got a phone call today from a friend whom I’ve never met in
person. Our friendship is almost entirely over the phone. She is the
only person who calls me on a regular basis from Beijing, or from
Italy, or from wherever she happens to be at the time.
call two or three times in a row, usually to offer a postscript to
some topic of conversation from the last telephone call. I know never
to leave the telephone for an hour or so after she has called me, or
I’ll be scurrying back to the phone the next time she calls.
as often happens after our phone conversations, she sent me an email
afterwards, thanking me for changing her life. She is fervent about
this. The thing is, I don’t think I did anything for her that
anybody else wouldn't have done. Anybody but a guidance counselor,
met her when I was working as associate editor for a magazine a few
years ago. She called me out of the blue one day and asked if we’d
be willing to run a weekly column if she submitted it. I almost had
to pinch myself over my good fortune. Hers was a name I recognized
immediately. Her books had been national bestsellers, and she had
appeared on more television shows than I could shake a stick at. I
never watched “The Today Show” or “The Tonight
Show,” but she was a regular on “The Today Show”
for many years and she was discovered by Johnny Carson.
told her I’d publish anything she wrote, sight unseen. She
responded, “I don’t write very well.” I said, “I
don’t care about that. I can edit.”
she said, “You don’t understand. I really
can’t write very well.”
many best-sellers have you written?” I asked. “I own
three of them.”
how many I’ve written,” she said, “but I had a good
a good editor. You get the ideas and put them on paper the best you
can. I’ll do the rest.”
went on to tell me that she had a severe learning disability. Her
ability to write was so poor that when she was in high school, her
guidance counselor said the only thing she might be good for in the
future was to be an auto mechanic. Have I mentioned that she was a
girl? Growing up in
the fifties? In rural
Utah? What was that
guidance counselor smoking?
that there’s anything wrong with being an auto mechanic. If
that’s what you want to be, go for it! But to be told you can’t
do anything except be
an auto mechanic just because you have a learning disability? That’s
my friend did not listen to the guidance counselor. She went off and
started a cottage industry relating to outdoor adventures. She was
discovered by Johnny Carson and has now been on more than 5,000
television shows. That’s a whole lot of television for somebody
who was told that all she could hope to be was a small-town auto
sent me her first columns, and she was right. She has the worst
writing disability I’ve ever seen. “So what?” I
told her. “Any editor can clean up your copy. You’re the
only person in the world who has the ideas you have. Keep sending me
your columns and your pictures, and I’ll make them look
beautiful for you.”
two of us worked together, every week like clockwork, until I got
laid off during the recession. By that time, a newspaper had also
picked up the column she was writing for us. She still keeps in
touch, having called me a half dozen times last week from China and
this morning from her home in Utah. The reason she called this
morning was to say she is sending me her new book, as well as a
glowing review of her book that she wanted me to read.
in all, she’s doing pretty well for someone who was told by her
guidance counselor that she didn’t have much of a future.
understand about guidance counselors. I took the career placement
tests when I was in high school, and the results came as a real
shocker. My tests revealed that I was either destined to be a
minister or a stripper. Yes, you read that right — a stripper.
That's not a furniture stripper. That's a "let me
entertain you" stripper.
have often wondered what kind of aptitude test would even suggest
that sort of career path for a high school girl. And how in the world
did I answer that series of multiple-choice questions to reveal that
I was either going to be a person of the cloth or a person whose job
it was to take her “cloths” off for an audience of
course, I could always have combined the two careers of being a
minister and a stripper. I'm sure that would have a big impact
on the collection plate. It would have been a lot more
lucrative than journalism!
can't help but wonder how many people are told by someone in
authority that they'll never amount to much — and then go on to
fulfill that prophecy. How many creative geniuses have been
shut down by a careless word from somebody who couldn't be bothered
to think of something positive to say?
of my favorite comic singers (maybe my only favorite comic singer,
come to think of it) is a Harvard math professor named Tom Lehrer,
who sprinkled comments before and after the songs on his record
albums. Before one of his songs he bemoaned the fact that people are
always talking about how they can’t communicate. Then he added,
“I say, if a person can’t communicate, the least he can
do is to shut up.”
how I feel about guidance counselors who tell people they shouldn’t
set their sights any higher than to be an auto mechanic or an exotic
dancer. And that’s how I feel about the rest of the population,
when they try to tell people not to reach any higher than the floor.
Who’s to say what a person can accomplish when he sets his mind
to it? Does it really cost so much to say, “You can do it,”
when someone faces a challenge?
you want to make someone’s day, offer a word of encouragement.
Everybody needs a cheerleader. Why can’t that cheerleader be
Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than
most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the
possiblity that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at
A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham
Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight
because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she
wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She
was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.
Kathy married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five
years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A
Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.
A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy still moderates a weekly column
("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored
Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which
would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name
and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.
Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she writes a blog entry every
weekday. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically
allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.
Kathy teaches the Young Women in her ward. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.