Media & News:
Katalin Kennedy: Featured Author – Ottawa Book Expo 2022
Glengarry News – May 25, 2022 – https://www.pressreader.com/canada/the-glengarry-news
20 Questions – Katalin Kennedy
Area novelist Katalin Kennedy launched her fifth novel, Tree of Knowledge, at Cornwall’s Cline House Gallery and Studio on Saturday (May 21, 2022). In this exclusive interview, she talks to us about fleeing Hungary in 1956, the work she’s done on family violence initiatives, and the themes she enjoys exploring as a writer.
Q1. Tell us about your Glengarry connection. Did you ever live here? If so, when?
KK: My late husband, Duncan Scott Kennedy, grew up in the St. Elmo and Maxville area. His ancestors are traced through the book ‘Glengarry Stormont Pioneers’ co-authored by his late cousin R.B. (Bob) Campbell and Douglas McDermid. One of our younger-day photos and a bit of our story are included in the book. After his ordination, he was appointed to the Maxville and St. Elmo Presbyterian congregations in 1982. Our connection continued even after we relocated to Ottawa, through his family gatherings, major community events including of course the Highland Games and the many friends we have come to know. And now living in Cornwall, SDG networks abound!
Q2. How old were you when you discovered you enjoyed writing?
KK: I sort of trace my first memorable ‘writing’ after reading the ‘Trixie Belden’ series created by Julie Campbell Tatham. I recall writing my own sequel ‘novel’ about Trixie’s adventure at about the age of 12. By the way, I no longer write sequels, though I’ve been asked to do so repeatedly.
Q3. How many novels have you published so far?
KK: The ‘Tree of Knowledge’ is my fifth novel, released this year by Baico Publishing of Ottawa. I am eternally grateful to Ray Coderre. president and owner. He continues to encourage and support my writing since ‘The Women Gather’, the first book he published in 2012. I can hardly believe I am now celebrating my 10th anniversary as a bonafide published author, and with the same publisher. The recent fifth book launch at the spectacular Cline House Gallery in Cornwall was outstanding – pretty well ran out of chairs. I’m constantly amazed at all the kind people who keep attending my talk and book signing. My Facebook (Katalin Kennedy) has a number of photos of the event.
Q4. Are novels the only thing you write? If now what else?
I’ve belonged to the Regional Writers’ Society in Cornwall for a dozen or so years. When I joined, I was still a columnist for the Seaway News, but I wanted to get away from writing in the first person. The monthly meetings require a 750-word piece on a pre-set subject. That has led me to wander off into all kinds of categories including poetry, which I still weave into my novels, occasionally.
Q5. Who are your favourite writers?
KK: The first book I ever read in English was J.M. Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan’ after arriving in Saint John, New Brunswick, at the age of nine. It still holds a special significance for me. I studied Canadian Literature at University – oh dear that was half a century ago! Anyway, the poet Dorothy Lively was top on my list. I recall having sat on the floor at her feet during one of the ‘salons’ hosted by my Professor Robin Matthews. Margaret Atwood now tops my list. I can’t begin to fathom how her imagination can meander to create such vast and varying storylines.
Q6. What’s your pick for the Great Canadian novel?
KK: I’m influenced by whatever book I am currently reading. These serve as my ‘Master Class’ for writing. I look for variations in style, character development and endings. I belong to the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) book club. The novel that has moved me most this year has been ‘Five Little Indians’ by Michelle Good, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction. It’s about the life of children who had been taken from their families and sent to church-run residential schools. It’s sadly a current experience in our country, and a novel that should be on everyone’s reading list.
Q7. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
KK: In the ‘Before COVID Days’ I travelled a whole lot, both for work and later for leisure. And I participated in numerous community group activities. Now that we are able to meet in person again, I am thrilled to be with CFUW; among its diverse programs, scholarships are awarded to young women who will continue their studies post high school. I continue to support the Encore Education Centre as a student. And I’ve been an active member of the Probus Club of Cornwall and Area since 2003.
Q8. As a writer, do you find that there are any themes that you explore over and over again?
KK: I explore relationships, values, social justice matters, spiritual connections – among family, friends, community, the world at large and how individuals wade through their respective roles and journeys. The commonality among the books is that the storylines are not linear and most often layered. If the reader chooses to delve further, there may be more under the next peeled level.
