Born Kathleen Doepker, I was privileged as a child to be raised in Annaheim, Saskatchewan, a hamlet on the plains of Canada. Although we lived in a small, tightly knit Roman Catholic community, I was fortunate to have parents who were open to other religions and cultures. Since television was not a luxury our household could afford, books were the windows that expanded my world.
Soon after Sister Colette, my first grade teacher, introduced me to Dick, Jane, and Sally, I began to read on my own. I was a fanciful child and became so influenced by books that while I was reading Five Little Peppers And How They Grew I ate only cold boiled potatoes (the truth is this lasted only for a day) as I suffered with them through their hardships. After reading Anne Of Green Gables I was convinced that I, too, was adopted, until my mother told me to stop the foolishness and to look in the mirror. I had her nose. She was right. I limped desperately during Red Shoes For Nancy until my sister, Judy, told me to cut it out, people would think that something was wrong with me. Wanting to closer experience Helen Keller’s tribulations, at every opportunity I walked with closed eyes until I solidly whacked my head on a doorframe. Enid Blynton’s Famous Five series had me looking for adventure around every corner, and when in class Rudyard Kipling’s, Kim, was read aloud, I couldn’t wait to leave for far-off lands.
Throughout my high school years Simon Lizee, a poet of merit, was our principal. He taught us literature and it was he who encouraged me to write.
Upon graduating from high school, as I saw it then, I had four choices. I could marry (no), become a secretary (no), become a teacher (no) become a nurse (yes). After I graduated from nursing school, I left for Montreal and there worked on staff at the Royal Vic Hospital. Eventually I married and came down to the United States. Throughout, I read voraciously and I wrote, often sending my work back to Mr. Lizee in Saskatchewan, who took the time to continue to instruct me.
It wasn’t until after I gave birth to my daughter, Erin, that I finally worked up enough courage to submit a short story to Myrna Blyth, who, I believe at that time was an editor at Family Circle. She sent back a lovely rejection note, telling me that this story was not one that she could use, but could I send others. I took that note to mean that she did not like my writing, but was being kind, and I foolishly submitted nothing further.
In time, I divorced and remarried, relocated to Manhattan, and there worked as an Ad Executive for a graphics company. I did not stop reading, nor writing, and over the next years took various classes in creative writing.
After four years in the city, we decided to try life on a small farm in New Jersey. When our collection of animals grew to include twenty-five Cashmere goats, two horses, three dogs, and two cats, we knew that it was time to relocate to a larger farm in rural Virginia. There we found twenty-seven acres and a large brick house, circa 1830, that once served as a stagecoach stop. But with the move came a glitch. For the first year my husband’s transfer didn’t happen as planned, and although he joined me every weekend, I was left on the new farm to manage on my own. It was an exciting yet frightening time, and I began to journal the experience. I joined a writers' group, and the Piedmont Literary Society, and when I met Eleanor Dolan, a gifted poet, she generously agreed to mentor me in my writing.
In the following years, Charles and I established an herb farm, a tearoom, and a gift shop that we filled to the barn rafters with work from local artisans. As we restored our old plantation home, I began to research the history of our home and the land that surrounded it. Then I discovered the notation ‘Negro Hill’ on an old map. Unable to determine the story of its origin, local historians suggested that it most likely represented a tragedy. To this day I am uncertain why the notation captured me so, but fascinated, I gradually set aside everything else to pursue the research and writing of the story that is now The Kitchen House.
Presently, I am researching and writing about the true life story of Crow Mary, a Native woman who carried a Colt revolver on her studded belt and wasn’t afraid to use it! Can you imagine the fun I am having?
I love books. If I could eat them, I would. I love their scent and often put my nose in to inhale their aroma. The first book I owned was The Secret Of Pooduck Island, given to me by a dear family friend, Alphonse Gerwing, a man who later went on to accept the Order of Canada medal. That book today remains a prized possession.
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