Seven Questions For . . . Katherine Zoepf

One of my favorite things about running The Picture Book Club has been the people it has led me to. Some are old friends who have offered new mentorship and support, some are fellow book people or entrepreneurs whom I've met through my work, and others are visionaries who inspire me from afar. I'm thrilled to introduce a few of them here.

-YiLing Chen-Josephson, Founder, The Picture Book Club

Q: What do you do?

I'm a journalist and New America fellow, and since last fall I've also been teaching journalism to masters students at New York University. I lived in the Middle East for several years, beginning in 2004, and, though I've been based in New York since 2009, I still go back to the region as often as I can. These days, I take my children with me on reporting trips, which means I work a little more slowly than I used to. My six-year-old, Alice, still talks about the weeks we spent in the United Arab Emirates during Ramadan a couple of years ago. She loved the decorations, and getting to stay up half the night.  and keeps asking when we'll go back; she was fascinated by the indoor ski slopes and the mall where it rains from the ceiling! My first book, Excellent Daughters, which is based on my reporting in the Arab world, was published by the Penguin Press in January. 

Q: What’s your favorite thing about doing what you do?

I'm pretty shy, so I like having an excuse to talk to lots of different kinds of people. It sounds corny, I know, but I so love hearing people's stories, and it's such a wonderful privilege to be able to write them down and share them with readers. 

Q: What's something challenging about it?

I can't write as quickly as some writers, and I tend to be a bit scatterbrained, so the constant deadlines are a challenge!

Q: What is something you’re proud of?

My children, Alice and William. Alice just turned six, and Bill just turned three, so they're still pretty little. But they're both kind and helpful and hilarious, and really wonderful company. 

Q: Who is someone who inspires you that you know personally?

My dear friend Amber Scorah is, hands down, the most inspiring person I know personally. She lost her first child, Karl, last summer, when he was only three months old. He died on the first morning she'd ever left him, at a day care center she'd selected because it was close enough to her office to allow her to continue nursing. It's the kind of loss most of us can't bear even to imagine. And yet Amber has refused to let it define her or her family. She has written about her experience for the New York Times and USA Today and led a major bipartisan campaign for paid parental leave in the U.S. Karl's beautiful baby sister, Sevi, was born in June. 

Q: Who is someone who inspires you that you've never met?

Malala Yousafzai. I watched "He Named Me Malala" on a flight recently and, even though I'd read her book and was familiar with much of the material covered in the film, I was so amazed and moved that I kept bursting into tears and having to ask the flight attendant for more napkins.

Q: What’s a picture book you remember as a favorite from your childhood?

I loved The Church Mouse, by Graham Oakley, and Make Way For Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey. It's impossible to pick just one, but I especially loved the Frog and Toad stories, by Arnold Lobel. They were the first books I ever read independently, and I read them all over and over again.

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The Picture Book Club will make a donation to The International Rescue Committee, the charity chosen by Katherine, for every purchaser who mentions this Q+A.