Q9. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you?
KK: It has deeply touched my every being. Seeing the death toll among the communities throughout the world has been too horrendous to ignore. My greatest admiration has been for the countless healthcare providers! My mom has been in a superb long term care facility, Sandfield Place, here in Cornwall just before the outbreak of this relentless virus. My admiration for each staff member goes way beyond appreciation; they are indeed selfless individuals who provide comfort and kindness to each of the residents, as well as to me.
Q10. You and your parents were refugees to Canada following the Hungarian uprising of 1956. Tell us a bit about that experience?
KK: The escape during Christmas Eve is a story I’ve related in ‘Echoes of Footsteps’. My father had been a political prisoner a year after the Russians took over Hungary in 1948. He was held without trial, as I’m sure were thousands of people. My young mother didn’t know what had happened to him for four years. Only then was he finally permitted to send her a postcard. When he was released for a moment in 1956, there was no alternative but to leave. We were four months in a number of Austrian refugee camps while being processed. Arriving in Saint John by ship (thankfully through – I believe – Red Cross support) we were first billeted in Minto, New Brunswick, a mining town. Then we lived in Saint John where my father, a book binder by profession, became employed. In 1963 we moved to Ottawa. For me, there are many brief sort of fact-based memories, mostly of learning a new language, trying to fit in at school and with friends as my parents relocated, working their way towards a better life. Thankfully Canada welcomed us – a country that continues to support a mosaic of cultures.
Q11. Do you think your childhood plight gives you more empathy toward what Ukrainian refugees are feeling today?
KK: I’ve been asked this question a number of times. I want to believe that people in many parts of the globe have empathy for those living in, as well as those having to leave their homeland. Certainly, people in the neighbouring border countries of Ukraine must be fearful. My friends are in shock about the war. My feelings are probably different somewhat because of my experience. As a child, I don’t recall being consciously distressed. I did what I was told; I followed my parents to escape Hungary. Witnessing the war as an adult, however, I have double empathy. I have come to realize how my parents must have felt: having to leave everything they knew: their country, their home, their family, their possessions, their language – having no idea where their journey would take them. Too much to take in! I now try to avoid watching the devastation on television. The moment-by-moment reporting of horror is just too difficult. I am grateful that doors are again open to invite refugees, here in Canada and elsewhere.
Q12. Your late husband, Rev. Duncan Scott Kennedy, was a clergyman. What churches did he serve?
KK: As I said, his first appointment as an ordained minister in 1982 was with the Presbyterian congregations of Maxville and St. Elmo. In 1985, he became assistant minister at Knox Church and then minister at St. Giles, both in Ottawa. When I retired, Rev. Kennedy’s life came full circle, back to his home churches of St. Andrew’s and St. Elmo’s Presbyterian in Maxville as well as the added charge at Knox Presbyterian Church in Moose Creek, in 2005. Very sadly, he died the following year.
Q13. You used to be a columnist with the Seaway News. What was the thrust of your column and did it inspire you to begin experimenting with novels?
KK: Yes! For 10 years I keenly wrote a column called ‘Kindness’. It was a title given by the Editor, based on the first article I submitted, called ‘The Kindness Phenomenon’; it was about arriving and settling in Cornwall and how the community responded. With a title like that, my ‘thrust’ was fairly evident. A positive approach. Which was no burden, as that is my leaning anyway. Mostly I wrote about Cornwall and area communities, the people I have come to know in SDG, events, issues, as well as views about current topics. I recaptured the articles in my third publication “Echoes of Footsteps.” Although writing 500 words for a column was something comfortable for me – having written countless briefing notes in Health Canada – I needed to explore further, and hence began my first novel, ‘The Women Gather’.
Q14. Your website (katalinkennedy.com) has a section dedicated to Marlie Stories. What’s that all about?
KK: Thank you for noticing! This is going to sound complicated. The main character in my second novel, ‘Reconnecting’ is Marlie Nemes Deering who is an author. I don’t enjoy writing in the first person, so I created some fantasy short stories told through various fictional characters. I included these in my third book ‘Echoes of Footsteps’ under the title, Marlie Stories. Some of those are found on my website. And, although I don’t write ‘sequels’, Marlie reappears as one of the tourists, a peripheral character in my fourth novel ‘Crossing the Threshold’. I tend to hide an ‘easter egg’ (a hidden message) in my novels, which might make reference to a previous book.
