This post is an article from the Winter 2018 issue of the OYAN Review and has been edited slightly for publication on the blog. It was written by Mark Richardson at the Cedar Mill Community Library.
On Novemer 8th, author Cat Winters visited the Cedar Mill Library to discuss The Steep and Thorny Way and her new book, Odd and True. There were nearly thirty teens in attendance, and some of them had read everything she had written. Cat went through her writing process in detail regarding The Steep and Thorny Way, an historical fiction book set in Oregon about a biracial girl investigating her father’s death in the 1920s. She said that the book was inspired by Hamlet.
Ms. Winters told the kids about Oregon’s particular history regarding African Americans and the exclusion laws that kept them from settling in Oregon long after we became a state. She discussed the history of the Klan in Oregon and how many place names and famous buildings are named for Klan members. For example, the recently renamed Unthank Hall at the University of Oregon was previously named for former UO professor and KKK leader Frederick Dunn. For Ms. Winters, story ideas evolve from historical events that stick with her. The exclusion laws were events that she felt current teens should know about. The Steep and Thorny Way came out of that genesis.
For an interactive part of her presentation, Ms. Winters had several teens come up and read scenes from her novel and from Hamlet to compare the language and events. It was interesting to see how she worked some of the ideas from Hamlet into her novel.
During the last half hour, kids asked some great questions about her writing process and posed in front of a large poster of her new book. She even brought props so they could pretend to be either Odd or True.
In general, the event was a great success and enlightening to the kids in attendance. Have her out if you get the chance!