Text copyright © Katie Mohar. All rights reserved.
As a girl, reading was always one of my favorite hobbies. It wasn’t long before I wanted to try my hand at writing a book myself. A book, I decided, would make the perfect Christmas gift for my Grandma Lee. I wrote and illustrated my first story at age 11 titled: Grandma is Made of Sugar and Spice. I illustrated each page with colored pencils and bound the pages with thin black ribbon, woven through four hand-punched holes.
Grandma Lee loved the book, and it became an annual tradition with one twist. Beginning with book two, I upped my game by enlisting my sister—more gifted at drawing—as the illustrator. I used my best penmanship to print the text on each page and eventually advanced to typing the manuscript on my parents’ computer.
I wrote six books in all, including: Grandma Lee of the New Millennium, Super Grandma, The Grand Champion Grandma and A Grandma for All Seasons.
Planting Seeds of Storytelling
When I wasn’t reading books or self-publishing books, another hobby that I enjoyed was playwriting. I adapted a version of The Three Little Pigs into a play that my 4-H Club could perform at local nursing homes.We had enormous fun painting large cardboard boxes, turning them into sets and digging through our mothers’ closets for costumes.
As a high school senior, I entered a contest on a whim to write a year-long editorial column hosted by one of Minnesota’s largest newspapers, the St. Paul Pioneer Press. I was surprised and delighted to receive a letter informing me that, after sorting through over 400 highly qualified applicants, the newspaper had selected about a dozen individuals, including yours truly, to write for an entire year as a “community columnist.”
My editor at the Pioneer Press, the late Ron Clark, was incredibly inspirational. In my experience, he was a man of few words. His edits were matter-of-fact and his compliments rare. Therefore, I credit one simple comment of praise that Mr. Clark left me with at the end of my term as sparking crucial confidence in my writing: “Katie, you’re a fine writer.”
This short, honest sentence meant a great deal coming from him. While I had always done well in high school, none of my teachers made me feel like I was destined to write. With Mr. Clark’s comment, an exciting seed was planted: “Maybe I am a storyteller!” Mr. Clark unfortunately passed away early after battling cancer but I remain grateful to him for giving me the gift of faith in my writing early on.
I went off to college and found that several professors loved my writing style, further nourishing my zeal for storytelling.
After college, I accepted a job with a large commercial real estate firm. In my role, I frequently wrote or co-wrote trade journal articles. Real estate seemed like an interesting profession because buildings are vital to innumerable aspects of daily life. I told myself I’d found my career path!
However – somewhat to my exasperation at the time – several friends and mentors kept telling me: “What you really should be doing is writing.” Deep down, I agreed.
Caring for Nana Edna & My First Published Book
Five years later, when the market was slow, I decided to take a risk and leave real estate to focus on writing. Around the same time, my grandfather passed away and my father asked if I’d be willing to care for his mother, my Nana Edna, in her own home so that she could delay entering a nursing home.
I cared for her for over three years – in her own beautiful home that she built with my grandfather. In the evenings, I wrote.
For years, I posted weekly blogs. One snowy winter morning, I opened my email to find a note from an editor with a major publisher. She said that her team loved my writing and… would I be interested in writing a book? A very exciting day!
Writing the book was an intense, illuminating experience. While writing that non-fiction book, I felt a growing desire to write fiction—specifically a fantasy and adventure novel for young people. I began making notes for my next book.
The Power of Stories
Today, we hear about many young people – often mere children! – facing tragedies of the heart. Depression and anxiety, it seems, is becoming a common challenge for many children and young adults.
One of the greatest powers of a thrilling tale is to take one out of oneself—allowing one to see the world through fresh, hopeful eyes. Stories can be incredibly uplifting during difficult times. Especially adventures inspiring courage.
I want to inspire families to develop a culture of reading. Moreover, I want to give children wonderful, powerful stories while they are young so that – inevitably when they are older and facing even more challenges – they have powerful tools to help them overcome any obstacle. Tools like: imagination, hope, love, patience, persistence and – above all – courage.
Over the past few years, I have continued to research and plan my books for children. I am so excited to share these adventures with young readers!
Creating a Family Culture of Reading
“Keep up your great writing, Katie,” Grandma Lee urged in one of the last cards she penned to me before passing away.
I loved and admired my grandmothers, Leona and Edna. Both women grew up loving horses on farms in America’s heartland. Both were feisty, fiercely independent and incredibly loving.
Leona overcame challenges during girlhood ranging from stark financial hardship to tragically losing her beloved father to illness. Edna practiced tender ingenuity, serving as a World War II nurse. “I’m tough. I’m a farm girl!” Nana Edna was known to quip well into her 90s.
Inspired by such spirited role models, I continue my journey as an author that began with my very first book, a story for Grandma Lee.
What book (or personal story) has inspired you or given you courage? What was it that made it so impactful? I’d love to hear your story (contact me here)!
Join our community of families building a culture of literature in their homes and follow my latest blogs by signing up for emails from the Katie Mohar Newsletter.