Q15. At one point, you worked with Health Canada’s Family Violence Prevention Program. What did you do there?
KK: I worked at Health Canada, Social Service Programs, for the duration of my 30-year career. The last half had been as program manager of major national projects across Canada on seniors’ and women’s issues concerning the prevention of abuse and violence. I helped develop projects with both provincial government and nongovernment organizations, women’s groups, researchers, health care workers, academics and clergy. These were intended to serve as tools for front line workers. The end product of the work became publications which may be accessed at the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence.
Q16. You are a graduate of Carleton University. In what year did you graduate and what degree do you hold?
KK: A Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in English Literature with minor in Religious Studies from Carleton University – wonderful years there; I also got my Mrs. at the same time.
Q17. Since your last name is Kennedy, are you any relation to the late US President, John F Kennedy?
KK: My husband’s Kennedy family background is Scottish – and JFK was Irish I believe. There may have been some connection eons ago. The only time I recall benefiting from the Kennedy name was being upgraded at the hotel I stayed in during my work trip to Singapore and then again on the flight back home. That was a looooong time ago. The other day I had to telephone back and spell out Kennedy after not receiving a confirmation email I had been promised. My family name is Hungarian – András.
Q18. What are you working on now?
KK: Book 6. I never discuss the title nor the content until the manuscript is ready for editing.
Q19. Which of your books would you most like to see be made into a movie and who would you like to have star in it?
KK: Some readers have suggested my novels would work that way. I don’t think most books ‘translate’ all that well to film. Each is a different medium. Having said that, my preference would be the novel ‘Crossing the Threshold’. The coach tour would give a panoramic view and history as it rambles through Europe; the journey would also play out the stories of the assorted travelers. Perhaps my homage to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales! Emma Watson might be the right Sophie Szarvas character – all grown-up from being Hermione Granger on the Harry Potter films.
Q20. If you could, what would it be? visit any part of the world, which would it be?
KK: I’ve been fortunate to travel across Canada during my work life. As well, Husband and I took many trips through Europe. And more recently, I alone have been to China, Britain, Eastern Europe and Italy. Italy – always Italy, again and again!
©Katalin Kennedy (June 2022)
Kennedy’s fourth novel speaks of personal quest through return coach tour
Francis Racine – Published on: December 18, 2019 – Standard Freeholder
The work, which took the writer about one and a half years to complete, revolves around Sophie Szarvas’ trip to eastern Europe aboard a coach tour, the same trip she had previously taken with her father 20 years earlier.
“I want people to know that this story isn’t about me,” said the author before the small crowd gathered. “It’s what I call plausible fiction. It’s a creative trek through places with which I am somewhat familiar.”
The backdrop for the novel — set in eastern Europe, is familiar to Kennedy. She, along with her parents, escaped Hungary as refugees on Christmas Eve 1957. The subsequent travel that brought the family out of European country resulted in the author swearing off ships.
“I have a need to be on solid grounds, having spent 12 horrendous days on a ship’s last voyage in 1957,” she said.
This then lead Kennedy to travel aboard trains, which lead to the inspiration for Crossing the Threshold.
“My husband, the late Rev. Duncan Kennedy and I, began to take coach tours in the early 1970s, early on in our marriage,” she said. “We had limited funds and we also had limited vacation time. Coach tours became a wonderful way to take holidays. That meant spend all our time together. They became a very exciting way to be together.”
Even after her husband’s passing in 2006, Kennedy continued to undertake coach trips.
“It continued to be my way of exploring new places and returning to memorable ones,” she said.
It therefore did not come as a surprise her most recent novel focused on a coach trip.
“It is not simple a travel story,” Kennedy said, “but also a personal quest. Through Sophie’s mystical experiences and relationships with her fellow sojourners, including with the enigmatic John, she hopes to resolve the doubts about her past and her possible future.”
New book from Katalin Kennedy Echoes of Footsteps
Published on September 17, 2016
CORNWALL, Ontario – Katalin Kennedy launched her third book, Echoes of Footsteps, at the Cornwall Library on Saturday, September 17.
