Katharine Kroeker re-launches her book

Katharine Kroeker re-launches her book

Writing has been a journey of healing

Katharine Kroeker

Each person’s life could be a book. Katharine Kroeker’s is several, the books about her own experiences living with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis told for adults and children.

The writing started when she was in her 20s and was driving cab in Ontario after what she says can only be described as an awakening.

“I realized I didn’t like me. I had been putting myself down a lot. I thought I could protect myself when people made rude comments about my looks by laughing at myself before they did,” she said.

She had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since she was five but it was not diagnosed until she was 11 and in a wheelchair. She came home from school one day in tears after she saw a teacher imitating her limp and her mother insisted that she not return to school, so she was educated at home.

“There was so much getting rejected, with jobs, with boyfriends, with people thinking they could get arthritis from me. I realized that I was a good person, I was fun to be around, I didn’t hurt people, I was honest. I became much more positive. I just didn’t put up with other people’s BS and ignorance anymore. I did everything with a more positive attitude.”

She has had numerous surgeries.

“I had been promised that after my face surgery, I would be given a volunteer job at the arthritis society near my home but when I was ready, they told me they had hired someone. I went home and had a rye and coke and thought to myself, ‘this is too bloody much. I’m 26 years old and I’ve been through so much that I could have lived three or four lives.’ I got out my old manual typewriter and started writing everything from my earliest recollections.”

Kroeker wrote the book, later published as Too Much for One Lifetime, in nine months. She submitted it to McCLelland & Stewart publishers and was pleased that Jack McClelland read the manuscript and wrote a personal letter encouraging her to keep writing even though her work was not yet ready for publication.

“I realized that he was right. I shelved the book but I was glad I had written it. I could see how I had been through so much and survived. I was changed because everything I did, I did with a more positive attitude. It’s nice to be able to enjoy your own company. You don’t have to depend on other people to make you happy.”

More surgeries straightened her hands and she found she didn’t always want to wear long sleeves to hide them and she cared much less about what other people thought.

In 1999, friends introduced her to computers.

“It opened up a whole new world to me with e-mail and the Internet. I’m a Guess Who fan and I joined a fan group — we call ourselves Wholigans — and I made a lot of new friends.”

One of them was an editor in California who supported her through rewriting her book and it was done in 2003. By this time there had been other life changes. Kroeker’s father had died and she and her mother moved to B.C., first to Kelowna and then to Lumby.

“My mom was my strength, literally and figuratively and my best friend. We always helped each other.”

Her mother, Tena Kroeker, who died in 2006, formed a publishing company, Short Hand Publishing, named for Katharine, who has one hand shorter than the other because of surgery.

“I find it hard to promote my books but I had some wonderful comments on it. People tell me they can’t put it down. My mother suggested I try a children’s book about some of my experiences being teased and bullied. She always told me not to give up, to keep going, to be positive.”

Kroeker has published three children’s books and done author visits to Okanagan schools. She has more children’s books planned and has completed another adult book updating her life story, Too Many Speed Bumps, A Journey of Healing. She has also started a novel and does editing for other writers.

“I like the children’s books because I can be a lot more goofy in them. They’re all stories from my life but with some poetic licence.”

One of the books, Ricky, the Rickety Rocking Chair, tells about the time she and her brother rescued an old rocking chair from the junk heap, from the chair’s point of view. The chair is still in her home.

Kroeker is now dealing with another health condition which was not diagnosed for a long time.

“I want to write a third book, my life after Mom. I don’t know when I’ll be strong enough to do it. I know my mother would want me to do it. I’m relaunching Too Much for One Lifetime with a new cover which I think represents the book better.

“I’ve been through a lot and I hope that readers will realize that they can survive as well.

“My faith has got me through everything. I can still smile, you need to have a sense of humour about yourself. I will write more. There are always things rolling around in my head that I should be writing.”

For more information about Kroeker and her books, e-mail thekat@telus.net or see www.ShortHandPublishing.com.