It was Flossie and the Fox by Patricia C. McKissack that first sparked Katherine’s compulsive trips to the local library. Since then the thick smell of old books has always been both a comfort and an inspiration. After finishing her degree in English Literature at the University of Sussex she spent the next few years continuing her studies in literature. Alongside her studies, Katherine worked in a number of libraries and taught English Literature and creative writing workshops at the University of Sussex. Katherine’s PhD explored a literary preoccupation with an elusive childhood knowledge located in child’s play and children’s toys. She has recently published an article on the child reader in Henry James’s novels and is currently writing a book on the topic of child’s play in literature.

As a Story Terrace writer, Katherine interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better: you can read an autobiographical story of her own below. Get in touch today to work with her!

Childlike Reading

When my grandma, Olive, introduced me to Agatha Christie novels at ten years old, I quickly became addicted to the stories which seemed to open a window into the complex motivations, secrets and lies underneath the polite surface of the adult world. Longing to leave the darkness of childhood innocence behind, the intimacy and freedom that adults seemed to share was entrancing. The stories confirmed my burgeoning suspicion that there was more to the life of adults than they had made immediately apparent to me. Held safely within the repetitive formal beauty of the stories and the farcical exposure of murderous desires, I read on insatiably with the keen sense that I was being granted a privileged glimpse of secret knowledge meant for someone beyond my years.

Through the lens of Agatha Christie, I began to think of grandma Olive herself as the guardian of this secret adult knowledge. With her stories of the war and her love of Sibelius, the gothic world of nineteenth-century novels and the tragic life of Lady Jane Grey, Olive was, for me, the arbiter of cultural value. She had a quiet strength respected by all those who knew her in the local community. Although she left school at age fourteen, her neighbours all thought she must have been an English teacher. This posture was never mistaken for a performance of propriety. Instead it was lightened by a knowing self-mocking; a softly sardonic wit.

Olive had a gift for telling stories and was always reading. Her picture now sits on the bookcase next to my desk. As I write, she watches silently. Periodically, in moments of procrastination or self-confidence, I glance up at her to check in: “How am I doing, grandma?” Sometimes, when I least expect it, her smile will answer “Very well, dear”. At other points, when I am feeling a little too cocksure, her eyes ask me to think again. Looking at her now she reminds me, as she did when I was a child, that knowledge is slippery; her piquant expression sighs, “Don’t take yourself too seriously, dear.”

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