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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - KATANEH VAHDANI

I'm delighted to feature my friend and fellow 20/20 Vision Picture Books group member Kataneh Vahdani on my blog today! Kataneh is an award-winning animation director, a professor, and she is now a debut picture book author/illustrator! I'm so excited for her new book, KAT AND JUJU! Read on for her thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection.

STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

KAT AND JUJU: The story is inspired by my Juju bird who came to my life during a very dark time. He helped me be brave and face my biggest fears. Juju was a wild bird, but it accepted me as his equal and our friendship had no limits. I wrote and illustrated “Kat and Juju” to help kids all around the world realize that many of us have fears and we doubt ourselves, but we are braver than we think, and we can rise above our fears and grow.

CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

I am a huge believer in the power of visual story telling. Growing up on the other side of the plant (Iran), my only way to feel free and connected to this side of the planet was through children’s books and animation. After moving to America, I decided to use my creativity and tell universal stories that can help children all around the world.

I normally start by writing down my thoughts and then I begin sketching small thumbnails to capture the beats of the story. After several edits, I start thinking about compositions and the visual flow of my designs. I try to make sure my illustrations and the story have a harmonious balance.

For the visual look of KAT AND JUJU, I wanted my illustrations to be appealing but with a limited color pallet, so the focal point would be clear at all times.

I made sure my designs capture an emotion that can help and elevate the story line.

CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

I believe one of the key elements to connect with the heart of my young readers is to tell stories that are relatable and create characters who have a believable and inspiring motivation. I try to write and illustrate stories that have a heartbeat and can connect with the heart of my young readers.

I’ve been teaching for 17 years. I’ve always tried to use visual storytelling to connect with the heart of my students and inspire them to grow. Kat and Juju are excited to meet their beautiful young readers all around the world.

This book is my first children’s book. I’ve been directing animation movies for a long time and writing a children’s book has always been my dream. I just learned about the Kitlit community and I am looking forward to connecting with them and learning more.

I am grateful for our 20/20 Vision Picture Books group and for this exciting journey!


Kataneh Vahdani is a director, storyteller, professor and a mama bird. She was born in Tehran, Iran but came to the United States in pursuit of her dream, to have a voice and be free. Kat received a degree in Mathematics but soon after, she changed direction and enrolled at CALARTS, spending seven years studying animation and earning her master’s degree. She later continued her education in Paris, France. Kataneh’s animated films have been screened in many festivals such as Sundance and Annecy and recently won “best director of animated shorts”. One of her latest animated feature projects also won the "Best Feature" award and was debuted in Bordeaux, France. Kataneh has worked for many years in the Story Department at Disney and taught story, design and animation at CALARTS and College of the Canyons. Kataneh is currently directing a feature animation movie.

Kat and Juju is Kataneh’s first children’s book series that is being published by Amazon/Twolions in June 2020.

Today, Kataneh is happy to say she is free, has a voice, and wants to share her stories to inspire many who have big dreams just like her! 



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