Katie Winkler–Advice for English Composition Instructors

Welcome, and thanks for being with us.  Can you tell us your full name?My official name is Mary Katherine Winkler, but most people know me as Katie Winkler.

What do you do for a living?
I am a teacher and a writer. For the past 22 years, I have taught English composition and literature at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock, North Carolina. I also taught English and German at a Christian school in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, where I met my husband, and for three years in Rome, Georgia. Here in North Carolina I taught as a graduate assistant at Western Carolina and East Henderson High School before landing my dream job at Blue Ridge. I started writing for publication over 30 years ago and in that time have published fiction, non-fiction as well as had two full-length plays produced. In between teaching, jobs I’ve had to keep me going include secretary, job trainer, custodian, hostess, cashier, newspaper deliverer and exercise girl for polo ponies and Arabian horses.

How old are you?
I am happy to say that I am 57 years old as of April.

Where do you live?
My husband, adult daughter and I live in the Hooper’s Creek area of Fletcher in northern Henderson County, North Carolina.

Where can we find you on the internet?
My blog is “Hey, Mrs. Winkler: Musings and Mutterings about Higher Education in the South.”

I also have a story appearing in “Unbroken Circle: Stories of Cultural Diversity in the South.”  The book can be purchased on Amazon or at this website.

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
It’s hard to pick, but  I will narrow it down to three: London, Tuebingen in the southern part of Germany, and Northern California, especially the Redwoods and tidal pools.

Tell us about Tuebingen?
Tuebingen is an old university city right on the Neckar River in Baden-Wurttenburg, which is the state to the west of Bavaria in southern Germany. It is my favorite city in Germany because of its mix of old and new. There is a beautiful Natur Park (like our national park system) called Schonbuch that is within walking distance of the city. Other favorite walks include the walk to the castle Hohentuebingen and to the pretty little chapel on the hill–the Wurmlinger Kapelle.

What would be your favorite meal?
My grandmother’s pot roast with carrots and potatoes. Now that she is gone,  I make a pretty mean pot roast myself, but it could never be as good as hers.

Pet peeve?
I used to let so many little things bother me–just don’t have the energy anymore.

Favorite book?
I have no absolute favorite books because I love so many, but some of my top choices include the Bible, “Pride and Prejudice,” “Paradise Lost,”  and ”Lord of the Rings.”

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for….?
I would ask that people pray not for me alone, but for a healing of the divisiveness in our country and all the people adversely affected by it.

Are you married or have you been?  Any kids or pets? 
I have been married 28 marvelous years to the best man I know–John Winkler. We have one beautiful child, Hannah, who graduated last year with honors from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina with a BA in Music–voice concentration. The fuzzy family member is Stormy, our 13-year-old cat, aka “Alarm Clock”.

What are mornings with Stormy “Alarm Clock” Winkler  like?
Can I tell you about this morning? I should mention that it’s not totally Stormy’s fault. She has hyperthyroidism, and although she is now being medicated, she is not quite to normal again, but even then, the vet says that her incessant meowing may be more related to age than the thyroid issue. Anyway, this morning, she started up at 4:30. These are not soft, cute little meows. They are loud and annoying as heck! I finally broke down and got up to feed her. As soon as she slurped up the last of her food, she started meowing again. I would be almost asleep and then be rudely awakened again and again. Finally, I gave up.

This morning was a bit unusual. Usually the “alarm” goes off at 6:30, which is fine when I’m teaching, BUT NOT IN THE SUMMER!!

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Many people don’t know that I sing and play guitar and a little bit of piano. There is a reason few people know this.

Hah!  If you had any spare time, what would you do with it? 
I would travel more. Places I have never been but want to go include Scotland, Wales, Canada, the American Northeast and Northwest, the Caribbean, Japan, New Zealand, Iceland and Africa. Of course, I want to go back to England and Germany as many times as possible.

 Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.
I was in school in Tulsa, Oklahomah when the Shah of Iran fell. Because Tulsa was the oil capital of the US at that time, we had many Iranian oil magnates living there. One Iranian oil baron had to get his mother and sister out of Iran because of the political turmoil. He hired me to tutor them in English, but they only spoke Persian! We must have been a sight going around the mall with them in their burkas speaking in Persian with me trying to point out items in English. Another time I did the same with a Chinese couple who worked at the restaurant where I worked. They hired me to teach them English, but it was a bit easier because the husband spoke some English and would translate for his wife. I also worked translating German letters for a Tulsa lawyer who raised a German breed of dog called a jaegerhund. The breed is rare in the US and his supplier only wrote in German. For the life of me, I can’t remember how I fell into these experiences, but they were great.

Can you give us some advice for English composition instructors?
My best advice to English composition teachers is for them to be active writers themselves, preferably pursuing publication and risking rejection. Nothing has helped me teach the writing process more than completing it over and over again myself. Although I have been teaching for almost thirty years and know my subject well, my own writing process reminds me of how important revision, editing and proofreading are–something I can then legitimately require from my students. Writing for publication has helped me hone my skills, learn shortcuts to good writing and pick up tips on breaking through writer’s block. (Secret: there is really only one way to break through–start writing.)

Perhaps most importantly, pursuing publication and being rejected frequently keeps a writing teacher humble. The sting of rejection reminds us of what it is like to be a student, having someone scrutinize our writing and find it wanting. The joy of acceptance teaches us to find ways to publish our students’ work, even if informally, so they too can experience the empowerment that comes with expressing themselves well and sharing their achievements with the greater community.

Thanks much!  Good luck with Stormclock.

Her new name!

And a first in my blogging career.  I’ve never re-christened a pet before.  Katie, thank you for letting us get to know you a little bit, and blessings on your endeavors and adventures.

Thanks. I appreciate the opportunity to share some about myself.

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