7 True Things About Kate

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a hobo. I spent hours making camps out of rocks and sticks—fire pit, spit, water bucket, spots for bed rolls—arranging everything perfectly to welcome the vagabonds I was sure would arrive. I couldn’t wait to hear the stories I was sure they’d tell. Many people have asked me to tell them who I am, which is awkward. Where to start, which stories to tell, what is true, what is fancy footwork? Well, here’s the truth about me, as best as I can muster.

  1. I was raised in San Francisco at a time when ladies wore white gloves when they went shopping downtown.
  2. I have my B.A. in Journalism, a major I chose because I thought it would help me put bread on the table and allow me to develop my writing craft. I’m still deciding if the plan worked.
  3. My parent’s first car was a 1948 Hudson Hornet.
  4. My father was a cowboy.
  5. When referring to me, my mother usually started by saying, “Kate’s biggest problem is . .
  6. Adrift in the Sound, my mainstream debut novel, started out as a creative writing exercise about something I didn’t understand. It was supposed to be a simple story about a piano, but instead of finger exercises, it turned into a symphony.
           Seven things not enough?
99 Random, Irrelevant Things About Kate
  1. I’ve been married three times (twice to the same man), my sister never, which proves the law of averages and that misses only count in horseshoes.
  2. My first car was a yellow VW beetle stick shift with no radio, which is why I like to sing while I drive. Mostly Aretha.
  3. I learned to drive on the hills of San Francisco in a Toyota HiLux pickup truck, with stick shift. It took a while and a few mishaps, but eventually I mastered the art of going from a dead stop to moving forward on a very steep hill.
  4. I can’t resist chocolate, a common affliction.
  5. My first “real” job was making cotton candy at Playland-at-the-Beach in San Francisco, the city’s first amusement park. I was assigned a short, tight uniform and stood in a glass booth in the middle of the midway where I had to bend over to lift large bags of sugar.
  6. I like pot roast with pan seared and parsleyed potatoes, hate tomato soup.
  7. I often spend an entire afternoon shopping at a local thrift store and maintain a rigid $20 spree limit. Retail therapy in tough economic times.
  8. I have a recurring dream that I’m in a tight dark place and then move into a coarse, rippley place and wake up scared and panting. I think I continually relive my own birth trauma. How creepy is that?
  9. I hate when people shove past me and don’t apologize for the rudeness, especially when getting in an elevator or on a bus because then I have to stand passively beside them in the stink of rude and act like I don’t notice.
  10. The fastest way to make me angry is to criticize my family. Sure, they’re all a little odd, but only I get to say that.
  11.  I always think couscous is going to taste better than it does, think the opposite about hummus and find it delicious, but then garlic fixes everything.
  12. If I stop and think, words, the perfect words, evaporate and I find myself stammering while I try to catch up with them.
  13. Favorite flower – Jonquil, it was the badge for our Girl Scout troop.
  14. In the movie “Out of Africa,” when the two lions go to rest on Denys’ grave, I burst into tears. The first time I saw it my 9 year-old son had to help me from the theater I was sobbing so hard. One of the saddest scenes ever.
  15. I secretly think people who say I’m hard to buy for lack imagination.
  16. Believe it or not, my first published work was Between the Sheets: An Intimate Exchange on Writing, Editing, and Publishing, a book about editing the novel before it was published. What kind of sense does that make?
  17.  Wrote my first short story when I was 9 about a Bunyanesque tugboat captain on San Francisco Bay, who rescued ships and eventually the city. The teacher showed it to the principal, Mr. McGinnis, and he took me around to all the classrooms at Alvarado Elementary School and had me read it the other kids. He also brought Claudia, a girl from another class who wrote a story about racing on the rings of Saturn. It was a better story. I knew that since my story wasn’t the only one selected, it probably wasn’t that good, sort of second best, if best at all. This kind of insecurity has plagued me all my life.
  18. I’m a cakeaholic. I’d rather eat cake or a cookie and keep going that bother with the rigmarole of sitting down and eating something good for me. As a result, I have a righteous muffin top.
  19. I love the color red but, but since my husband died about five years ago, I always end up wearing black, like freaking Queen Victoria. I swear, I’m going to start wearing sea foam green and powder blue.
  20. Every time it rains, I want to stay home and watch. It’s a miracle here in the West.
  21. I once worked as a bet taker (para mutual clerk) at Golden Gate fields because I wanted to be closer to the horses. Quit after a guy with a losing bet threw beer all over me and a fight broke out and the guy got escorted off the track. The sport’s too rough for me.
  22.  When I’m alone, I dance and pluck my eyebrows, not at the same time, however.
  23. Favorite candy? Chocolate in all its guises. OK, let’s get honest here. MandM peanuts. How boring is that?
