#AtoZChallenge: J is for Johnston – an interview with writer Kate Johnston ✍️

So, I’m a little behind.

I’ll keep the pace in this #AtoZChallenge, without shortchanging any posts. I want to make sure to give this one especially it’s due. Today’s post is an interview with writer and writing coach Kate Johnston.

She’s a published author who devotes time to making scribes like you and me even better.

She believes in a principle I’d love to make a staple in my life. That if we make a daily practice of positive thinking, we can enhance our creativity and lessen the weight of obstacles that have held us back. (Writing #GratitudeAndShit every Friday is a good start!)

Please give a warm JAD welcome to Kate Johnston today.

Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?

Kate: A writer – no question. I also thought it would be cool to be a vet because I love animals, but I’m squeamish, so that idea didn’t last long.

Eli: Have you found other ways to manage that love for animals?

Kate: Yes. I can’t help myself. On top of owning dogs and cats, I will also rescue wildlife that might be in my home, caught by one of my cats, or could be killed by the lawnmower! I have lost count of the number of mice, spiders, bees, birds, moths, bats, frogs, turtles, snakes, and other creatures that I’ve had to move to a safer location.

On a more global front, I support many organizations that protect wildlife. I founded my own fundraising program called Writers for Wildlife. For every donation of $25, I will critique or edit a piece of writing. 100% of the donations go to the World Wildlife Fund. In addition, I donate 10% of all sales from my coaching/editing services, books, and online courses to various wildlife conservation organizations such as Defenders of Wildlife, International Rhino Foundation, and Sea Shepherd (to name a few) 😉

A photo of me and a wolf at a wolf sanctuary in Maine. The wolf’s name was Denali. 🙂

Eli: I love that! How do you choose which organizations to support?

Kate: I read blogs, follow them on Instagram and Facebook, and get on mailing lists. If I like what I’m reading and I’m compelled to support their work, I look the charity up on Charity Navigator. You can find out how they rate on things like financials, accountability, and transparency, plus other information like their history and their mission statements.

Eli: Was there a time in your life when writing didn’t come easy or didn’t mean as much to you as it does now?

Kate: Yes. Many years ago I quit writing because I wasn’t reaching the level of success I wanted, and I considered myself an utter failure. The funny thing though is that quitting made me physically sick and worsened my depression. Took me a while to make that connection, but once I did, I realized that I couldn’t simply give up writing because it was literally a part of me. I couldn’t thrive without it–but I needed to heal my relationship with what I call my Muse or my writer self.

My creative journey since has been nothing short of magical. My self-help book, Positively Creative, is based on my real-life experience with changing my damaging perceptions of what it really means to be creatively successful and healing my self-sabotaging behaviors.

Positively Creative Affirmation Cards are available for sale (see link below.)

Eli: Tell me how the book first became a possibility for you. And what was it like to hold one in your hands?

Kate: I actually started writing the book during the quarantine last spring. I needed an outlet for all my angst and worry over what was happening across the world. Writing through those emotions in my journal was a natural process that healed me, and I was at it for hours each day. Before I knew it, the journaling turned into the material I thought might serve other people, so the book developed from there.

Along the way, I also created a deck of affirmation cards (also titled Positively Creative) because one of the main areas of discussion in my self-help book is how affirmations help keep me calm and centered, but also motivated and, well, positive!

Holding the book and the box of affirmation cards for the first time was magical and exciting. I’m really proud of both products, and I know that they are wonderful tools for anyone who is looking to boost their creativity, or for anyone who needs motivation or inspiration to move forward on their paths even when the odds are stacked against them.

Eli: I love that! How has it gone since you were published and the cards became available?

Kate: Pretty good. I’m doing a soft launch currently–just showing up on various social media platforms and talking about them. I’ll be officially launching the book and the cards in February with a live challenge to help people set and commit to their 2021 goals for their creative journeys, which will also include a giveaway of my book and affirmation cards.

A picture of students who wrote fictional stories for my Dare to be a Voice fundraiser. It is a book I published about a year and a half ago and all proceeds are donated to a local wildlife rehab center. Students are middle-grade kids. 🙂

Eli: How can my readers become involved in that?

Kate: Once I set the dates officially, I’ll be announcing the challenge in my free writing group on Facebook, Team Writer, as well as adding it into my weekly newsletters. They are welcome to sign up for my newsletter (which they can find on my website, and they’re welcome to join my writing group.

Eli: How much do you like this part of being an author – the writing group, the website?

Kate: I love it all. My favorite aspect will always be the creating side of my business, but I enjoy the other aspects too because of the connections and relationships I have been making along the way. When I know that my work is helping someone else, then that is the icing on the cake.

Eli: Can you tell me a story about someone you were able to help?

Kate: I will always remember the seventh-grade girl to who I’d taught creative writing in an after-school enrichment program. She was quiet, shy, and she wasn’t doing well in school. Her mom signed her up for my class hoping I could help her improve her writing skills. One year after our classes, I ran into this girl in the school and she gave me a big hug and said, “I’m so glad to see you. I never got a chance to tell you how much you helped me. I wrote a story for my English class and my teacher gave me a 100 and asked if she could keep it to use as a model for other classes. I know I did well because you made me realize I’m a good writer as long as I work hard and I’m willing to learn.” 

