An Interview with Kathy Guyitt

The author shares the inspiration behind Rita the Remodel Girl, as well as some tips for aspiring writers!

A photo of the cover of a book. The title reads Rita the Remodel Girl, A Summer Project Begins. The cover features an illustration of a girl with a blond ponytail standing with her mother, who has short brown hair. They are standing in front of a house. Both are waving and wearing a yellow shirt, jeans and work boots. Their golden retriever is sitting next to them.

I recently reviewed a wonderful new picture book called Rita the Remodel Girl: A Summer Project Begins. It tells the story of a girl who helps her mom, a general contractor, as she meets with clients, puts together plans, and prepares to remodel a home. There are a lot of opportunities in this book for teachers to integrate STEM learning, especially with the 4th grade common core math standards of measurements and drawing to scale. I love that it features women working in an industry that is very male-dominated, and it gives a really clear and detailed portrayal of the remodeling process. It’s a picture book for children, but I learned quite a bit as well!

The author, Kathy Guyitt, knows a thing or two about the subject matter, as she is a retired general contractor, and she also is one of just a few female general contractors who owned her own remodeling company. She was kind enough to do an interview with me about this exciting book; check it out to learn more about where the idea for her book came from, and how she hopes it will inspire girls everywhere to pursue their dreams.

What inspired you to create this particular book?

As a female General Contractor, I experienced a lot of misconceptions about women in the construction world.  I knew a couple of women who were also GCs – some worked as actual GCs, some worked for other builder/developers.  We all shared common stories of misconceptions.  Such as – Is your Husband the GC?  Are you an Interior Designer?  Do you actually know how to swing a hammer?  Females have been working in the trades world for a long time – think Rosie the Riveter from WWII.  We just need to be open to doing anything we love.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading about Rita the Remodel Girl?

I hope that all children who read this book will take a minute and think about their dreams!  If you have a hobby or talent that you love, maybe you can turn it into a career.  And the Trades are a wonderful career with lots of opportunities and benefits.  I hope that schools will go back to teaching skills and working with both your hands and your head.  That technical and artistic talents go hand in hand.   

Did you write this book for someone or an age group/demographic in particular?  

I wrote it first for little girls in their Elementary school years.  It’s difficult to pin point an exact age, because I didn’t want to write a book without the proper terminology and real process.  But with the light coming on in the media now about the lack of hardworking qualified tradespeople and craftspeople, I think it’s perfect for all children to think of new ways to express themselves and be creative and technical at the same time. 

What is your favorite part of the remodeling process? Why?

Believe it or not, I love Demo!  I loved the physical act of demolition and the discovery of what actually is behind those walls.  Every project presented at least one discovery – back to the drawings board!  And every project allowed me to clean up the original work and make it better.  I was very proud of my clean job sites and finished product that I know is best quality!   

Do you share any qualities or characteristics with Rita? 

I have always been a bit of [a] Tomgirl.  I am curious by nature and love discovering new things.  I have wonderful memories of doing homework with my Mom.  Rita shares many of my childhood experiences, my values and work ethic.  I have always preferred pants, but I love pedicures too.  These days, girls can have it all. 

What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Outline your story idea and give yourself room on the page to add notes and sources.  Make a notebook.  Every single page of Rita is based upon a previous experience or person I know or admire.  Goldie Golden is based upon one of my previous Golden Retrievers.  The project is based upon one of my actual projects with revisions for the book.  Write what you know.  I also think every story should be educational.  Share what you’ve learned through life.

What can we look forward to in your future books about Rita the Remodel Girl?  

Well, as you know, the first book ends the night before Demo.  Book Two will take us through Demo, framing and rough-out (installation of new electrical, plumbing and air conditioning all behind the drywall or wood work).  It should finish with the walls in place and ready for the decorative elements and furnishings.  Book Three will complete the project and the story line.  Each book will have side stories about other characters and Rita and her Mom, Connie the Contractor.  I already know the ending and can’t wait to share it!

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