ANNETTE went out just after Covid hit. No one was in the office, then everyone was working from home but there were questions if publishers were acquiring. So I was unsure of what to expect.

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

KATIE: It was a long time between the offer and contract (4-5 months)-which I understand is typical but Covid didn’t help.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

KATIE: A special dinner with my family.

SUSANNA: Many of us are authors, so we understand the concept of text revision, but can you give us an example of how you go about making editorial illustration changes?

KATIE: These are “before” and “after” versions of the same spread:

text and illustration copyright Katie Mazeika 2022, Beach Lane

The first image is a scene I did for my first dummy for ANNETTE FEELS FREE. It was one of the 3 final spreads in the dummy. I posted this spread on Twitter in April 2019 with a pitch for DVpit. That was how my agent found me. With her insights, I strengthened the text, and then I decided to redo the artwork. My style evolved, but the composition didn’t change much. Notice the brighter color scheme in the second image. It’s much more engaging and kid-friendly. Sometimes there is a germ of a good idea in a weak piece of art or writing, and fresh eyes can make all the difference, whether it’s somebody else’s or your own, after a period away. You can see that difference here:

text and illustration copyright Katie Mazeika 2022, Beach Lane

Here are a few other images from the book:

text and illustration copyright Katie Mazeika 2022, Beach Lane
text and illustration copyright Katie Mazeika 2022, Beach Lane
text and illustration copyright Katie Mazeika 2022, Beach Lane

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?

KATIE: My first review was from Kirkus. I was a little nervous because I had heard Kirkus can be tough in reviews, They called ANNETTE  “Swim-pressive”. Then I learned that ANNETTE was a Jr Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. That was a very gratifying. It also means kids everywhere will read about Annette. So I was all smiles when I got that news.

SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

KATIE: It took about 18 before I had a copy the final digital book-all put together as a PDF. It was another 3-4 months before I received my first print copy.

SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started illustrating seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

KATIE: I guess about 7-8 years from when I was able to focus on illustrating seriously to getting my first book published as an author/illustrator. I had several books previously as an illustrator.

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming artists?)

KATIE: Read the deals in PW Bookshelf. Look up the illustrators in those deals. Ask yourself what is in their portfolios that you are missing in your own.  

SUSANNA: Very helpful! Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Katie! We wish you all the best of luck with this and future titles!

Author/Illustrator Katie Mazeika


Readers, if you have questions for Katie, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Katie’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)


We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas

Patrice Gopo – All The Places We Call Home

Rebecca Gardyn Levington – Brainstorm!

John Bray – The End

Jocelyn Watkinson – The Three Canadian Pigs: A Hockey Story

16 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Katie Mazeika!

  1. Norah says:

    This sounds like a fabulous book. I was quite intrigued by the hints given to the story, so I had to look for more information about Annette. I wish Katie success with it. Non-fiction books, especially biographies seem to be very popular at the moment.

  2. Wendy says:

    Congratulations, Katie! I enjoyed the way you brightened the palette and now I know to look for your book (I’ve never heard of Annette either!)

  3. palpbkids says:

    What a beautifully illustrated book! Love the book cover and color choices! I can see many book reports with your book used for their research. Congrats!

  4. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    I love the color changes that Katie made between what she subbed and revised. It also feels much more like the colors of water throughout. It’s true that editors and art directors often have great suggestions for improving a book. Congrats, Katie!

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