Kitten to Kat
Kat was born in Gayndah (the oldest town in Qld) 18 months after her big brother, and 8 years before her little sister. When her doting ‘Grandan’ visited the newborn ‘Kathy’ in the hospital on the hill, he was promptly informed, “Her name’s Kathryn!” – and she was Kathryn until the age of email. (‘Kat’ is quicker to type, so now she answers to that too.)
Unlike many writers, Kat can’t say she always wanted to write. She remembers making squiggles on the page at about age 6, thinking she had beautiful running-writing. (In reality, Kathryn has never had beautiful any-writing – which is why she LOVES her laptop!)
In Yr 7, Kathryn was inspired to become a teacher when she grew up – or rather, when she stopped growing… It is also when Kat first recalls an ability to write. She has many wonderful memories of Mrs Mavis Slack’s class – but the one that impacts most on her writing was the compilation of a class anthology. This work was edited by local writer, Jill Slack, whose professional approach and positive feedback made Kat wonder if perhaps she had some talent for this writing…
Also in Yr 7, Kat represented her region for longjump at the State Athletics Championships, held at QEII. As the tallest girl, she had to carry the flag – a mortifying experience because the team uniform was a singlet top tucked into running briefs. Hide me PLEASE!! (Other teams wore tracksuits.)
Kathryn was always the tallest in her class – until Yr 10, when one boy put on a growth spurt. She had countless nicknames over the years, most attributed to her height and her long skinny legs. Spaghetti Legs, Daddy Long-Legs, Mummy Long-Legs, Barbie, Stretch, Stalk, String Bean, Lucky Legs and Legs 11, just skim the surface of nom de plums. (She much prefers, Mrs Katswhiskers, as dubbed by the delightful Prep/Ones!)
One of Kathryn’s more embarrassing high school moments occurred in her first science lesson, when she was accused of standing on a chair. (These were the days when students went into a room then waited until the teacher bade them sit.) This caused some confusion amongst the class – and embarrassment for Kathryn… and eventually, the teacher! Many years later, this incident resulted in the award-winning poem, The Height of Ignorance, still one of Kat’s favourite poems. You can read it here.
There were many, many, MANY embarrassing moments as Kat grew up, but sadly there just isn’t enough space here to go into further detail. Perhaps they’ll come out in Kat’s books – when they won’t be happening to her!
Another nudge toward a writing career came from Kat’s English teacher, Mrs Noela McInnes, who was always fulsome in her praise and constructive with her criticism. Needless to say, Kat loved English! One Yr 10 English project was a poetry unit – again involving Jill Slack for editorial/mentorship work. A selection of Kathryn’s poems from this unit were entered in a national poetry competition, which they won. The poems were later included in the school magazine, at which point Mrs Sandy Slack (Yes – another Mrs Slack! I really hadn’t realised that all these ladies shared the same name until it came to writing this) jestingly asked for Kat’s autograph – “When you’re famous, I can say I taught you.” Though a light-hearted comment it stayed with Kathryn, because it spoke of a belief in her as a writer.
Incidentally, Mrs Sandy Slack was Kathryn’s Yr 10 Maths teacher. When Mrs Slack transferred from Gayndah, she taught a long-time friend of Kat’s and, on realising the connection between the students, Mrs Slack informed the friend,
Kathryn is THE worst student I have ever taught in Maths. She argues about everything! At the end of the lesson, Kathryn understands… but everyone else is thoroughly confused – including me!
That statement says a lot about Mrs Slack’s (admirable) teaching style – and Kat’s not-so-admirable misunderstanding of abstract mathematical concepts!
Kat lived her dream of becoming a primary teacher, then married a Qld grazier. In the first year of marriage, the farmer’s daughter who was petrified of cows and horses (and no help on the grazing property!) bottle-reared two orphan calves, Cocoa and Amber. Thirteen years later, ‘the girls’ still roam the house paddock – along with other ‘pet’ cows Kat has acquired/reared over the years. (They are the only cows that she ‘sort of’ trusts. Needless to say, they are very big girls now!) Kat was delighted when beautiful, beefy-red Amber inspired Warren Crossett’s illustrations for ‘the cow’ in Kat’s first picture book, ‘This is the Mud!’.
Kathryn was bitten by the writing bug in 2002, when mothering her two farm bubs. She was by this stage heartily sick of picture books with typical English farms of one cat, one dog, one rat, one horse, one duck, one hen, one sheep, one pig and one black and white dairy cow!!! Many Australian farms are NOT like this – and there are countless other shades of cows! Kat’s motivation was to write children’s stories for our Aussie farm kids – ‘just for fun’ stories that captured life on the land in Australia.
Now Kat writes about anything and everything that takes her fancy. But you’ll rarely see her with a pen in hand! Her fingers fly across the keyboard, as the beautiful, neat font flows onto the screen.
Read ‘The Height of Ignorance’.