Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt, GOOD NIGHT, SISTER

Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt, GOOD NIGHT, SISTER

In a special in-person interview (LA edition!), Zibby speaks to New York Times bestselling author and repeat MDHTTRB guest Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt about Goodnight, Sister, a beautiful and gentle bedtime story that celebrates the power and comfort of sisterhood (and stuffed animals). Katherine reveals she wrote the book as a tribute to her younger sister Christina, who was bolder and braver than she was growing up. Katherine talks about how different the publishing process is for picture books (she has also written three self-help books!), and how much better-equipped she is to write one now that she has children and understands their preferences. She also shares her passion for animal rescue and her best advice for aspiring children’s authors.

(Oh, and reporter Mary McNamara observed the interview and wrote about it in an incredible LA Times article!!)


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Katherine. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt: Of course. Thank you for having me.

Zibby: You’re the perfect person to talk about this. You were late because of your kids. You just had a baby, oh, my gosh.

Katherine: Eight months old. Definitely don’t have time to read books right now.

Zibby: You have an eight-month-old and a two-year-old?

Katherine: Mm-hmm.

Zibby: And a four-year-old? No.

Katherine: No, and I have a ten-year-old stepson.

Zibby: Ten-year-old stepson. Oh, my gosh, it’s a lot.

Katherine: It is. It’s a lot, but it’s fun.

Zibby: I have four kids. I get it. It’s just always something. Good Night, Sister is your latest book. Congratulations. This is so nice.

Katherine: Thank you.

Zibby: Where did this book come from?

Katherine: The whole book is really a tribute to my relationship with my sister Christina. We are nineteen months apart. We grew up doing everything together. We had a really interesting relationship dynamic when we were really young in the sense that she was younger than me, but she always was the braver and bolder one out of the two of us. She did everything first. I always made her do everything first because I was much more shy and timid and reserved. This book and the relationship between the two girls in this book is really based off my dynamic with Christina and the fact that even though you’re the oldest, sometimes getting a little bit of a hug from your younger sibling is what you need to get through something that might be scary. It’s a book that’s about sisterhood, of course, but also just about the bond that we can have with a sister or a cousin or a friend and really being able to cultivate that at a young age and the importance of having somebody that you can turn to when you need a little extra help.

Zibby: And the importance of stuffed animals.

Katherine: Of course. Stuffed animals are of the utmost importance.

Zibby: Seriously. For a certain age, for a period of years, there is nothing more important than knowing where the animals are. You cannot go to sleep when they are — all of a sudden, it’s like, no, I’m missing Monkey. I’m like, stop. I cannot find Monkey now. An hour goes by.

Katherine: My daughter is all about baby dolls right now. It’s, where is this baby? That baby needs to have — they all have a name. They all need to be in a specific location. I very much get that. The stuffed animals in this book are also based off the ones that my daughter actually had and gravitated towards when she was little. I wrote the book before she was one, actually, so before I was even pregnant with my second daughter. It turned out to be that I had sisters, so it works out well.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, way to game the timing of the publishing system.

Katherine: I know. Perfect.

Zibby: I’m so glad that all worked out. There is something, also, so comforting — in your book, it’s about two sisters who used to share a room, and one moves out. I feel like kids are scared all the time. There’s always something scaring them. Having someone else around is just enough to sort of stem the tears a lot of the time. What you wrote about so well and what the stuffed animals helped do is comfort the sisters while they separated a little bit. It’s really like what happens in life when we grow up. You have to grow up and split a little bit from your family of origin. It’s very sad.

Katherine: I don’t think I probably split from my family of origin really very much. I’m five minutes away from everybody.

Zibby: I live four blocks from my mom, so it’s fine.

Katherine: I think talking about these kinds of bonds and relationships that kids create at such a young age and then being able to have, whether it’s a stuffed animal or a friend that’s someone that can comfort you during a time where you might need help being brave through a scary time is really important and super special. I was lucky enough to have that with my sister Christina. I’m also aware that not everybody has a sister or a great relationship with their sister. It’s really just about finding that sort of a bond and connection with whoever it might be and being able to start that at a young age and being able to hopefully have that as you get older.

Zibby: That’s so nice. You have an Instagram Live show. You’re spotlighting sisters, including your own sister.

