Monday, May 6th, 2013
“In kindergarten, I used to fill the top edges of my drawings with random letters, pretending I was writing a great story. Later, I preferred writing letters as a means of correspondence to that of a simple phone call.”
Name: Kathi Wright
Place: Near Sequoia National Park, Calif.
SMITH member since: March, 2008
A fling that began five years ago continues today. Although she does not recall precisely how she stumbled upon SMITH, Kathi Wright was hooked from the moment she found us. Since joining SMITH in 2008, Kathi has been flirtatious with her submissions (nearly 300). This sporadic, yet consistent collection captures her gratitude for motherhood, humble introspection, and independent spirit.
By day, Kathi is a secretary at an alternative continuation high school in California. Rooted “on the juniper fringes of the Sequoia National Forest,” she is full of love, full of hope, and sometimes, full of howls—a theme that echoes in many of her stories.
She is a proud mother (“Full moon rising, birthed a star”), overflowing with love for her daughter and, more recently, her grandson (“The Man Cub” in the My Life So Far project). Although her path has been peppered with chaos, and a love of her own has proven more elusive, Kathi has maintained her passion and humor. Her story “August Train,” offers a window into a bohemian lust for adventure that is undeniable. Learn more about May’s Memoirist of the Month as Kathi Wright answers six questions about her life and writing. We’re delighted to send Kathi the Six-Word Memoir T-shirt of her choice, courtesy of our partners at Spreadshirt.
When did you start writing, and what have been turning points in your creative life?
There isn’t a time I can point to and say that is when I started writing. It is a long-standing pleasure of mine. I have always been a great observer and listener, and I think a natural progression has been to write and capture what our senses trace. In kindergarten, I used to fill the top edges of my drawings with random letters, pretending I was writing a great story. Later, I preferred writing letters as a means of correspondence to that of a simple phone call. I have a gypsy streak, and find adventure in a road trip, open roads have drawn me to places where I’ve found beauty and depth that I then settled into. This gypsy wrote reams of letters home to family and friends.
I worked for Cesar Chavez for nearly three years as a legal assistant; spent one cold and dirty spring working in potato cellars in Idaho, worked in a library, and as a cocktail waitress; have counted spruce bud-worms for the USFS, written for a small-town newspaper, and worked as a Special Education Aide in a juvenile probation camp whose wards were violent gang-affiliated offenders.
Those experiences, and others, blended into a wild and sometimes raw stew of memories and stories, events that shaped my life, creative and otherwise. The birth of my daughter was truly a turning point in my life; the need became great to write about her, to put pen to paper, to regularly remember and record life events. She was verbal at a young age, and so filled me with wonder and awe. I don’t think I had ever laughed with such abandon or loved so unconditionally until I gave birth. It was the two of us, alone together, tangled up in diapers and love.
My life has been humble, but full of grace. I have found the greatest pleasures in the smallest, albeit wondrous, moments of my life.
Can you share a favorite Six-Word Memoir, Moment or other story of yours and tell us why it’s meaningful to you?
Of all of my SMITH stories, I would have to choose “August Train,” [from the "My Life So Far" project] because of the magical quality of the random and unexpected events that came together to make one unforgettable, dream-like 24-hour period of time.
What authors inspire you or do you admire?
I am an avid reader and enjoy many authors. Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Lamott (especially Operating Instructions), Connie May Fowler (everything), Ayelet Waldman, (The Bad Mother was so brutally honest and I so admire her), Diane Ackerman (have you read A Natural History of the Senses?), Daniel Woodrell, James Lee Burke (he captures all of the human senses in his writing and he will answer you if you happen to write to him), Louise Erdrich, Craig Allen Johnson, and many others.
Is there someone’s writing on SMITH that’s especially moved you?
The first memoir I favorited on SMITH was by a member named Emily Pandise, who wrote, “There was more laughter than tears.” I related to that after traveling a somewhat convoluted and oft-rocky path through my life. Through it all, what is important to me is the laughter and joy and friendships made along the way.
I connect with stories about triumph over adversity, for the most part, but not solely. Javagirl’s recent story, Day One, about her son’s childhood diagnosis of autism, ending with his pending college graduation, brought me to my knees.
There are many other wordsmiths on the site, from then to now, whose words have sent me into fits of laughter or brought tears to my eyes or caused me to ponder the mysteries of life. We share so much through such diverse lives—somewhat like being on the same page in different books. Our submitted stories and memoirs prove we are filled with grit and gumption and undeniable heart. So many of your words strike a chord within me, and I thank you for baring your souls, and toes, your fishnets and hats, losses and triumphs, full moons, and sunsets.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Seeking out wild places, learning to fly fish, reading, photography, crafting, Zumba, yoga.
Finally, Kathi Wright, what’s your Six-Word Memoir for today?
This life; a beautiful, winding road.