  24.  I get bored.
  25. My Great-aunt Eva spent her last years making tatted lace for pillow cases and petticoats and telling us kids tall tales.
  26. I met my best friend when our sons were in preschool and we all grew up together.
  27. I frequently forget what day it is. Hell, I forget to close the garage door, turn off the boiling tea water on the stove, leave the doors unlocked and can’t find my keys.  Sometimes the specific day seems inconsequential.
  28. I was obsessed with swimming before I was obsessed with writing. I love practice more than races. Still chant kick rhythms in my head.
  29.  I still occasionally wear my grandmother’s screw-back earrings with the green rhinestones.  40s Tre Chic!
  30. I thought John Travolta was fantastically sexy in “Pulp Fiction.” Oh, come on. Admit it. He was. Bopping in the restaurant, the anxiety dripping from the screen. Forget “Saturday Night Fever.”John-Travolta-Pulp-Fiction-1994-600x337
  31.  I’ve been known to speak with great formality to officious store clerks because I hate giving up dollars without a fight and I hate being spoken to like I’m a street person.
  32.  I eat asparagus naked. I like it undressed.
  33. Semi-popped kernels at the bottom of the popcorn bowl are my favorite and will go on the attack if anyone tries to get to them before I do.
  34. I’ve been writing and editing for nearly 40 years. It took four years to write my first novel after 36 years of wanting to.
  35. When I was in journalism school at San Francisco State, my brothers mockingly called me the “reporter for the people.” I’ve thought of myself that way ever since.
  36. I have the driest cuticles ever. Do you think it’s a vitamin E deficiency?
  37. I love Mexican folkloric dancing because I want one of those skirts.
  38. Downward Facing Dog is my favorite yoga position.
  39. My step dad had a scuba diving company. I was scuba certified when I was 11 and spent a lot, I mean a lot, of time in the Pacific Ocean.
  40. I’m easily overwhelmed by bookstores because I want everything and can’t decide.
  41. I’m also easily overwhelmed by shoe stores for the same reason and always impulsively buy shoes that hurt.
  42. Misplaced commas in my writing are deeply embarrassing. It feels like smiling with lipstick on my teeth. I don’t see it, but everyone else does and politely acts like they don’t notice.
  43. My favorite quote is by novelist John Steinbeck, who worked as a journalist for a while at the Salinas Californian, where I also worked for a while as a freelancer. “If they wanted someone who could spell, they should’ve hired a school marm.” I love the guy!
  44. I’ve always thought my sister Joyce got the better name. It sounds happy, while everybody and their dog is named Kate.
  45. I don’t drink but, mysteriously, I have dozens of wine glasses gathering dust.
  46. I act like I know what I’m doing, but most of the time I’m a mess.
  47. My former husband loved Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, but for me, it was Love in the Time of Cholera. Truthfully, I can’t get over the book’s feeling of longing. Marquez was a journalist first and 20 years later wrote 100 Years of Solitude (1967), which gives me hope as a writer, however, slender the thread of my talent.
  48. My alarm clock is set for 5:30 a.m., but I’m usually up about 3 a.m. to write.
  49. I hate my 2nd grade photo, (see above) missing front teeth and oddly curled hair, a homemade dress I never liked. Who sends a kid to school looking like that?
  50. Alcohol addiction is rampant in my family, which is why I got clean and sober 30 years ago. Scares me to death.
  51. My signature scent is “Rain,” which is a body oil I used to buy at a little shop on Haight Street before it got taken over by Yuppies, Nerdsters and Techsters and the neighborhood went gentrified.
  52. Sometimes I forget to turn off the automatic sprinklers and water the garden in the rain. I’m always afraid the water police are going to show up and bust me.
  53. My house is named NutTree Cottage, but my sister calls it the “Nut House.”
  54. I have accidentally broken my plumbing at 3 a.m. while trying to clear an inconsequential drain problem. What some people do to put off writing. The drain still isn’t fixed, but a bucket works fine.
  55. I feel compelled to eat everything on my plate, even when I feel full after half of it. Childhood conditioning always kicks in. I remain president of the “Clean-Plater Club.”
  56. I used to write (mercifully never published) plays about the foibles of friends.
  57.  I once worked as a typist for a famous Hollywood screenwriter. I’d go to his house and start typing, he’d come into the room complaining about shoulder pain and ask me to rub Absorbine Junior on his joint. I quit after a couple of weeks. Hated the smell on my hands.
  58. Half-asleep in the house I rented in Pasadena, I felt a ghost-like presence move like a silken scarf over my body. I would have thought this an odd take on prickly heat, but the sensation occurred many times in that house and never again after I moved back home to San Francisco or sense then in Sacramento.
  59. Irrationally, I fear I’ll be bitten by a rattlesnake. Well, maybe not so irrational, given the remote places I go on assignment. I don’t wear sandals or heels when I’m working, also, tube tops and chandelier earrings are out.