Katherine: Right now, yes.

Zibby: Very clever. Love it. Tell me about that. Did you consider cowriting this book with her?

Katherine: It’s so funny. Actually, when I started doing the book, I really wanted to write it as a tribute to her, almost to surprise her with this book that I wrote about us as kids. Then after, I was like, it would’ve been so much more, probably, more fun had we actually done it together. I started it in the thick of COVID. I was just starting to read nighttime books and bedtime books to my own daughter and really exploring what that was like as a mom for the first time, to reread so many of the books that I had read as a child and then to be able to have all these memories that you’re thinking of. Oh, I read this with my parents. I remember reading this with my sister. I really wrote it just, again, as a tribute to my relationship with Christina and also wanting to write it as a surprise for her. I really enjoyed writing it, and also just the ability to write a children’s book as a mom now. I’d written a children’s book before. Now having a whole new of what kids like, what they don’t like, what their attention spans are like, what colors they like, things like that make it a little bit more special.

Zibby: What did you do differently this time as a result of that?

Katherine: Just how much attention they have, they have such limited amounts of what they can and cannot focus on and what they do and do not want to focus on. I put the animals in that she sleeps with. I paid a lot of attention to what Lyla liked as we would read books together. Eloise is now at the age where I’m starting to read those books with her at night. She’s eight months. It was a lot of just taking cues from reading a lot of the books with Lyla and seeing what she really enjoyed.

Zibby: I wrote a children’s book also, after a million years of reading children’s books. My older kids are fifteen. I found sometimes when children’s books go too long or there’s too many offshoots, like The Magic School Bus or something where you get through the page, but then you have to read all the speech bubbles, I’m like, oh, my gosh, it’s too long.

Katherine: I know. It’s interesting. She’ll find a book. Then she’ll want to read it ten times over in one night. Then she’ll talk about it all the next day or as we’re going to sleep. It’s really fun for me to be able to see what books she goes — we have a little bookshelf for her in her bedroom. What she chooses every night and then what she likes to reread, what she likes to come back to, it’s interesting.

Zibby: You know what’s funny? When we think about kids, they don’t get that many choices in life. Then it’s time for bed. They’re exhausted. You’re like, pick any of these. What do you want to read?

Katherine: Pick a hundred books. I remember talking to somebody. I said, “It just ends up taking such a long time to actually pick when you have a bunch of different books that they can choose from than actually choosing what those couple of books that night might be.” My friend was like, “Maybe offer her just ten to choose from instead of thirty books to choose from.” This one seems nice. No, actually, let’s do this one. It’s been funny to see. As you’re saying, kids, when you give them the opportunity to choose something, they’re like, . It’s like choosing socks from a sock drawer. It’s like, oh, my god, there’s so many different socks.

Zibby: That is advice I got early on when I was like, what do you guys want for dinner? Never say that. Say, do you want chicken nuggets or a hot dog?

Katherine: Options.

Zibby: Actually, that helps me too. Sometimes I can’t decide.

Katherine: It’s good as adults.

Zibby: Endless options. Excellent. When you wrote your last children’s book about Maverick, tell me about that experience and then, even from the publishing standpoint, how this one differed.

Katherine: I definitely have a whole different set of expectations and understanding of what the process is. The process of the illustrations is a much more fun one than adult books. There’s none of that creativity aspect of writing a children’s book. This is a really fun part of that. Again, as a mom now, to be specific about certain illustrations knowing what kids like and what they don’t like, that was a really fun part of this. I wrote my first children’s book about my dog Maverick just based off of having so many kids come up to us on the street and asking what kind of dog he was. He’s a brindle-y-looking, coyote-looking-esque dog. Kids were really interested in where he came from, how I got him, why his ears were one up, one down, asking all these questions. When I would explain to them that he came from a tunnel under a street and that he was really sick when he was little and I got him when he was very tiny, it was really interesting how all these conversations would lead to kids being really interested in fostering and adopting dogs. Animal rescue is such a big passion of mine. I wanted to write the book just to teach kids more about that being an option so when they go to their parents and they say that this might be time to introduce an animal or a pet to a family, that they would consider fostering or adopting instead of going to buy an animal from a pet store. It was a really fun and big passion of mine to be able to talk about that and connect with kids and also explain that and introduce that whole world to children. When I was growing up, I didn’t even know that that was an option. Obviously, it’s become such a bigger deal since I was a child. It’s definitely one that I think is really fun, a great option for a lot of families.

