Creator Spotlight: Kathryn Milewski

"It’s okay to take life at your own speed." - Kathryn Milewski

Creator Spotlight: Kathryn Milewski

Kathryn Milewski is a memoirist, creative writer, actress, and filmmaker from New Jersey. With her newly-earned degree from Marymount Manhattan College, she finds herself positioned for success as an all-encompassing player in the world of entertainment and the arts. Within her varying skillsets and passions, Kathryn displays the true meaning of what it means to be a "creator".

"KatyIsALadyBug," as Kathryn is known as on social media, has won or placed in quite a few Vocal+ exclusive challenges... five to be exact. Of those five, she's claimed first prize in three: the "Quarantine Playlist Challenge," with her piece, "A Quarantine Mixtape, Made Just For You," the "Pets Welcome Challenge," with her piece, "My Groundhog, Ciabatta," and the "OG Celebrity Crush Challenge," with her piece, "I Worked With My Celebrity Crush (A Memoir)."

While her achievements on Vocal have been nothing short of spectacular, we weren't the first to recognize Kathryn for her skills. The Jersey native has also won many film awards. In 2019, Kathryn was nominated for or won Best Actress in the Westfield International Film Festival, the Hang Onto Your Shorts Film Festival, and the Grove Film Festival for her role in the short film "Little Did She Know". On top of that, she won Best College Director for her work on the short film "Subtext" in the Hang Onto Your Shorts Film Festival.

We're ecstatic to introduce Kathryn in this #VocalSpotlight. Enjoy!

On Herself, Her Education, and Professional Aspirations:

Besides being a creator on Vocal since mid-2019, I am an actress, filmmaker, and proud Jersey girl. In 2016, I moved to New York City to pursue a theatre arts degree at Marymount Manhattan College. It was there I discovered a passion for writing memoirs, and added a minor in Creative Writing my sophomore year. I just graduated in May, and now work as a script coverage intern for a production company called Alta Global Media. A dream of mine is to someday be in a TV writer’s room.

On Creative Writing, Inspiring Teachers, And Discovering Vocal:

I consider myself a “multi-hyphenate” of sorts, but I think writing was the first artistic skill I delved into as a kid. I was gifted many notebooks and took pride in filling them with doodles, diary entries, and short stories. I even made comics! They were about a rooster who travelled the world, hunting for artifacts à la Indiana Jones. My little brother was the only one who read them. He was my first critic.

In high school, an English teacher encouraged me to take creative writing classes. Her name was Mrs. Buechner. She was a fantastic teacher - I looked up to her very much. She had bright red hair and THE best giggle. It was because of her I gained an interest in short stories, poetry, and the art of essay writing. Unfortunately, she passed away my senior year (on my 18th birthday, no less), and I took her death very seriously. Because of that, I didn’t write again until college, when I took another creative writing class to fill some credits.

I had no idea what a memoir was until that college class. As we studied great memoirs like Jeanette Walls’s The Glass Castle and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, my professor gave us an assignment where we had to write a true story in ten pages or less.

I wrote about my teen years, when I learned to overcome body dysmorphia due to a severe jaw disfigurement. I got corrective surgery for it the year before, so it was the first time I talked about my body dysmorphia and disfigurement openly. That memoir was published in my college’s literary magazine, and I won the John Costello award for Creative Nonfiction. I remember a girl from my class told me she cried while reading my piece. I couldn’t believe my story had affected someone that deeply.

With encouragement from professors, I enrolled in more creative writing classes and memoirs became my niche. I discovered Vocal soon after. I told one of my professors about my challenge article, "The Hall of Faces", and I remember how proud he looked when I said it got first place. I even read that article at a salon the dean of my college hosted! It was so cool to see people’s reactions up close instead of through comments on social media.

On What Inspires Her to Create:

Most of my stories are drawn from true experiences. Call me Carrie Bradshaw, but there’s something so thrilling about organizing memories into an introduction, climax, and resolution. Life is naturally meaningless, so it’s therapeutic to draw out themes and lessons I’ve learned from crazy occurrences. I want my work to feel adventurous, yet relatable.

Joan Didion will always be my favorite author. If you haven’t heard of The White Album, stop what you’re doing and go read it now. It perfectly describes the chaos of the 1960’s, and gives me comfort in dealing with all the craziness this year. Like the late 60’s, I feel like everything in 2020 has been happening at once. I love how journalistic yet flowy and imaginative Didion’s voice is. As a memoirist, I aspire to be like her.

