Children’s author, Kathleen Irish, has always loved little people and great big stories. “I love to be with children because then I become a child. I have lots of friends among them because I can share their imagination. I guess I never grew up,” she laughed.
Known to generations as Grandma Kitty, she used to host tea parties for little girls where they would dress up and share stories over cups of Grandma Kitty’s Giggle Tea. As a preschool teacher, Kathleen loved to dress the children up in costumes and let them act out the stories they were reading. As an actress herself, she loved to put on costumes and act out other people’s stories. Now she is a published author of the story she created, Sir Thomas of Dale.
The book was written twenty years ago for her grandson, Dale Thomas who was in a boys’ home. He told Kathleen, “Nothing ever works out for me. I don’t get to keep anything,” so she wrote the story for him. “I wanted something for him alone. He is now 33 years old, and he loves the idea that he is Sir Thomas of Dale,” she said.
“I never intended for the book to be published,” Kathleen said. “I wanted it just for Dale. I wanted to do something to encourage him.” Then the opportunity arose and she sent it to a publisher who made the process fast and easy. “I think I did it wrong. You’re supposed to get rejection slips before you are accepted,” she laughed. “I can’t say enough about the publisher, Warner House Press. It took a third of the time we expected. It was like they read my mind and added better things to it.” They used an old world font to reflect the medieval adventure of Sir Thomas, a friendly dragon, a mischievous leprechaun and a magical sword. They took extra care in reproducing Kathleen’s original watercolor illustrations. “We couldn’t get good copies, so I sent them the originals. It was like sending my child off to college, to send my work in the mail. Who knows what will happen in the process?! They sent them back just as fast without any damage. It really was a wonderful experience. I was not expecting to have such fun when I was doing it.”
“The book wrote itself,” Kathleen said, of the poetic verses that recount the fantastic tale. “My muse was two things,” she recalls. “One was the ‘Night Before Christmas’ [by Clement Moore], because it was all written in poetry; and I was a fan of [poet] Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I love poetry, I’ve written lots of poetry and submitted lots of it for publication. Poetry like that has gone the bye,” she laments.
Classic literature was Kathleen’s constant companion in her growing up years. By the time she was 11 years old, she had read every book in the children’s section of the library, and persuaded the librarian to let her check out books in the adult section. She remembers skipping movies with friends so she could go to the library to read instead. “I’m an army brat, and moved a lot–twenty-seven times. I went to four different high schools in two different countries. I have no childhood friends. I had to make my own stories and live in my own sometimes crazy world.” So books became her refuge. “Books are my friends. They are my encouragers. My character and faith was grown by books I read.”
“I taught my two children when they were young, ‘Books are your friends’. Sometimes that resulted in a friend getting hit over the head with a book,” she laughed. She still reads a lot. “I read 100 fictional books a year. That doesn’t count non-fiction books and Bible reading.”
Kathleen enjoyed creating her own art, but lacked encouragement and opportunity to develop the skill when she was growing up. She remembers a day when she was a little girl at her grandfather’s house. “He was a difficult man to please. I drew a rose. He said, ‘Kitty, that was good.’ I impressed my grandfather!” Later she would try her hand at painting. “Mostly I would do oils until I discovered watercolor, which is faster. I have always liked painting. When I had cancer in 2013, my friend took me to Port Aransas. I got up every morning before the sun came up and painted with water colors; I painted seascapes. It was my way to get through the decisions that had to be made. Many times I would leave the paintings and say, ‘That’s trash.’” But when people saw the serene watercolor sunrises, they wanted to buy them. “I sold paintings ‘by accident’, because I never thought they were good enough for anyone to spend any money,” she confessed.
Encouraged by admirers of her art, writing, and years of teaching and entertaining children, Kathleen is as surprised as anyone that she has published a book that can now be purchased at Warner House Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. “My biggest and best encoucourger is my Savior. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit, none of this would be possible. He has been with me throughout this process.”