Zibby: It’s true. If people want to support the things that you support, what are you involved in? How should they support it?

Katherine: I honestly try to support a lot of local organizations because there are truly heroic people doing acts of God, being able to go to local shelters, take certain animals off the “do not kill” list and being able to house them on their own or pay for surgeries or do things that are just truly incredible. I find a lot of people that are local in the LA area that I choose to support. I also do a lot of work with Best Friends Animal Society. They have huge reach and help animals of all different shapes and sizes. Being able to do that is really special as well. I also work with ASPCA. There’s a lot of different animal organizations that I love to work with and love supporting. They do amazing work on the ground and also bigger initiatives to help change big issues in America. I’m grateful that they exist and also to be able to work with them.

Zibby: Good for you. That’s really nice, really awesome.

Katherine: Thank you.

Zibby: Last time we talked on the show — I don’t even know if you remember. It was a long time ago. It was about The Gift of Forgiveness, your last book, and all of that. Have you thought about adapting some of those messages into a children’s book?

Katherine: Definitely. I think my mom did that really well with her children’s book, of taking really big and sometimes challenging issues and being able to turn them into more digestible books or ways to connect and explain things to children. I always admired her ability to do that and to write about subjects and topics that were really often hard to explain to children. I would love to be able to do that. With this book, it’s a fun book. I also wanted to do something that was fun and lighthearted after doing the book on forgiveness. It’s very serious and intense. I wanted to write something that was really fun and, of course, had an underlying message of talking about the importance of sisterhood and that relationship and talking to kids about that and also talking about bravery and the importance that — it doesn’t matter if you’re the oldest or the youngest. You guys can help each other out. There’s that in this book. I guess we’ll have to see what conversations come up between me and my children. With all the books that I do and everything I do in general, it really comes based off of my own life experiences. If it’s a conversation with one of my kids, if it’s a conversation about forgiveness, if it’s a conversation about body image, life after college, animal rescue, these are all subjects that I never planned, oh, this is what I’m going to write about one day. It came really organically based off of life experiences.

Zibby: I’ve been writing personal essays my whole life. I started out as a teenager writing about weight.

Katherine: Wow. That must be so special to have.

Zibby: Now I’m writing about aging and dying the gray out of my hair. I’m like, I’m just going to keep going with this. This is our material, stuff about my kids, stuff about this. It’s great because you’ll have this whole retrospective.

Katherine: It’s definitely different moments in life. I have vivid memories of when I did my first book and where I was in my headspace then, and doing my second book. It really speaks to where I was. Also, I’ve always viewed writing, which I’m sure you agree, is this very therapeutic process. Being able to write about these different subjects was really, for that moment in my life, very therapeutic.

Zibby: Do you have more coming? Did you get another moment that we should know about that’s on its way to us?

Katherine: I feel like if you’ve done a book, you know how much time and energy and work goes into getting this to be the final product that I just want to focus on getting this one out and celebrating it and being really present for the launch of this and also being able to get it in the hands of little kids and see their reactions to it. I really want to be present and sit with this one.

Zibby: Stay in the moment. You’re about to go on a big tour. Tell me about that.

Katherine: It’s going to be interesting because I’m bringing my children. That’ll be something new and different that I haven’t done. When I did my forgiveness book, I was four months pregnant or five months pregnant with my first daughter. A lot has changed. We’ll see what it’s like. It’s a lot of different moving parts, but I think it’ll be really fun. Again, it’s a fun subject and a fun book. I’m looking forward to it.

Zibby: Where can everybody find you? I know you’re going to New York.

Katherine: We’re going to New York. We’re here in Los Angeles, different places just outside LA as well. Then going to Dallas, going to Ohio. There are a bunch of different stops. They’re all on my website as we add them along and then get some more solidified dates.

Zibby: Why Ohio? Why not?

Katherine: Yeah, why not? I always say, why not? If there’s a children’s book festival or something like that where it makes sense to go, then I’m down to do it.

