Writing to understand one’s self and others

Student interview with Kathryn Stucki

Kathryn Stucki has enjoyed writing since elementary school. Winning a ‘best in class’ writing award encouraged her to continue. Growing up, she was a frequent journaler and avid reader. After college, she considered journalism, but when she participated in National Novel Writing Month, she found she loved writing fiction.

She’s been with the Collective since its inception. She joined her first Amsterdam course hoping it would introduce her to like-minded people and found the courses so rewarding that she continued online when she returned to her hometown of Atlanta.

Recently her job with Delta Airlines in revenue management enabled her to move back to Amsterdam with her husband. She promptly signed up for a Level IV in-person course, where she’s been working on a story based on her time teaching English in Shenzhen, China.


What is your writing process?

Having a consistent practice is difficult for me because I’m not the most scheduled or organised person, nor do I have a lot of free time these days. I keep a notebook with me at all times to jot down my thoughts and ideas as they arise rather than trying to write at a scheduled time.


Why do you write and what inspires you?

I find writing therapeutic. I’ve noticed that I gravitate towards writing about times when I’ve struggled to understand other people’s motivations and behaviour. Writing down variations of these incidents helps me to understand other people better and gives me the chance to analyse my own responses to them. Sometimes, when I wish I’d done things differently in life, I can have my character do it for me in fiction.

Travel inspires me to write, as do people in my life who have touched, challenged, or confused me in some way. I also like to write stories that provide a true escape from everyday life; I once wrote a detective story set in the French Riviera.


What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned from the course?

The importance of separating mood from tone. I used to write proper sob stories when I was younger, but these courses have shown me that mood is more strongly conveyed when emotions are kept beneath the surface of the writing – when they are shown rather than told. 


What was your biggest fear when signing up for your first course and how do you feel now?

Beforehand, I was very nervous about people – especially strangers – reading my writing and sharing their thoughts and questions about it. But this fear was short-lived, and I truly value the constructive and encouraging feedback I receive.


How has writing affected your life and what are your current writing ambitions?

Writing has made me feel that I am more than just my job – I have a creative side that is all my own.

I’d like to continue developing my story about living in China. It was an exciting time in my life, and I met such interesting people there, many of whom I still think about daily. I’d also love to write a modern version of Little Women, based on my mother and her four sisters, who had a complicated upbringing.


Favourite books?

I love the intimacy between the main characters and their thoughts in both Normal People and Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. Also, the way Rooney explores people’s motivations.

Another favourite is A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. Her style is very associative and, although the narrative bounces around in time and place, it somehow still makes perfect sense.


Lastly, tell us something unusual about yourself.

I can partially (but not fluently!) speak five languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, French and Mandarin.


Interview by Penny Vegter-Fry 

Photo credit: Kirsten van Santen

16 May 2024

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