The book is a mix of true stories, poetry and fiction.
The first part of the book is a narrative about Kennedy’s childhood and how her and her family escaped Hungary and the Soviet crackdown that followed the 1956 uprising.
The second part of Echoes is a collection of poetry and the third part are stories that are a mix of fact and fiction.
One story from the third part of the book she shared at the book launch was about a beloved king, captured and imprisoned in a village. When the king was released he gave two small treasures he had with him in his cell to a young man who was kind to him.
When Kennedy’s father was imprisoned by the Soviets before their escape he wrote and bound two small books he hid in his cell. One book was dedicated to Kennedy and the other to her mother.
In Echoes Kennedy also shares stories from her friends in Cornwall, including some from her time writing with Seaway News and from her friend, Councillor Bernadette Clement.
Kennedy was a long-time contributor to Seaway News and has lived in Cornwall for thirteen years.
From Seaway News, June 08, 2015
Former Seaway News columnist, Katalin Kennedy, pens her second novel, Reconnecting.
CORNWALL, Ontario – “I had forgotten that I used to write,” said the eloquent Katalin Kennedy, who had, for several decades, put her passion for words aside. “I wrote when I was younger; I wrote poetry through high school and university.”
Kennedy has certainly made up for lost time, with the release of her second novel in just a few years, Reconnecting, to be launched next Saturday, at the Cornwall Public Library.
She said that she started writing again, after her retirement from the federal government, because she felt left “out of the loop.” After joining “every group in Cornwall” and happy that she did, having met some great people, still felt something was missing.
“I didn’t know what the heck my passion was and as I looked back, I realized that it was in writing.”
So, on the advice of a friend, she submitted some articles to the Seaway News and within days, Rick Shaver, the paper’s publisher, offered her a monthly column, which she wrote for 10 years.
Writing a novel was the eventual direction of her path.
“I thought, give it a try and it worked, interestingly, told through articles, using the method used as a columnist,” she said of her first effort, The Women Gather, published in 2012.
Three years later, Reconnecting tells the story of Marlie, a writer, and three friends. All older and alone, they have decided that they a going to live together in Ottawa in the same condo complex. Each is very secretive about their background, but as their friendships evolve and develop, they gradually start to tell their stories.
“I would say that it isn’t about me, but a lot about my emotions, tiny snippets of experience” said Kennedy about her inspiration for the book. “There are snippets of people I know in them.”
Did she finally find her passion, in writing? … a resounding “yes.”
“That was it. I did find the passion and I found that it wasn’t so much in the getting to the end, but it was the doing it that was giving me all the satisfaction. That is where my joy is.”
Reconnecting, by Katalin Kennedy, available from Baico Publishing Inc., Ottawa, is making its debut on Saturday, June 13, 2 pm, at The Cornwall Public Library. Visit www.katalinkennedy.com, for more information.
May 20, 2013 – Literary Diva Interview on Blog Talk Radio – “The Women Gather”:
Interview with Author Katalin Kennedy by Lorna Forman
CFN – “The Women Gather” by author, Katalin Kennedy is a learning journey that readers can identify with. I found it absolutely fascinating and uplifting. Starting in the late 1990s, “The Women Gather” journals the phases our society has gone through, the problems and resistance encountered and projects our world into the year 2066. It shows that there is a positive, potential future for all of us, men and women alike.
“I was a long standing fan of Margaret Atwood in my English Literature days at Carleton University in Ottawa.” Katalin told me. “I had been immersed in Twentieth Century Literature and the endings were so negative – they didn’t give me hope.”
Katalin’s career included managing major national projects as Program Consultant on Seniors’ and Women’s Issues with Health Canada’s Family Violence Prevention Program.
“I was exposed to the negativity and what their lives were all about – a sense of hopelessness prevailed.” Katalin explained. “Even the films reflected that. Is that what we are about? I don’t accept that we need to be dark and disillusioned.”
Katalin’s positive attitude is not surprising. She and her family escaped Hungary in 1956 and landed in Saint John, New Brunswick. She now lives in Cornwall and writes a monthly Kindness column for The Seaway News.
“The Women Gather”, reflects author, Katalin Kennedy’s passion to put forth her belief that the world can, indeed, create a more positive future.
