Author Spotlight: Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

  • Award-winning writer of poetry and prose

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt is a full-time marketing writer who has penned four books of poetry, two children’s books and a novel. Her eighth book – Get Happy, Dammit – is forthcoming from Local Gems Press.

Katherine, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I’d really love a floppy-eared goat. Maybe two. They’d make great friends for our two dogs and one cat.

Oooh! So cute. I actually have friends who raise goats. They’re such pack animals that you really need at least two. Maybe three.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I’m probably a bit obsessive when it comes to writing. In my day job, I write blogs, social media, and general marketing pieces, mostly with an IT focus. I also write articles and edit for Prince William Living magazine. In my creative life, I enjoy writing poetry and short essays. Once in a while, I try my hand at flash fiction.

The obsession began early on for me. As soon as my mother started teaching me to read, I wanted to write. The spark was there, and I’m not sure my mother understood at the time the degree to which her efforts affected my desire and ability to write. I wanted to create these experiences I was enjoying so much through books. I wanted to give breath to stories and sounds and ideas. I wanted to communicate things in my head that could not come out of my mouth. So I wrote poetry. Then I created magazines. I drew all the ads and wrote the articles based on the imaginary lives of my puppets. I called the magazine Puppet Gossip. I also kept a diary and wrote letters to friends and family. I often read my writing at school and church functions. Writing was something I did all the time. It was part of me.

As I got older, I began to submit my work to be published. In college, I’d send hundreds of poems out through the mail. The sheer volume of submissions helped me land my work in some pretty good magazines and journals. Then I started to help edit our college literary magazine. I launched one on my own through the college, too. After grad school, I began to write books. I’ve published independently and through small presses, and there are more opportunities on the horizon. The hard work that comes along with this obsession has paid off.

I definitely started early as well, but I don’t think I was half as committed as you were! Nor as brave, to submit and send your works out at that age. It’s clearly paid off for you. Congratulations!

What do you like to read?

Besides reading poetry, I seem to have become fascinated by World War II fiction, specifically the work of Philip Kerr. His Bernie Gunther detective series just sucks me in and has taught me quite a bit about history. I also enjoy the eclectic, sometimes speculative fiction of Margaret Atwood and Rupert Thomson. I find their voices most compelling. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is another of my favorites. His brand of magical realism and poetic prose inspires me.

I spent my college years hanging out with history buffs, so I enjoy a good historical fiction. And we all know speculative fiction is totally my jam. What a great mix, very well rounded. I’m sure that helps with your own writing.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Children’s books shouldn’t rhyme

 I think this notion undervalues a timeless art and limits communication. Poetry holds power, and if you want children to learn the nuances of language and fall in love with the written and spoken word, you should definitely introduce them to verse and do it through storytelling. Think about nursery rhymes, which are a meld of story and song. And what about classics like The Night Before Christmas and just about every Dr. Seuss book?

I think we should be embracing verse, not avoiding it, which is why both my children’s books are written as illustrated epic poems. The storylines and illustrations are important, yes, but the sound and stanza arrangements greatly contribute to the overall experience. I don’t know who came up with the idea that we should strike verse from children’s literature, but I think it’s off base.

From what I understand of the advice, it was the plea of tired publishers and agents, tired of ‘near rhymes’ and poor meter. I believe this is one of those: if you can do it well, please do. Everyone else, have mercy on us and just write normally.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Learn the rules so you can learn how to break them

That goes for any art (and a lot of life in general). It’s important to understand the roots of your particular craft so you can glean the best and leave the rest. Take what you need from tradition. Then you can really start to get creative and have a context as you develop your own style and voice.

Definitely! If you break it because you think the rule is stupid, you likely don’t understand what the rule was intended to do. If you do it from a place of knowledge and art, you can often do amazing things with it. After all, the “rules of writing” are more like… guidelines.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

Like everyone else, I’ve had to endure the challenges of living a human life. A few things have happened along the way that sometimes make me wonder how I ever lived this long. But I’ve worked hard to get where I am, I’m pleased with the way my life turned out, and that’s why I wrote Get Happy, Dammit.

It’s a kind of handbook for creating inspiration and motivation. The book includes short essays and poems, and in each brief chapter, there are exercises I used in the college classroom when I taught back in the day. I’ve had teachers, artists, writers, business folks and caregivers tell me how useful these exercises are, so I hope your audience will take a look once it’s published this spring.

[NOTE: She’s also published a few other poetry books, with very different themes: Late April, Bury Me Under A Lilac, Poems From The Battlefield, and Weaker Than Water.

Plus! She has two children’s books (in case you wondered why she felt so strongly about that rhyming advice): Furbily-Furld Takes On The World and A Crane Named Steve ]

I’ll be posting about that book and more on my website. Feel free to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or instagram! I appreciate everyone reading, and keep writing!

Katherine's other books:
Poetry books:
Late April
Bury Me Under a Lilac
Poems From The Battlefield
Weaker Than Water

Kids books:
Furbily-Furld Takes On The World
A Crane Named Steve

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