Author Kathleen Ernst will return to Write On this month for a week-long residency. Kathleen will be one of the presenters at the Writing on the Door: Children’s Literature Conference in April. Write On’s Maggie Peterman had the opportunity to catch up with Kathleen via email.
Maggie Peterman: What was your childhood like?
Kathleen Ernst: I was lucky enough to grow up in a house full of books. My mother was a librarian and my father was an avid reader and book collector.
MP: What was your favorite class/teacher in school and why?
KE: My 10th grade English teacher took my interest in writing seriously, and encouraged me to think about writing professionally. I will always be grateful to her for taking me seriously!
MP: What after school activities did you participate in and why?
KE: I was not an athlete. I loved performing in musicals (always in the chorus), and also served on the editorial team for the student magazine of creative writing.
MP: What is a favorite library memory?
KE: Oh, so many! My first real job in high school was at the local public library. In college, when money was extremely tight, I’d walk to the library because it was the only thing I could afford to do for pleasure. In recent years I’ve had the joy of meeting lots of readers at library programs. I write for both adults and children, and interacting in person is awesome. Seeing young readers excited about books is particularly wonderful.
MP: What author and/or book has most influenced your own writing and why?
KE: It would be difficult to name just one. I fell in love with historical fiction as a child reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, Janice Holt Giles, Anya Seton, and many others. Their stories transported me to other times and places, and I knew I wanted to try to do the same thing.
MP: What are some of your favorite books? (You do say you love to read!)
KE: I write an adult mysteries series (the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites Mysteries), so these days I read a lot in that genre. My favorite authors include Margaret Maron, William Kent Krueger, Julia Spencer Fleming, Barbara Kingsolver, and many more. In any genre I look for complex characters, a strong sense of place, and a compelling plot. I also belong to a book club focused on historical fiction, and read poetry for pleasure. My favorite poets include Ted Kooser, Mary Oliver, and Wendell Berry.
MP: What is your daily writing discipline?
KE: I begin by checking email and Facebook, responding to any questions or comments that have arrived. I write 5-6 hours, and spend the evenings working on correspondence, blog posts, etc. I spend a fair amount of time doing research for various projects as well.
MP: What advice can you give to aspiring Write On writers?
KE: Write your passion. Take joy in the process, not just the idea of holding a book in your hands. Never stop learning.
MP: What writing project are you currently working on?
KE: I’m writing this on January 30, and my ninth Chloe Ellefson mystery is due to the publisher tomorrow! I’m already thinking about the tenth book in the series and will start that immediately. I’ve also been working for many years on a poetry collection, and am looking forward to having time to spend on that during my residency.
MP: How did you become involved with Write On?
KE: A dear friend/writer who lives in Door County recommended me. I had an amazing experience during my first visit, and I’ve been astounded by all that Write On has accomplished in a relatively short time. I just wish I lived close enough to attend programs and workshops on a regular basis.
MP: Is there a need for an organization like Write On in Door County?
KE Absolutely. I so often meet adults who tell me they want to write but don’t know how to get started. I love Write On’s “Everyone has a story to tell.” So true! I like to talk about enjoying the process and the journey, not just the finished project, because I believe the act of writing itself fills a basic human need. As a working writer, I’m profoundly grateful for the opportunities Write On provides. I spend more of my professional time on business-related things (marketing, promotion, etc.) than on the writing itself. The residency program offers a rare opportunity to focus solely on the work, without distraction. What a boost!
MP: What is a favorite place of yours in Door County?
KE: I’m particularly fond of Rock Island. My husband and I had the privilege of serving as live-in docents at Pottawatomie Lighthouse for eight years, a week each time, and it was amazing. Of course I had to set a book there! (The Light Keeper’s Legacy.) But Door County has many special spots, and I look forward to exploring more of them.