“The Women Gather” takes place in Lemuria, Ontario, at a teaching retreat for women, which originator Nora Fényes-Bryson created to provide a safe haven for women to rediscover their true selves and make the world a better place. The Norean Order spread throughout the world and women from these wide spread Sanctuaries are now attending the “Gathering” Symposium in the year 2066 to report and share their journey. The Norean Order addresses society – each person has their own struggle, yet feels there is hope.
“I started writing it in 2005 and essentially finished it in 2008.” Katalin explained. “Because I was doing hundreds of other things, writing was what I needed to do but a personal life situation made it difficult – I had to find a way to get back into the stream of it.”
Katalin feels that the delay was a positive thing as the years and other experiences , brought new bits to it allowing the characters to evolve to a deeper level.
“I had set up a strong plan so I knew where I was going but over time they – the characters – became more dimensional – more individuals and, oddly enough, real people in my mind.” Katalin said. Because the characters changed I had to shift the ending.
It is a book filled with symbolism. One particular image is a white stag.
“The white stag reminds me of the Unicorn, an image from my Hungarian background.” Katalin went on to explain how the Unicorn played a role in her life from her University days when she studied Comparative Religion. “ It seemed right to include it.”
“When I had finished writing, I felt that I had lost a best friend.” Katalin told me. “I wanted that friend back but of course, the next step was to publish it.”
“I am trying hard to step away from how it will be received – although it does make me wonder how it will be received.” Katalin said with a laugh. “It will take on a life of its own – that is the joy. There is so much in the book and each person will find their own lesson. Even as a superficial reader there is a point where it has to grab you to give you a message.”
Personally, I have read the book three times and each time found yet another level of understanding.
“This is not autobiographical.” Katalin pointed out to me. “My emotions and experiences are in there – after all you write about what you know, even if it is empathetic.”
Katalin is hosting her Book Launch on Saturday, July 21st at The Cornwall Public Library. It will be in the Program Room on the second floor between 2:00 – 4:00 PM.
Federal retiree gathers women to solve problems
By Cheryl Brink, Cornwall Standard Freeholder ~ Thursday, July 19, 2012 9:58:31 EDT PM
The Cornwall resident is launching her debut tome this weekend, seven years after she first began formulating the idea.
“It was my first attempt at writing a complete novel,” she said. “I tackled something bigger than things I had been writing before.”
Kennedy moved to Cornwall in 2003 after retiring from the federal government, and began looking for new ways to fill her time.
“I had to reinvent myself and find out what was my passion,” she said.
She said she was inspired to write the Women Gather after years of being surrounded by negative outlooks on the future.
“I really don’t see life that way and I really needed to address it,” she said.
Kennedy said plenty of her experiences as a public servant dealing with seniors issues and violence prevention were factors as she begin penning the story.
The focus, as the title implies, is on the role of women in a future society.
“As much as we’ve come such a long way, there’s still so many areas that are not open to us in the same way,” said Kennedy. “How do the young women of today fit into the balance of being contributors on an equal footing?”
She said politics is one example of a sector still dominated by males.
Her book is set in 2066, but intertwines flashbacks with the main story line: a conference of women determined to find ways to improve the world.
Kennedy said the plot didn’t take long to formulate, but the writing process was lengthy.
“I was just going back and forth to it,” she said. “It was one of those things, I really didn’t want to get to the end.”
She said she finally understands when other writers talk about their characters taking on a life of their won.
“I had a plan,” said Kennedy. “But I loved the story and how it evolved.”
She wrapped up the book in 2008, but spent another couple of years working to have it printed before Ottawa-based Baico Publishing Inc. picked it up. A couple of local artists helped her with cover art and layout.
“It’s pretty exciting,” she said.
With 300 books already off the press, Kennedy is hoping to bring some copies to shops around Cornwall. It will also be available at Chapters and through Baico.
“I just want it to be accessible,” she said. “I would love the world to see it.”
Kennedy said Baico has inquired about a sequel to the Women Gather, but she’s already started to work on a different story.
“It’s probably going to be about women as well,” she said. “My message is positive; I have strong hope for humanity.”
Kennedy will be talking about her first novel at the Cornwall Public Library on Saturday, and also doing a brief reading before signing copies.