The Hippo


May 28, 2020








Meet Katrina Kenison

Water Street Bookstore: 125 Water St., Exeter, Thursday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m.
Toadstool Bookstore: 12 Depot Square, Peterborough, Saturday, Dec. 3, at 2 p.m.
Contact:; to buy the book, visit

Labor of love
Kenison ditches traditional publishing for Moments

By Kelly Sennott

 It’s probably fair to call Peterborough writer Katrina Kenison a publishing expert. The former Houghton Mifflin Co. employee was the series editor of The Best American Short Stories anthology from 1990 to 2006, and in 2000 was co-editor of The Best American Short Stories of the Century with John Updike. She’s also seen the process from other side — she’s got three books under her belt, all published by Grand Central Publishing, a division of the Hachette Book Group.

But for her latest project, Moments of Seeing: Reflections from an Ordinary Life, Kenison wanted total creative control. She wanted to choose the title, cover art, paper, typeface size and style, in addition to content. So she did.
The book, released Nov. 1, is a collection of essays from her blog, which she started in 2009 at the request of her publisher to promote The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir. At the time she didn’t know what a blog was and felt dubious after her first entry.
“I thought, who’s ever going to find this?” Kenison said via phone last week. 
She needn’t have worried. Readers of her books found her. It helped that her memoirs — which also include Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry and Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment — received rave reviews from prolific writers, like Ann Patchett, and popular magazines, like O: The Oprah Magazine. 
Kenison wrote about children growing up and leaving home, about loss — of friends, family pets — and about midlife changes. Mostly, she wrote about everyday moments. Today she has almost 6,000 subscribers.
“I discovered that I love the essay form. It was so liberating to just get to sit down and, every week, write about what was going on in my life,” Kenison said. “And to my surprise, this community of readers just grew. … The blog became, in a way, almost like an online notebook. And unlike so many other blogs about one specific thing, like gardening, cooking or parenting, mine is just about life as it unfolds.”
Four years ago, she thought about collecting these essays in a book, but her husband beat her to the punch and created 50 copies for her 2012 Christmas present. Kenison dispersed them to friends and family and offered a couple to website readers. Leave comments, she told them, and she’d pick a winner at random. 
“I got hundreds of comments from people saying they wanted to buy it,” Kenison said. “I realized [the essays] really do tell a story about a certain time in a person’s life that’s pretty universal, certainly for mothers. … I wrote about some pretty challenging middle-age losses that everybody I knew had experienced some version of.”
While recovering from two hip replacement surgeries last spring, she got her chance to spend more time with these pieces, choosing the ones that best contributed to the narrative. Regular readers might notice an energy in them different from what’s in her memoirs.
“These are even more intimate and more personal because, working on a book, you’re working in hindsight; you’re looking back and you’re writing about things you’ve kind of figured out. But these are very much of the moment,” Kenison said.
Peterborough artist Sue Callihan painted the cover image, her friend Rickie Harvey edited, Kase Printing in Hudson did the printing and Hancock book designer Ellen Klempner-Beguin helped create the perfect balance of beauty and comfort.
“It’s really important to me that this book be a beautiful object, not only that the content be beautiful, but the book itself be physically beautiful. Ellen, the designer, and I spent a couple hours at the Toadstool Bookstore looking at all these beautiful books,” Kenison said. “Even though I was an editor in New York for years and published books with New York publishers, I never got to make these choices before — the type of paper, the cover design. I got complete artistic control.”
Kenison got to make decisions a big publishing house might not.
“We weren’t going for the cheapest price. ... I was out to make the most beautiful book I could,” she said.
It’s a gamble, to publish this way. Writers who work with big companies get advances; this project had up-front costs. It’s also up to her to make it sell. But it’s the kind of work she enjoys, and already she’s sold more than half her first printing of 2,100. 
“The book was a labor of love but also a labor of joy,” Kenison said. 

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