on November 03, 2016

Katya Szewczuk is a young adult writer, a YouTuber who hosts Miscat Squad, a place for teens to embrace their inner fans, and runs her own fan art request blog. When she's not fangirling over her shippings and fandoms she's working as KidLit TV's host and producer, helping kids and teens express themselves with the power of literature. She also helped start the Ready Set Draw! fan art initiative with KidLit TV to help kids create fan art for their favorite book characters. In addition to all of that, she's been working on a brand new website with KidLit TV: TeenLit TV, a platform where teens can embrace their inner fangirls and fanboys and create fan fiction and art, as well as interact with their fellow YA enthusiasts.

As many of you are well aware, we have a massive fan community here on 8tracks that creates a lot of our most amazing mixes, so naturally we were very excited to talk to a professional fan like Katya about her fandoms and her passions.

When did you know you wanted to be involved in YA lit? Is there a particular writer or book that pushed you in that direction?

Young Adult literature has always been my cup of tea. When I was younger the librarians at my public library would put books on hold for me like Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Giver, R.L. Stine’s books, The Vampire Diaries, H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, books by Franz Kafka, William Golding, Avi and so many other classics that built the road to my writing journey.

There are many books that sparked the inner writer in me. I fangirled over John Green novels, Twilight and The Hunger Games for years, but I always like to include movies that started it all, since I think more visually.

Saving Private Ryan, Alien vs. Predator and Jurassic Park are some of the few that really taught me about life and death situations and character development. And I can’t forget to hold John Hughes’ movies responsible for my love of teen angst. I've lost count on how many times I've watched The Breakfast Club.

How did you get involved with KidLit TV? Tell us a little bit about what they do and what you do there.

My involvement with KidLit TV defines the word serendipity. I've always wanted to be an author. When I was homeschooled from the age fourteen onward so many people lectured me about going to college and getting what they called a proper education, but I knew that wasn't for me. So I made my own path, took a huge chance and went into the scary adult world without any clue what to do, blind as a bat.

Here's the origin story that led up to me joining KidLit TV:

My mom who runs her own on-the-go pet sitting service was a great entrepreneur role model for me, and because of her I met Dr. Anthony L. Manna, an award-winning author, professor of Children's and YA literature for 30+ years, co-founder of a major literature conference and my first boss. He hired me to create a book trailer for him, which then gained attention in the literature world from publishers and major authors.

I realized that meeting and connecting with authors wasn't impossible thanks to social media. I soon discovered the brilliantly talented author/illustrator Roxie Munro's profile. She was posting about a new platform called KidLit TV, a diverse group of parents, educators, librarians, kid lit creators, and award winning filmmakers all working together to bring great books to kids.

I saw that they had an online community, joined and started posting tutorials on creating book trailers. KidLit TV's founder Julie Gribble liked my posts and asked if I would like to write for KidLitTV. You can only imagine how much I cried in joy that day. And it was the day after my 21st birthday too!

I later became their host for the original show Field Trip! and a producer. For 2016’s International Dot Day, a day celebrating creativity and making your mark, KidLit TV and I were also on board to support the Dot Day Team, and helped them go from 5 million participants to 7 million.

I can honestly admit that this has been one of the best experiences in my entire life, being able to help kids embrace being a fan.

What do you like to write about? What subjects resonate with you most?

My stories are always about misfits, outcasts, underdogs, you name it. I'm a huge military, sci-fi, dystopian, psychological, dark, contemporary, school life and all around teen angst junkie who avoids clichés as much as possible with humor. I’m also known for cracking jokes about literature clichés on my YouTube Channel Miscat Squad.

A manuscript I'm working on now has been in the works since I was eleven years old. Same characters, same plot, but much more dark and teen related now that I've lived and survived my visit to Angstville.

I guess you can say any story that I write relates back to some point in my life from being bullied by relatives and school mates, to discovering my asexuality and so on. My greatest inspirations though, would have to be my grandparents Daniel and Catherine Stec and my mom who taught me everything I know.

What do you think it means to be a fan?

I've been a fangirl since the '90s when I watched my first episode of Pokemon and started shipping Ash and Misty. Being a fan has taught me about expression and creativity and showed me to always embrace who you are, no matter if you have the best or worst shippings in the world.

Back when I was in school I remember I would always doodle my favorite character couples and write fan fiction. I thought I was doing something awesome by showing my support for a series, but that wasn't the case.

Most of the school's teachers, lunch aids and librarians were so against fan art and fan fiction that they gave me detention, called up my parents, and made me pat out the chalk erasers, all because I was embracing my fan. They considered that a copyright and illegal act and would not put up with it.

Nowadays so many people are accepting towards embracing your fan. I even started a fan art initiative with KidLit TV called Ready Set Draw! to get kids to create fan art for their favorite book characters, and based Miscat Squad around being a fangirl and fanboy.

No kid should ever be punished for embracing their fan. Being a fan is a way of life and one that helps you discover who you really are.

What role does music play in your creative process?

I've been a fan of 8Tracks for over 5 years now, so you can already guess where this is going. Many writers say they have to write in complete silence, but I'm completely different. Whenever I sit down with my laptop or notepad I have to plug in my headphones, log into 8Tracks and start my day of writing.

Music serves a huge role in my creative process, because if I'm writing an emotional scene I have to turn on playlists like The Hunger Games’ playlist Waves Breaking Over Rocks or the Tokyo Ghoul playlist A Tragedy Indeed.

And when I'm feeling nostalgic, adventurous or ready to let out a scream of joy to the world, I listen to playlists like the Haikyuu!! CHANGE playlist

Are you a playlist maker by nature, for yourself or others? If so, what's your process?

Can I say yes more than once? Yes! I've been making CD playlists for all of my characters since I was eleven and probably have over a hundred songs for each of them by now. If I hear a song that reminds me of any of those characters I always add it to their playlist.

My 8Tracks' A YA/Teen Angst Mixtape playlist has over 50+ songs that are just a hint of what I listen to while writing.

Are there any fandoms you feel especially a part of? What was your first?

I think the Internet won't be able to store how many fandoms I'm a part of. Here's a list of a few, some of my ships and the 8Tracks playlists I listen to whenever I think about these fandoms:

Pokemon - I discovered being a fan after watching my first episode of Pokemon and immediately started shipping Ash and Misty. Jessie and James also have the best type of #squadgoal friendship ever. I'm even known for having some of the craziest of crack ships, while also shipping a few Pokemon.

Animal Crossing - My sisters and I grew up with the video game Animal Crossing. One day I decided to ship Tom Nook and Sable and the next thing I know the game actually says they had some kind of angst-filled back-story with each other. I know my ships.

Life is Strange - I recently started playing Life is Strange on Miscat Squad and let me tell you, it is more than a game, it's an experience. One of my favorite ships in the series is Max x Chloe, the two female leads.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – This series was also part of my teen angst stage in life, and whenever I re-watch it I get more and more inspired every, single time. The quirky animations and comedy cover up its true darkness and wit that would make anyone in this fandom agree that this series is a masterpiece. My favorite anime music video with it is definitely GALILEO from //Unlucky/Artist//:

Every Cartoon Network Fandom - Adventure Time, Steven Universe, Regular Show, there are just too many to list and so many ships to fall in love with.

Supernatural - Destiel will always have a special place in my heart, the Dean x Cas ship that has been known to cause a tidal wave of fangirls and boys. Supernatural has been running for twelve years straight and I've been a fan for about five of those years.

Thanks for the awesome interview, 8Tracks friends! Keep on telling your story through music and allowing everyone to celebrate who they are!

Want to connect with Kat? Follow the links below





Fan Art Blog

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