Sykesville’s award-winning writer, Katherine McCord, talks circumspectly about her past. A teacher, housewife, and mother, McCord has seen what most have not and probably come out the better for it. But there are questions.
Some of those questions are answered in the pages of Island and Living Room, her first two novels. But after reading her newest book, My CIA: A Memoir, you can feel her frustration in trying to rediscover the man the book targets: her father, David McCord.
In her book, she sets out on a journey that searches both her past – as she knows it – and that of her CIA father, quiet and confident. According to McCord, her father was very loving but distant. She describes him as “unknowable.”
McCord’s father left no clues about his missions and excursions, leaving her with only censored sheets of paper.
“I look into the past but also focus on the present. The present gave me a wonderful husband and two daughters,” said McCord. “Other than how I write about it in My CIA, I don’t really explore beyond that except how it filters into the present, how it changed our family, and how it changed him, because I was never able to resolve the particulars. He died and isn’t here to ask and I don’t think I would have felt comfortable asking, anyway.
Still, as an artist – a 48-year-old fiction writer – she has to follow her muses. In McCord’s case, her muses are her family: Tom, her engineer husband, and her two girls, Adi and Greta.
“My family is very supportive. My husband reads everything. He’s like my first big reader and I know by the look he has in his eyes, how he holds his body when he’s done, if it has connected with him. My girls are incredibly supportive, too. Always have been. They are curious about my work, but it’s just the norm to them: their mom writing. Especially since they were born into the lifestyle.”
She also credits Telling Our Stories Press, which published her book. Telling Our Stories Press, as McCord describes it, is a small and selective press. It is not a vanity press, she said.
As for how she created her newest work, she said, “Writing My CIA felt like a new experience, but I do think all my writing and work before led up to it. I wouldn’t have been able to write it had I not done the two previous books.”
McCord was born in Monrovia, Liberia, in Africa. She wrote her first novel when she was 8. And yes, she always had a passion for writing. That can be seen in her other works: Island, which is straight poetry; and Living Room, which is prose poetry.
“Living Room was one more step to prose writing,” said McCord.
“My inspiration for my books is my life,” said McCord. “I look at my past [through my work] but keep my feet firmly in the present.”
She also won the coveted Baker Artist Award, a Baltimore-area award that spans different artists and media.
That award has encouraged her to focus on another work in the making.
“The newest work is tentatively titled Spring Explains. And I’m working hard on it, always writing. But I just plain don’t know where it’s headed yet. It’s in prose, but two poems came first – I think they may introduce it. I don’t know. I’m listening a lot, throwing a lot away.”