If you have limiting beliefs about your ability, you’re making a difficult journey near impossible.

Kate Johnston

Then she said, “I love to write now. It’s all I ever want to do.” This always makes me smile because it’s evidence that backs my theory that the main reason people struggle with writing comes down to mindset. A lack of confidence, a fear of not being talented enough, or something like that. Writing is difficult, but it can be learned. If you have limiting beliefs about your ability, then you’re making a difficult journey near impossible.

Eli: What a beautiful testament to teaching and learning! What is next for you, Kate?

Kate: I’ll be spending most of 2021 focusing on engaging with my audience and building relationships. I plan to offer writing and creativity mindset challenges and workshops and masterclasses throughout the year, with the primary goal of helping writers make progress on their creative journeys. There may be another book up my sleeve in the latter half of 2021 … but that won’t be decided for a couple more months.

Eli: Sounds like an exciting year, Kate. What advice would you give girls or young women who have felt that pull to try their hand at writing, too?

Kate: I would say that it’s important to be kind to yourself. You can always find inspiration and ideas as long as you remain open to the world around you, and to your inner world too. But writing is hard work and sometimes writers get discouraged when things don’t go exactly to plan. Understand that creativity is a process, so learning your style and finding your voice, and writing stories that are meaningful to you takes time, courage, and practice. You’ll have marvelous days, and you’ll have crummy days, but try to resist beating yourself up or getting down on your creative self. 

Take a break. Journal through your feelings. Talk to a trusted friend. Breathe in nature. Read a book that inspires your Muse. Remind yourself why it feels good to write, and then when you’re replenished with positive energy, write again. You can never go wrong with that formula.

WEBSITE: https://katejohnstonauthor.com

INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/katejauthor

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/katejauthor

FACEBOOK WRITING GROUP (free): facebook.com/groups/TeamWriter

EMAIL/CONTACT: kate@katejohnstonauthor.com


A to Z Challenge

A is for A new name for this blog

B is for B is for Bibster, baseball, and a spot by the birdbath #Gratitudeandshit

C is for Cassie Klein, actress and model; an interview for #GirlsRock

D is for Dusting off and writing again

E is for Energy, Facets of: An interview with crystal healer and healing jewelry maker Amanda Fitzsimmons, for #GirlsRock

F is for Football questions for Go Ask Daddy

G is for Getting behind a cause

H is for Hayden, headphones, and happy hour #GratitudeAndShit

I is for Inspiration 👩‍🎤


  1. Inspiring reading! I think this goes for other creative work too. It’s like sometimes, the worst enemy we have is ourselves, and we need help to see our capacities and not listen too much to our inner critic.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad you saw that! Yes, it’s definitely applicable to all creative work. Our inner critic can be a hellion, and it can be hell to silence him for a minute.

    2. Thank you for reading! Yes, I believe you’re right. Creativity all around can feel really vulnerable. And we are our worst enemies–but we’re our greatest heroes, too. 🙂

      1. Have to focus on the hero part! 🙂

  2. What a great interview! It just goes to show you can do what you put your mind to.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      So glad you liked it, Mimi! She’s an inspiration.

    2. Eli had some wonderful questions, didn’t he? Yep, it’s a lesson I learned a bit later in life than I would have wanted, but it served me well!

  3. How inspiring to help people unleash their creativity. The Affirmation Cards are beautiful. I love the picture of at the wolf sanctuary. I didn’t even know there was one in Maine. I visited one when I was down in Maryland without realizing there was one in my back yard! Weekends In Maine

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      We all have it within us, right, that creativity? Affirmation cards would be awesome for those days of self doubt. And imagine my surprise when Kate first sent the wolf picture and she’s scruffing his face like a champ.

      Who knew you’d come to a dad blog from North Carolina to learn about a cool place in Maine? Closest I’ve come to a wolf sanctuary was every time people in my neighborhood posted a shot of one they saw hanging about.

    2. Hello Weekends in Maine! I’m glad you like the cards. They are a big part of my daily routine. The sanctuary is called Runs with Wolves. I haven’t been there in years, sadly, but I remember the place with fondness.

  4. 15andmeowing says:

    Great interview. I love how she offers her skills of writing to help wildlife and animals. I also like her positive attitude.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad you liked it! Putting skills to good use is a beautiful thing. Conversations with Kate always bring a bit of positivity to the day.

    2. Thank you for reading–Eli’s questions were astounding, and really helped me to think a bit deeper about why I do what I do! I’m such a pushover with animals (except I could do without ticks and mosquitoes). I love being able to do a little bit to help out those organizations devoted to conservation. Such important work.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        I so appreciate your advocacy for animals, Kate, and I’m glad you enjoyed the questions!

  5. beth says:

    I love the affirmation cards –

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’d love a set, Beth.

    2. Thank you! I enjoyed creating them. I love pulling a card as part of my morning routine. That, and coffee. 🙂

      1. beth says:

        a wonderful way to start a day

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Sounds like a pretty incredible combination, Kate. Maybe a crueller would round out perfection.

    3. This is such a great interview – Kate is such an inspiration.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Glad you enjoyed this Deborah – it was a fun conversation to have.

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