Zibby: Amazing. What do you like to do when you’re not — you don’t have time to read. We’ve established that. When you’re not trying to get a child down for a nap or something like that, do you have any time to yourself? What do you like to do?

Katherine: I love being with my family. If I have any free time, I’m probably calling my sister to go do something, or my mom or my brothers or my dad. Then of course, when I’m at home, I’m with my husband or my children. I am a very family-oriented person. I have a lot of really close friends that are mom friends as well that are a huge blessing to be able to get all the kids together and then also have my best friends be with me at the same time. That’s what I tend to do in my free time, is just be with those people that I love. When you become a parent, you really take inventory of what you do with your time and how you spend your time. If you’re taking time away from your children, where that time is going, I’m very specific about that and very intentional about that. I like to be wise about those choices.

Zibby: You really have to be. I’m always, in my head, thinking, is this a task I can do in front of my kids, or is this better that I do later? If I’m making a dentist appointment for somebody, I’m like, “I’m making a dentist for him. Come here and listen,” versus posting or something for work.

Katherine: It’s a lot of time management being a parent. It’s a lot of, let’s do this later. Put this on the backburner. Make a note to it. Do this. Do that. How is somebody going to get from point A to — the ability to multitask as a mom is incredible.

Zibby: Have you found anything you weren’t expecting now that you have two kids? That’s a huge transition.

Katherine: It is a huge transition. I’m the oldest of four, and so I think that I am just really used to the energy of having a lot of people around all the time and managing a bunch of different things. I think that my siblings would probably call me mom number two because I’m eight years older than my youngest brother. I truly viewed him as my baby that I would dress up and change his diaper and get his diaper bag ready and do all those things. I would say probably, how much you can accomplish on very little sleep is very, very eye-opening to me. I was such a person that needed eight hours of sleep before I became a parent. Then when I became a mom, I was like, that’s just not a thing that we’re going to do.

Zibby: That’s not going to happen.

Katherine: I’ve never been somebody who can be like, let me take a nap when baby naps. That’s not for me, but it’s amazing. It’s great.

Zibby: People tell you to do everything when the baby naps. You’re supposed to sleep. You’re supposed to work. You’re supposed to write a book.

Katherine: Make food, clean. I’m like, I don’t understand. What do you mean?

Zibby: There’s no time. Any advice for aspiring authors?

Katherine: Of children’s books or just in general?

Zibby: Sure, let’s do children’s books.

Katherine: Of children’s books, I would say just have fun. Children’s books are such an incredible gift for kids no matter what the subject is about. All children’s books are so special. I know how much work goes into them. I think that they are amazing things to have in kids’ lives. Also, having those memories now as an adult to be able to reflect on the books that I read that now I’m reading with my kids, books make memories. They make experiences. They spark conversation. They get kids excited, explain things to them. They’re huge gifts in our lives as parents and also in kids’ lives. If anybody needed advice about writing a children’s book, I would just say to do it because it’s amazing. I never understood when people would give me books as a birthday present when I was younger. Now I find myself doing the same thing. I’m like, you’ll understand one day, the importance of — there are just so many classic books that you want other kids to have or that you’re reading in your family and you think are so special. I would say just do it. We need more books.

Zibby: Amazing. Never enough. Congratulations on Good Night, Sister.

Katherine: Thank you. Congratulations on your store. I’m so excited to come there. It’s going to be amazing and such a great addition to our local area. As somebody who will live five minutes away from that, I’m really excited about it, to bring my girls there. So many people buy books online, which is great and so convenient for so many people, but I love being able to go into stores, have my kids feel the books, touch the books, pick out a book, and just be in that world, which I think is so special.

Zibby: We’re going to have Mommy and Me every day at eleven.

Katherine: Great. I love Mommy and Me. I’m very, very in all that right now. It’s fun.

Zibby: We were alphabetizing all the kids’ books this morning. That’s what we’re doing, getting everything ready.

Katherine: As somebody who binge-watches the home-edit shows, I’m like, that sounds really exciting to me.

Zibby: Come on over. You can help us this afternoon.

Katherine: I will. I’ll be right there.

Zibby: Thanks again.

Katherine: Thank you.

Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt, GOOD NIGHT, SISTER

GOOD NIGHT, SISTER by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt

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