Threshing of Straw comes out Dec. 1
By Sarah Nigbor
ELLSWORTH/STOCKHOLM – An Ellsworth Middle School English teacher’s debut novel will be published Wednesday, Dec. 1 and much of it she wrote at the Ellsworth Public Library or McDonald’s while she waited for her children to finish practices.
“Threshing of Straw” by Kim Catron won The Ohio Writers Association Great Novel Contest of 2020, and along with that, a publishing contract. It will be available online as an ebook and in paperback through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powells and other online booksellers. People can also ask their local bookstores to order it for them.
Catron moved to Stockholm with her family in 2016 after spending much of her life in Massachusetts.
“I have found the Midwest to be everything you hear – friendly and inviting,” Catron said. “Both of my children graduated from Ellsworth High School and had a wonderful experience.”
Catron’s husband, Darren, became the pastor of Lund Mission Covenant Church in Stockholm in December 2016. Prior to that, she was a high school English teacher in Massachusetts (where she grew up) for 22 years. She has taught eighth-grade language arts at EMS since 2017.
“I also help with choreography for the high school musicals and directed the middle school musicals ‘Shrek’ and ‘Frozen,’ which never was performed due to our first Covid lockdown,” Catron said.
Their children were actively involved in plays and musicals at EHS, but didn’t yet have driver licenses. Catron would drive them from Stockholm to EHS for practice, then go to the library and write there until it closed at 8 p.m. Then she would head to McDonald’s and finish writing there until the kids were done with practice at 9 p.m.
“Threshing of Straw” is a historical era fiction novel taking place in early 1960s Georgia. It’s about an African American family (9-year-old granddaughter Macey May, her mother Rose, grandmother Cora Lee and Macey May’s white father, Curtis Johnson) and secrets revealed over the week of Thanksgiving.
The book’s back cover description reads: “A grandmother who only ever wanted to protect her two little girls. A mother who did the unthinkable years before. A father lost in his memories of the Korean War, and a daughter caught in the middle of it all.”
Catron provided a summary of the novel, which according to one of the contest judges, has “excellent dialogue and characters that ring true. It’s obvious that the author has done extensive research, and this contributes to the realistic world she builds and the compelling conflicts her characters face.”
“Macey May Johnson knows something isn’t right when her Mama puts her alone on a bus to her Grandma’s farm with strict instructions to wait to be picked up at the station. She’s only nine and never been allowed to travel by herself before, but her Daddy’s gone and the bills can’t be paid.
“And Macey May knows her family keeps secrets. She can feel it in her bones. Her Grandma keeps secrets from her Mama. Her Mama keeps secrets from her. Her Daddy, well, he keeps them even from himself. And now Macey May has one of her own. A terrible one. But which secrets are meant to be kept, and which ones are meant to be told?”
Catron’s friend back home in Massachusetts has the surname Johnson, and was fostering a baby named Macey. One day the name Macey May Johnson popped into her head and she thought it would make a great name for a little girl book character. “I sat down not soon after and wrote the very first chapter of the novel all at once,” Catron recalled. “I then had no idea what to do with it, or where it was even going, so I put it away for at least a year.”
The rest of the novel fell into place while she was walking around a lake one summer morning. Macey May Johnson refused to leave, she says in her author’s note, so she sat down at her computer and wrote the book’s first chapter. After leaving it be for years, the characters insisted, so to speak, that she finish writing about their lives. She wanted to explore those relationships and see where their story went.
Catron said she realizes some people will point out that she’s not African American, nor is she from the South. She is a transplanted New Englander in the Midwest.
“Some will argue that I have no right to pen a story from the point of view of a skin that does not match mine or from a place that I have no roots,” Catron said. “Some will argue that the job of a writer is to step into spaces outside our own and see through other lenses.”
Ultimately, “Threshing of Straw” is a story about a family who keeps secrets from each other and the way they reconcile their past in order to live in the present and have a future.
“If readers come away connecting with the characters’ brokenness and hope, then I have done what I set out to do,” Catron said. “If readers find themselves propelled into the larger discussion regarding cultural appropriation in literature, then I have done much more than I thought possible.”
To learn more about Catron, her book and to follow her journey, visit kimcatron.com or find her on Instagram and Facebook @kimcatronauthor