Writing Coach Interview: Kate Foran
Continuing our series of interviews with our writing instructors, here’s the latest installment: an interview with Kate Foran!
Kate Foran has a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Mount Holyoke College. Since then, her interest has been in exploring the spiritual roots of social change work and figuring out how to live out her commitment to racial and economic justice. She currently sits on the board of Two Coyotes Wilderness School where her older daughter is getting ready to graduate from a Wild Seed to a Black Fox in their homeschool program. In addition to teaching with Brave Writer, Kate’s funky job history includes freelance writing projects, living in an intentional community on an organic farm, gardening at a 250-acre park, museum education, historical interpretation, running programs for urban youth, and nonprofit communications.
What kind of a writer were you in high school?
I was a prolific journaler and an aspiring poet.
You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
A deep purple. Porphyrogene. It means “born to the purple,” as in “of royal blood.” But I like to take it literally.
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What is one of your favorite classroom moments?
I have so many. I especially love it when I see frozen writers get free, or when the student writing taps into some deep and arcane interest I knew nothing about. I also appreciate the popular culture primer I get through kids’ writing. It helps me speak intelligently with my daughter’s friends and my niece and nephews about Ninjago and Pokemon.
What inspires you?
People who take risks for their conscience.
What do you work toward in your free time?
I’m trying to get to know my bioregion. Who originally lived here, what are the names of trees and the songs of birds? I grew up here in Connecticut, but I am still surprised by how much I don’t know.
What would your autobiography be called?
“She Has Done What She Could”
If you were an animated character, who would you be and why?
I’d be one of the Pokemon characters that the Writers Jungle Online students write about, who can evolve under sufficient conditions, like Happiness or Friendship or through conflict. It makes me ponder what sufficient conditions might be for the growth of writers and the growth of human beings.
Which superpower would you like to have? What is a superpower you already have?
It’s not really a superpower, but it seems like one to me: I wish I could sing! A super power I already have? Hmm. I manage to balance empathy and good boundaries at the same time.
Where would you go in a time machine?
I used to work at a living history museum that depicted life in the 1830s, so I traveled in a time machine every day for a job. Now I am pretty sure I’d be well-suited to life as a hunter-gatherer, especially as I learn more about their economies based on reciprocity and a sense of “enough.” Foragers also have more leisure time than we do! I would go back to a time when my ancestors were land-based tribal bands telling stories around the fire.
If you could be Batman or Robin, which one would you be?
Robin. Sidekicks are underrated. Truly, though, superheroes annoy me. I had a sign once that said, “In the battle between good and evil, it’s always the people who get killed.” I’m more interested in the heroism of someone like Ella Baker, who helped everyday people work together to fight for change. (Way to get serious, huh?).
If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why?
I love willow trees. A grace that bends, growing out of the muck. Or I’m thinking of a rare old birch I know. Birches are among the first species to regrow in a disturbed habitat. This one has done that work and has grown mighty and thick.
What would the name of your debut album be?
Stay Put by The Society of High Functioning Hermits.
What’s your favorite smell? What memory does it remind you of?
When I was thirteen and obsessed with L.M. Montgomery, I was dissatisfied with the cover art of the books. I made my own book covers which included bookmarks with a lavender and rose sachet attached. Just a whiff of those scents can transport me back to whole Saturdays and Sundays wrapped in blankets and absorbed in those stories.
What was your favorite toy growing up?
My American Girl dolls. I let my daughter play with my collection, but I must admit I still cringe every time she shares the Victorian accessories with the Pioneer girl.
What’s the one food you could never bring yourself to eat?
Whale meat. Sylvie, my seven-year-old, is a devoted advocate of these beings, and we have a family membership to the Cetacean Society International.
Cake or pie?
When you were little, what did you want to be?
A museum educator or historian. I used to give imaginary tours of my room, explaining my Walkman and hairbrush and clothes as if they were artifacts in an exhibit.
What book on your shelf is begging to be read?
I just finished Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and Ecology in New England by William Cronan. It was one of the first “eco-histories” written, and it has enriched the way I read my landscape. Also, there’s a poetry reading by Lauren Schmidt coming up and I want to read her book Filthy Labors. She teaches poetry at women’s shelters and her own poems draw on those experiences.
How has your experience working in the area of social justice informed your life as a homeschooler?
I think it helps me not take any societal norms for granted. There’s that famous quote by Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” I feel that way about what kind of education is possible as we experiment with homeschooling/wildschooling/life schooling.
You belong to an in-person writing group. How has that experience been helpful to your growth as a writer?
Honestly, with two young kids and life’s business I probably would not prioritize my own poetry but for the deadlines of our monthly gatherings. When I’m in “writing mode” I find I bring a quality of attention to my life that doesn’t happen when I’m not mulling over a poem idea.
The feedback is so motivating and gratifying. I think it’s similar to the way feedback works in Brave Writer courses. It’s almost better than publication to have an audience who is rooting for you, who really wants to hear what you’re trying to say and wants to ask questions. The poets in my group are some of the smartest, most well-read people I know, and their company and their work make me want to be a better writer and a better person.