Other than Joan Didion, authors like Stephen King, Lucy Grealy, Bryan Lee O’Malley, and Judy Blume have inspired my creative career at one point or another. And if you know me personally, you know how much Greta Gerwig influences my acting and filmmaking. Frances Ha is one of the reasons why I moved to NYC.

Greta Gerwig in "Frances Ha" (2012)

On Creative Outlets She Enjoys Besides Writing:

As I mentioned before, I’ve been a professional screen actress for almost three years and have worn many different hats when it comes to film production. I’ve done it all: from directing, to film festival planning, to holding a boom mic above actors’ heads. In college, my friends and I started a film production club called The Cinemaniacs. That was when I got into screenwriting, as my pals and I would write shorts to be produced and screened for peers at the end of the school year. I made two shorts for the club, and acted in several.

The film scene in NYC is small and scrappy, yet so down-to-earth and authentic. People keep telling me to move to Los Angeles, and maybe one day I will. But for now, I’d like to stay in the city Scorsese, Spike Lee, and the Safdie Brothers call home.

Besides the movie business, one of these days I’d like to get back into singing. I used to sing the national anthem at sporting events. My summer job in high school was cantoring Catholic funerals and weddings! Singing took a backseat when I got to college, as I chose to focus on writing, filmmaking, and acting instead. My friend just asked me to be in her future production of Spring Awakening, so perhaps 2021 will be the year when I sing again!

On Winning Vocal Challenges And Goals For The Future:

I don’t know if I’ve “cracked the code” to success on Vocal. In science, there are laws and theories. The points in "How To Win A Vocal Challenge" are more like well-tested theories than they are concrete laws. I love how unpredictable Vocal challenges are. There are prompts and guidelines, but at the end of the day, you have no idea what the judges are looking for - and that’s exciting. The tips in How To Win A Vocal Challenge are all things that have worked for me. Hopefully my viewers find success in them, too.

While there are still some challenges I’d like to enter in the near future (can’t wait to share my Costume Contest story! Spoiler alert: a celeb makes an appearance), I’d like to shift my focus to creating more clickable content and gaining a loyal audience. I’ve used Vocal challenge wins as a fast-track to receiving profit. Throughout the pandemic, they’ve kept me alive financially, mentally, and creatively. Now I’d like to crack the code of evergreen popular content. I’d like to discover reliable methods of earning passive income on Vocal. Other creators have found ways to do that, but I’d like to experiment with things no one has tried before.

Similarly, I want to experiment with the content of future articles. A part of me wants to publish things like personality quizzes or “choose your own adventure” stories. People might find enjoyment in that.

Outside of Vocal, I’m looking to improve my screenwriting portfolio. Working in the film festival scene and grading screenplays for Alta Global Media has taught me the difference between good work and work that can be improved. I hope to enter my scripts into competitions, and maybe one day, pitch them to studios.

On Her Family's Pet Groundhog, Ciabatta:

The groundhog family is doing well! Unfortunately, I don’t have any more pictures to share. A month after publishing "My Groundhog, Ciabatta," I moved out of my parents’ house in New Jersey, back to New York City.

Despite being away from the backyard, my family updates me whenever there’s a Ciabatta or baby groundhog sighting. The kids got so big so fast! It’s still difficult to tell them apart, but it’s easy to identify Ciabatta because of her distinctly pointed nose.

A few days before moving back to New York, I was sitting on a lawn chair in my backyard. I heard a little shuffling noise and turned around to find a baby groundhog head peeking out from under our shed - curiously staring at me! It was the closest I had gotten to one of them. It felt like a special “farewell” moment, and I got to talk to the little groundhog as though it were a pet. Colder weather is coming, so they will be hibernating soon. I hope they enjoyed their summer in the Milewski backyard. I’m praying they come back next spring!

On Her Love For Game Of Thrones:

My favorite character will always be Arya Stark. Because I am the same age as Maisie Williams, I feel like I grew up with Arya throughout the show’s eight year run. She’s cool, confident, and always exploring. I found a great mask on Etsy with the words “not today” on it (as in the phrase, “what do we say to the god of death? Not today”). Hopefully I get it in the mail soon!

That being said...the older I get, the more I relate to Tyrion. I think it’s because I’m slowly becoming a wine junkie. The man’s got some killer quotes and one of the best character arcs ever written.

I don’t think any GoT characters are overrated, but my least favorite character is Joffrey, of course. Another reason why I like Tyrion: he slaps that brat in season one!

On Music's Influence On Her As A Creator:

Music drives me as a creative. I listen to beats while I write sometimes. When I’m developing a new screenplay or taking on an acting gig, I need to make playlists matching the vibes of the stories or characters I create.

