Katie Schroder Bond is privileged to represent “artists of the written word”—the creative, talented novelists who’ve found themselves at home in Thomas Nelson’s best-selling, award-winning fiction division. Before coming to Thomas Nelson, Katie served as a publicist at WaterBrook Press, handling corporate communications, events, and book campaigns. She began her career at Peachtree Publishers as a publicity and marketing assistant. She holds a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, with emphasis on literary essay, Southern literature, and children’s books, from Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. She also completed the Publishing Institute, a graduate program at the University of Denver. A feisty cat named Chapter keeps Katie and her Colorado cowboy husband, Bryce, company at their home in Nashville. Twitter: @KSBond.
What Story Are You Telling?
My first grade teacher, Mrs. Nutt, was the first person, after my parents, whom I recall instilling in me a great love of stories—reading, writing, and telling them. At the start of that school year, we put on a little play for our classmates. Like most dramatic presentations aimed at overcrowded public school classrooms, the play featured little plot and an overwhelming list of minor characters (talking animals, all of them) designed to give every pupil a speaking role. No small parts, only small actors. Literally—about twenty-seven tiny people playing Wise Owl, Sneaky Raccoons 1 and 2, Wiley Squirrel, and so on.
I was a quiet, observant child, always preferring to analyze what everyone else did before I made a move. So I stood by, meticulously painting wood grain pattern onto the puppet stage tree, and by the time my classmates were done fighting over who got to wear Mrs. Malodorous Skunk’s black-and-white stole, we ran one cast position short and I was left without a role. Mrs. Nutt, always quick on her feet, declared, “Katie will be our Narrator.”
The Cast of Characters page contained no listing for this “Narrator,” nor did the script offer her any lines. But this, Mrs. Nutt explained, was half the fun. The Narrator gets to move the story along. She gets to write her own lines to explain to the audience what the characters are doing, how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking even when they don’t say so aloud. She’s ultimately in charge of the success of the play. She’s the boss.
This Narrator thing had a nice ring to it.
It was my very first opportunity for organized leadership, and I took it very seriously. Never missing an opportunity for a craft project, I fashioned a “NARRATOR” badge of pink construction paper and wore it everywhere from lunch to P.E. to science class all week.
A classroom full of loquacious woodland creatures moved at my command. Above a noisy, plotless forest floor, I rose to give the aerial storyteller’s view, granting identity and purpose. Something like that.
Fast-forward to my current role as publicist managing a cast of real characters—the narrators wrangling multiple casts of their own in each of their novels, seamlessly communicating inherent meaning in their books, and then with great excitement, presenting these works of art and amusement to a waiting audience. And by and large, these great narrators—called novelists—are also directing real lives of their own, filled with day jobs, deadlines, flooded inboxes, and little ones who need “a squirrel costume for tomorrow’s play, please, Mommy.”
I say to these authors, “I want to help you identify the story you’re telling the literary world about you—what’s the story of your career, as told to your publishing house, the media, fellow authors, and readers?”
Be mindful of your reputation. Are you constantly missing deadlines without any nod to how it’s affecting a team on the inside? Are you finding ways to shape what’s next, asking your publishing team to help define the arc of your career, or are you fighting all input, too hyper-focused on whether this one next book will cut it? Are you an integral part of your publishing team, each of you serving one another, or are you constantly singing the “what have you done for me lately” tune?
Following my first grade power trip with pink construction paper credentials, Mrs. Nutt taught me a valuable life lesson I still treasure: The best narrators are the ones who direct with graceful authority but ultimately go unnoticed for the power of the narratives they’re leading. Those are the true success stories.