I settle into reading the menu at the Main Street Bakery in Grapevine waiting for Kathleen Rodgers. She enters the cozy lit bistro, all energy and enthusiasm. We smile and hug, glad to see each other. The last time we met here was to plan our tribute/memorial service for a mutual dear friend, Drema Berkheimer who passed away last summer.
Kathleen should be a poster child for Stone Soup. Beginning in January 2008 she was a regular, twice a month, at Mark Noble’s gathering. In those days the Garret lived above the shop of Paperbacks Plus on Skillman and La Vista. The Garret was truly a garret then. We had shabby digs with old stuffed furniture, tables marked with the patina of coffee and wine glass rings, bookshelves and posters yellowing around the edges topped with a certain air that combined a bit of mildew, dust and decay.
It was wonderful.
Kathleen and her family moved to Texas in 1992. She was already a published writer, starting from her high school newspaper, moving on to cub reporter at her local paper, and had pieces published at Family Circle. And, she was writing her first novel, The Final Salute, drawn from her experience as an Air Force wife.
While her sons were in school, she kept regular office hours writing, submitting, free-lancing and tapping out the keys. She joined some local writer’s groups but could never find the right fit. For a while she took expensive classes at a Dallas university. Kathleen learned a great deal in that writing community. However, something was missing. Plus, the tuition budget was cutting into her home improvement budget: she wanted granite countertops in her kitchen!
She heard about The Writers Garret on KERA and parked that info on the back burner. La Vista and Skillman were a long drive from her home in Colleyville. Not only was it a trek, but the thought of taking classes with real writers was intimidating. (I suppose the Garret overdid its sales pitch with its close ties to bestselling authors.)
Desire overcoming intimidation, Kathleen began with Stone Soup. Here she found her writing home. Support, critique, helpful suggestions and community! Writers are a lonely bunch: scribbling away in coffee shops, libraries or a corner of the kitchen. We need community. We need to bounce our words, our stories, basically share our hearts and souls, with other strivers to know that what we spend our time doing is worthwhile.
Main Street Bakery is getting crowded as our brunch spills over into lunch time. The waitress very politely asks us several times if everything is okay and, do we want any more to eat? Eventually, we get the hint. Of course, we are not done talking. I climb into the passenger seat of Kathleen’s yacht like vehicle and she drives down streets lined with old houses, wide porches, great set-backs. She points out that this house is where she decided one character should live and across the street is the basis of the home of a different character. And for her work in progress, yet another old home.
It is this specificity, this use of what is there for us to see and use, that strike me. Kathleen is always writing. She works her craft using the tools available to all of us, borrowing details that bring scenes to life. The stuff that engage readers, letting them in on the texture of her characters’ lives.
Kathleen has a mantra: “God gave me a teaspoon of talent and a gallon of determination. When mixed together I milk it for all it’s worth.”
That she has. Kathleen Rodgers has four published novels, with a fifth one in the works. The Final Salute put her on the radar for military novels. Her second novel Johnnie Come Lately won the 2015 Gold Medal from Military Writers Society of America (MSWA). She is a 2019 MWSA Mike Mullins Memorial Writer of the Year Finalist.