About the Author: Catherine Newman '90

Catherine Newman '90 Name:
Catherine Newman

Current Home:
Amherst, MA

Place of Birth:
New York, NY

Fieldston High School (Bronx, NY) / Amherst College / Phd in Literature from UC Santa Cruz

Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
Because it was such a wonderful school. The slightly less good reason is that there was a picture in the brochure of a snowy blue twilight, one golden-lit window in a dorm, with a young woman reading in the golden light, and I thought, romantically, "That could be me!" (And it was.)

Most  memorable or most influential class at Amherst:
I took so many great classes with so many brilliant, patient, inspiring professors. But when I think about, say, my WAGS 11 class, I think: that's when I became a feminist! I remember tearing through the monolith in a thrilled fever, reading Audre Lorde and Gayle Rubin and Eve Sedgwick and feeling everything about the world simultaneously click into place and blow wide open.

Most memorable or most influential professor:
Judith Frank taught my Fiction 1 class the spring of my senior year, and she taught me so much about writing and reading, and about being a creative and responsible writer, reader, and, well, person.

Research Interests?
Kids, parents, teenagers, food, cooking, love, loss, gender, eating, death, sex, politics, books, babies, snakes, foraging, relationships, crafts, holidays, travel, and fortune telling. Among others!

Awards and Prizes:
The Elizabeth Bruss prize at Amherst College. Does a PhD count as a prize? I got one of those! Also a James Beard "Magazine of the Year" award for ChopChop, which is the nonprofit kids' cooking magazine I write and edit.

Favorite Book:
I would say Adrienne Rich The Dream of a Common Language, the same way I would say that Joni Mitchell's Blue is my favorite album: there is probably no book (or album) I've returned to as regularly or as gladly in the last three decades. That said, the best books I've read in the last year are the memoir Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and the novel All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. I am an insomniac with a headlamp, so I read A LOT.

Favorite Author:
I can't even.

Tips for aspiring writers?
Oh, you know, read a lot! Set small writing goals. I wrote my middle-grade novel from the incredibly modest goal of writing 500 words of it a week! Sometimes I wrote more, but sometimes I just wrote that amount, and in a year, it was done. Scan yourself for honesty as you're writing: if something is not quite true, see if you can make it truer.

Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author:
As soon as I learned how to write, in first grade, I filled journal after journal--those weird ones with the leathery-brown paper covers and the black spines--with stories about animate gumballs getting lost at Macy's, meatball machines in outer space, etc. I was that kind of kid. I was an English major at Amherst. Ann Hallock ('89) hired me to write for FamilyFun magazine in 1991: an article about bird houses! And I've been publishing ever since, with also a very long detour through getting a PhD. Now I write a lot for magazines still, as well as the memoirs, Waiting for Birdy and the new one, Catastrophic Happiness, and a middle-grade novel coming out with Random House in 2017.