Interview: Kimberly Horch
A photograph of Little Thoughts Press Issue Five: New Beginnings with a sneak peek of the poem "A New Bike" by Kimberly Horch. A white page with black text and a graphic of a bike.
Kimberly Horch is an author, mom of 5, and a self-proclaimed "agent of joy.” She bakes, homeschools, and paints murals on the walls of her faux homestead in an Idaho suburb. She writes picture books full of joy and beautiful words. Kimberly runs the Instagram account @thedaybrighteningcommittee where she encourages intentional kindness and making the world a brighter place. Her picture book by the same name will be published in March 2024.
Little Thoughts Press: I saw you mentioned in a tweet that your story "A New Bike" was inspired by the experience of your twins learning to ride bikes. How often do you draw inspiration from your children in your storytelling and how do you balance incorporating their unique experiences with a story that feels universal for young readers?
Kimberly Horch: Most of my stories are sparked by my children. They are so interesting and unpredictable that I no idea how writers without children come up with stories.
From that spark, I look for the threads of truth. My focus is not as much on making the story universal as it is on making the story relatable, with a universal insight. In "A New Bike," the universal insight is that when one sibling can't do something that the other can it makes them more determined, whether or not they have a bigger sister. In my upcoming picture book debut, The Day Brightening Committee, the insight that helping other people makes a person less focused on their own struggles is true and relatable even for children who have never made a club to help others.
Little Thoughts Press: Issue 5: New Beginnings is all about fresh starts and new experiences. Can you tell us how you started writing kid-lit and what drew you to creating stories for young readers?
Kimberly Horch: I rediscovered writing when my oldest was a toddler and I wanted to introduce him to his great-grandparents who were no longer around. I wrote about their stories of struggling through the Depression and growing up on on leased farms. I tried to capture the funny moments and the hope and the values like hard work that kept them going. After that, I just fell in love with writing stories for my kids and wrote and illustrated a dozen or so that I had printed by Shutterfly. It was when my mom showed one of those to her friend in spin class, and he wanted a copy, that led me to think about writing for a larger audience.
I still think of my children first when I write, and if it’s not a story that would interest or benefit them, then it’s not one I’m going to choose to focus on.
Little Thoughts Press: What do you find most challenging and rewarding about writing for a young audience?
Kimberly Horch: That’s a great question. Honestly, the part I find most challenging is dealing with all the adult business of what a picture book should look like. Kids are less tied up with rules about page numbers and having a good conclusion than we adults are. But what I find most rewarding is finding the insight, that relatable truth that kids can identify with. When I can find one that really rings true, that’s the reward for me.
Little Thoughts Press: Which kid-lit authors and books were your favorites growing up?
Kimberly Horch: Anything my mom read out loud. She was a teacher and had the best read-aloud voices. I am loving revisiting those stories now with my kids like A Little Princess, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Hobbit.
In high school, I discovered the narrative essays of E.B. White. I found it amazing how he could take a small moment in time and use it to comment on something as big as society or the human condition. And of course, he validated my sparse writing style with his call to “omit needless words!"
Little Thoughts Press: And what about today? Any kid-lit writers you love and want to shout out?
Kimberly Horch: Yup. I love Julie Fogliano’s beautiful and joyful style, and I have her book When Green Becomes Tomatoes framed on my wall (I turn pages with the calendar). I also love Sophie Blackall’s insight and illustrations, Carter Higgins is my favorite for a perfectly-said phrase, and I dream one day to have a book illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
Little Thoughts Press: What advice would you give to young writers?
Kimberly Horch: You will write a lot of not-awesome things before you write something awesome. Don’t give up, each one is a stepping stone.
This video illustrating a quote by Ira Glass was huge for me as I got started. Part of what he says is, "It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.” My husband and I say “It's part of a volume of work” to each other when projects turn out less than how we hoped. It helps to keep in perspective that as long as we are willing to learn from each attempt, it isn’t a failure, it’s a step.
Little Thoughts Press: Is there anything else you wish I had asked? Any upcoming projects, publications, or other news you'd like to share?
Kimberly Horch: I’ve probably got a dozen stories underway including a middle grade novel in verse. You can watch for my picture book, The Day Brightening Committee, in the Spring of 2024, followed by other stories coming soon I hope!