  60. I am the person who can’t decide on paper or plastic when you’re in a hurry at the grocery store and behind me in the check-out line. Thankfully, they’re banning the plastic option. So much easier for me than having to figure it out.
  61. I pair mashed potatoes with yogurt. Keeping the whites together just makes sense with food and laundry.
  62. I have always had a crush on Paul Volcker. What’s not to love about the craggy former Federal Reserve chairman? I used to think he was Superman, not I just think of him as a hero with a towel tied around his neck.
  63. I lived with my grandmother when I was young and wish I still did. She was smart, talented and fearless, about 4′ 8″ tall, but stronger than a mountain.
  64. I wore white saddle shoes to school until high school. Just when they got comfortable, the school year ended. Then I used them to walk in creeks.
  65. Many years of morning workouts means I’m a good swimmer. It also means I hate the smell of chlorine in the morning.
  66. For some odd reason, I grind my teeth at night.
  67. I am an excellent procrastinator.
  68. I always look for parking spaces on the street. I hate handing my car keys to complete strangers who claim to be parking valets, worse yet, I’m never sure how much to tip them, which is embarrassing.
  69. I once unknowingly had the back of my dress unzipped on a very crowded Muni bus. After I got off at my stop, I walked a half block wondering about the odd breeze I felt on my back.
  70. I have worn out my Leonard Cohen CDs and need to replace them.
  71. I have ugly feet. Plain and simple.
  72. I love the Lauren Bacall preppy look, but I’ve always been too short waisted to pull off the shirt tucked into pleated front trousers style.
  73. I have the same birthday as Tiberius, Roman Emperor, (42 BC) and actress Maggie Gyllenhaal. Neither has ever sent me a birthday card.
  74. I was the Smart One. My sister was the Pretty One. My sister would argue it was the other way around.
  75. Make room and watch in awe: When I dance it’s like Tina Turner on some good stuff.
  76. When I was a child, I wanted to be a figure skater, despite the fact that I’ve never owned a pair of ice skates. Must have been something about sequins.
  77. I’ve always wanted to be blonde, but I’m allergic to the chemicals in hair dye.
  78. I’ve read every issue of Life magazine from 1958-1988. I blame Life for my desire to see everything in black and white.
  79. My college directed-study thesis was on the complete correspondence between R. Cunningham Graham and Joseph Conrad and how the exchange evoked literary creativity. I’ve never met another person who knew about R. Cunningham or considered the project particularly interesting.
  80. This isn’t very nice, but I hate when people knock on my  front door. It seems ominous.
  81. I am, essentially, a loner. I join in and make nice, but I’m aware that’s what I’m doing and secretly resent having to do it.
  82. And, yet, I adore parties.
  83. I’m Scots-Irish, and, according to my father, half hillbilly.
  84. I consider a bike ride of less than 50 miles a waste of time.
  85. I went kayaking a few weeks ago and now I want one, bad.
  86. I love to be there, hate the journey, which is why I’m not an experienced traveler. And, I don’t want to go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. I want a better reason then the desire to stand around, looking up, saying, “Golly. Would ya look at that? Take my picture.”
  87. I had an imaginary friend when I was small, Mr. Duggie. He went everywhere with me. Concerned about my fantasy life, my mother decided to have my brother, which I consider an inadequate response to my creative expression.
  88. I am superstitious and try not to adopt the superstitions of others. I have way too many of my own.
  89. I changed my name to Kate when I became a swimmer. Before that it was Kathy. No one, except close friends and family, even knows my name is Katherine.
  90. I love the smell of fresh-cut hay on a hot summer night.
  91. I once joined Jacque Cousteau (and my step-father) in testing a two-man, personal submarine in San Francisco Bay. Afterwards we had lunch at the Italian consulate in Pacific Heights. The manufacturer was Italian and we were promoting the Sports and Boat show at the Cow Palace. Message: So easy a child could operate the thing – even a girl. Buy It. Loved the consulate’s dining room chandelier.
  92. Flan, caramel sauce, warm. I swoon.
  93. Tree roses and Christmas tinsel (not necessarily together) remind me of my mother.
  94. I cried for three hours after my son went to kindergarten. I’ve never gotten over it. When a mother says their child is going to start school, I pass the tissue.
  95. I drove a two-toned yellow and black Rambler in high school. The trunk could fit 3 bass drums, a tuba and one drunk cheerleader.
  96. I was on the debating team in high school. At my class reunion, the program had the letters NFL next to my name. I’m thinking football, the organizers are thinking National Forensics League lifetime member. Who knew?
  97. People told me the 7 True Things About Kate on my website needed to be fleshed out. Bet they wish now I’d cinched my belt.
  98. When people ask me what I’d do if I wasn’t a writer, I hate to tell them the truth. I’d be a hobo, unless there was an position opening for a wood nymph.
  99. Oh, last one. I’ve always secretly wanted to be Judith, Queen of France.