The beauty of music is that it can say what words aren’t capable of. I love deep lyrics, experimental sounds, and rad vocals. The greatest albums tell daring stories.

Some of my faves include Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, Igor by Tyler the Creator, and Daft Punk’s Discovery. I blame my brother for my eclectic taste in music. He’s usually the one to introduce me to up-and-coming indie artists before they go mainstream.

On What's Keeping Her Sane In These Crazy Times:

To be honest, I don’t think it’s possible to stay 100% sane during these crazy Covid times, although Animal Crossing: New Horizons definitely calmed me down when things got heated in March.

Before the pandemic, I was very career-oriented. I still am to an enormous degree. However, slowing down in quarantine has made me value my relationships and domestic life more. Like many others, I didn’t realize how toxic productivity culture could be until the pandemic forced me to stay indoors. It made me realize it’s okay to take life at your own speed. Spending time with friends and family, if only through a Zoom call, is just as valuable as career ambition.

2020 has also made me care about community service. When the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery became more public around June, I couldn’t sit with myself until I did something to help. Because of anxieties around the pandemic, I was too afraid to protest with friends. So instead, I made the decision to donate all my Vocal tips to the BLM Network.

I’m still doing it, and I don’t think I will be stopping any time soon. My goal as an artist is to use my talents to make the world a better place. If donating that $5 tip from a reader to help fund the movement does just that, then it’s the least I can do.

On Vocal Challenges And Her Motivation To Write:

Vocal has definitely improved my writing. Not so much with my writing style - rather with my motivation to write. I used to constantly procrastinate, blaming it on writer’s block or a lack of ideas.

Vocal challenges conditioned me to set deadlines and brainstorm more deeply. Because of Vocal, it’s easier for me to get into a “flow.” Projects that would take a month to draft now only take a few days.

On Her Favorite Story She's Published On Vocal:

Get In Loser, We’re Going to Outer Space was very fun to write. I’m secretly a science geek, so doing a week of research and talking candidly about my love for outer space was a treat.

Also, it was an excuse to rehash the Drake and Josh planet song. I saw Mercury, I saw Venus, I saw the Eaaaaaarth!

Don’t think about it—first thing that comes to mind:

What is one thing you couldn’t live without?

Popcorn! I literally worked a summer job at a movie theater last year just so I could eat free popcorn on lunch breaks.

Favorite Musical Artist at the moment?

Thundercat. So funky, so silly, so underrated.

Cats or dogs?

Cats all the way! I grew up with four cats as a kid, and after fostering a kitten this summer, my roommates and I adopted two cats! Their names are Salem and Annabelle.

Favorite travel destination?

Florence, Italy.

The history, the architecture, the art, the food - it’s all so beautiful. I was supposed to go back with my family and best friend this summer, but unfortunately the pandemic put a dent in that plan.

Day or Night?

I’ve always been a night person, but I prefer to write during the day.

Favorite local restaurant?

There’s this little pizza place near my house in NJ called Schiano’s. My family’s been getting our pizza there for years. Whenever I visit home, I always look forward to Friday pizza nights.

I’ve tasted New York pizza, which is said to be the best in the United States. But it’s because of places like Schiano’s I still think New Jersey pizza is better.

What’s your go-to late-night snack?

For some reason I’m thinking Cheez-It crackers? I’ve definitely indulged in those during one or two college all-nighters.

What are you currently binge-watching?

I just finished the new season of PEN15 (a show I actually started watching because of a Vocal challenge), and oh my god is it hilarious. Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine perfectly capture the awkwardness of being a teen girl in middle school. I completely related to the school play plotline this season.

Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle

Other than PEN15, I’m finishing up season two of Ramy, and may rewatch What We Do In the Shadows because it’s spooky season.

If you could speak a new language, what would it be and why?

I’m trying to learn Polish, as I come from a family of proud Polacks and am traveling to Warsaw next year - pandemic pending.

Favorite story you read on Vocal by another creator?

There are so many, but I think my all-time fave is Crosshairs by Alex OT.

Not only are the photos so beautiful and the article is well-written, but the story about Kareem the Moroccan boy was really touching. In a few words, the article had a lot to say about travel photography and how it can disrupt local life.

Thanks, Kathryn! It was a pleasure getting to know you better, and we're sure your followers enjoyed learning more about your life too. You have a very bright future ahead of you, not to mention your bright present!

If you enjoyed reading about Kathryn, be sure to read her work here on Vocal (all of her stories are incredible... yes, all of them) as well as watch the many films she's been in.

Thanks again, Kathryn!

Bonus - Check out Kathryn's latest Demo Reel from 2019!

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