Kat’s Pedigree

Kitten to Kat

Kitty Kat

 

Playful 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’, he was promptly informed, “Her name’s Kathryn!” – and she was Kathryn until the age of email. (‘Kat’ is quicker to type!)
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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!)

Almost a full litter…

In Yr 7, Kathryn was inspired to become a teacher when she grew up – or rather, when she stopped growing… It’s 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!  (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!)

The litter of kittens…

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 0wn-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!

Kat (the tallest in the pic) in Yr 4 – marching in the back row with Yr 7s.

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.

You don't want to see this any bigger!

Oh-so-embarrassing!

Mrs Sandy Slack was Kathryn’s Yr 10 Maths teacher, who despaired; 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! Some things don’t change…

Kat and The Cat

 

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. Sixteen 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!’.

Reading with Amber

 

Kat’s Kittens

Kathryn was bitten by the writing bug in 2002, when mothering her two farm bubs. 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 – as opposed to the English farm scenario 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.
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Now Kat writes about anything and everything that takes her fancy. She still loves the magical art of picture books, and has also discovered the lyrical brevity of novels in verse. But you’ll rarely see Kat with a pen in hand! Her fingers fly across the keyboard, as the beautiful, neat font flows onto the screen.


35 comments

  1. So many things I can relate to here, Kat – the arguments with the math’s teacher, the writing bug, the nicknames (although mine were of the opposite kind lol).

    Thank you for sharing some of the things that have made you the wonderful Kat that you are. I’m sure that kittens from all over the world are going to enjoy reading the stories of Katswhiskers for many years to come.

    Dee:-)

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  2. So nice to read about your childhood and see those gorgeous photos. Just love the one of you on the little swing, I’m amazed at how you’ve changed so so much and yet that smile is exactly the same smile I’ve seen many times! Most disappointed I couldn’t view the gorgeous highschool hairstyle photo any larger….

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  3. A acquaintance sent me this place and I reckoned I should check it out. I have owned cats for a long time and genuinely enjoy their company. I know many people imagine they are moody of fussy or high-maintenance. But I love their independence, their curiousity, and their feel of the whole domain around them a great jungle.

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  4. A truly talented lady, she is one of the most pleasant people I have ever had the privilege to meet. Kat you made me feel excited about literacy and now I pass it on to others. Thank you.

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  5. Hey Kathryn (aka Kat)

    So wonderful to read your story here!!! and … you look exactly like you did ‘xx’ years ago. Can’t wait to meet up again! Hugs, B

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  6. Hi Kathryn,

    Loved reading your bio here, brings back so many great memories of growing up in Gayndah. Great pic with the school band…I used to be SO jealeous that we didn’t have one of those at St Joeys! Your book is lovely, I bought the Mud one from your Mum. SO cute! Am very proud of you and can’t wait to see it read out on Playschool. I hope you put a link up on the site here in case I miss it (as I don’t always tune in to Playschool as a rule, haha, although I DO have a soft spot for that gorgeous show!).

    Wishing you continued success and do keep me on your mailing list.

    Rach x

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  7. Wow! Cool to have you discover my site, Rach. And lovely of you to leave a comment. 🙂 Thankyou!

    I have transferred your email address to my contacts and will endeavour to keep you in the loop.

    Cheers!

    Oh – and funny that you should mention the school band. That band was TOPS! Fond, fond memories. Would a certain band master still have his recorder music, do you think? My boys are learning recorder now (amongst other instruments) and sentimental me has been wanting to bring out my childhood music – which is in my memory only…

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  8. Hi Kat,
    like you I´m a writer (of books for children and teenagers), I´m living in Germany and at the moment I´m researching for a novel set in Queensland. I´m trying to get hold of Jill Slack´s book about the Aboriginals of Gayndah, but so far without success… and now I read in your blog that you know Jill! Maybe you can give me a hint how to get a copy of the book, oder can you give me Mrs. Slack´s address – maybe she herself can help me…
    Best wishes,
    Sylvia (AKA Katja Brandis)

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  9. Hi
    I wonder if yoiu could forward this to Jill Slack?
    Anyway, here’s hoping!

    Hi Jill
    As you are probably aware, your poem ‘Requiem for a Country Town’ is featured in this year’s GCSE English pre-release material.
    Simply speaking, I was wondering if you could tell me something about this poem which I can share with my students?
    Many thanks in anticipation
    John (John Bowden)
    Bridgwater College
    Somerset
    England

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  10. Hi Kathryn….and I’ll always think of you as Kathryn,
    Thanks for forwarding the emails. Will attend to the most recent very shortly. First I have to find and reread the poem which written so long ago and in response to particular rural economic and demographic conditions. And yes, I should do something about a website, shouldn’t I?
    Cheers, Jill

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  11. Requiem for A Country Town by Jill Slack
    Kat, it is a beautiful and touching poem, and the girls at the school where I work are beginning to work on it for their GCSE. I am Australian, I am from near Cowra in NSW, and when I read it, with a girl during our lesson (I teach Learning Skills on a one to one basis) I had to be very strong and hide the tears.

    Do you have the poem? If not, I can send it. (I am a bit of a newby at this blog caper).

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  12. Love the standing on the chair story, I had the exact opposite happen, I kept asking for a chair on day one of grade six but the teacher ignored me, he assumed I was being cheeky as it looked like I was already sitting down! He was very embarrassed when he realised but I was probably the most humiliated. Good thing I grew that year, not very tall now either though.

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  13. Hi Kat!
    You are coming to my school next week and im really looking forward to meeting you!
    I have read both of your books and i love them!
    I want to be a singer songwriter whn I grow up, so poetry means alot to me

    Bye
    Yr 6 student

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    • I love that you already have ideas about what you want to be when you grow up. I’m really looking forward to my sessions at your school – and delighted to hear that you’ve read and loved my books. Thank-you for stopping by my website. 🙂

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  14. Dear Kathryn
    Our son Daniel just loved reading about MUD! He is 4 and just starting to read… You have provided us with so much fun with the gift of your book (via dad Herman)
    Many many thanks from a fellow book nut

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    • Absolutely delighted to hear from you, Erna, and thrilled to know that Daniel enjoyed his book! Maybe he’ll see it on PlaySchool one day soon. We are very grateful for the work of your hubby!

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  15. Loved reading this Kathryn! Also being a Gayndah girl it brought many a smile reading your experiences. You’ve been born with great literary talent!

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