Me on Ole Paint on the ranch
in Marin County 1950s
Me and my brother Steve on the American River about 1960
where our family was dredging for gold. I swam the tie-down lines
back and forth across the river to secure the dredges. Took off my
wet suit, but not my diving hood. I loved that thing.
Hiking the John Muir Trail, a leg of what is now the Pacific Crest Trail
Gold Country Rodeo summer 2011


Great Aunt Eva and me on her ranch
in Lake County, early 1950s
Suiting up for a dive off Van Damm State Beach
in Northern Calif. about 1970
Learning to kayak in Fresno Slough near Mendota
a couple of weeks ago
Although I’ve seen a number of new authors provide detailed background like this as an introduction to potential readers, I have mixed feelings about doing it. I’m not sure readers care that much and it seems like the writing should speak for itself. Then I think about all the successful writers who make a living writing about nothing but themselves.
I think about writers who’ve carefully crafted personas — Mark Twain, Hemingway and Fitzgerald come to mind — and wonder if readers ever really know a writer beyond their work. In some cases, like Lady Gaga, artists are their own performance pieces, Freda Kahlo come to mind.
But, I’m just a girl who grew up outside, became a writer, and I’m very glad to meet you. Thanks for visiting the Word Garden and thanks for checking out my new book, Adrift in the Sound. It’s available now on Amazon.
 Adrift in the Sound, a novel about sex, drugs and Seattle in 1973, from local booksellers or online at http://www.amazon.com

Published by Kate Campbell

Writer, editor, photographer, novelist, short story writer, poet.

4 thoughts on “7 True Things About Kate

  1. I'm so happy to meet you. And here I thought that game making the FB rounds was useless. You have conquered the hell out of it! Yes, go on and write about yourself forever, you are interesting and talented.

  2. I'm so happy to meet you. And here I thought that game making the FB rounds was useless. You have conquered the hell out of it! Yes, go on and write about yourself forever, you are interesting and talented.

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