The member diversity in the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) makes our goal of connecting, educating, advocating, and leading possible. As Bookwomen, we believe “Books Have Power.” The Bookwoman welcomes Kathleen Burkinshaw (WNBA-Charlotte) to the “Power Behind the WNBA” interview series!
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a Japanese American author residing in Charlotte, NC, who is a wife and a mom to a daughter in college. I also own a dog who is a kitchen ninja.
As soon as I could read and hold a crayon, I began writing. However, I didn’t start writing seriously until I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (a debilitating neurological chronic pain condition). My condition forced me to give up my career in health care administration.
Writing historical fiction satisfies my obsessive love of researching anything and everything.
Recent nominations for The Last Cherry Blossom:
- 2019-2020 Volunteer State Book Award
- 2018-2019NC School Library Media Association YA Book Award
- 2018 & 2016 Scholastic We Need Diverse Books Reading Club selection
- 2018 Sakura Medal Finalist in Japan
- 2017 NC Sir Walter Raleigh Fiction Award Finalist
- 2016 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Finalist (Southeast region)
Why did you join the WNBA?
In 2015, I went to my first WNBA meeting in Charlotte. I realized how much information could be gained by being a member and attending networking events. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend actual meetings/events because of my health issues. But I find the website and the newsletter, The Bookwoman, to be very helpful.
WNBA members are women from various areas in the book industry as well as from all over the country. Through the WNBA, a member can obtain various information from submission guidelines to marketing your book and even information on virtual reality tools in the literacy field. Members can benefit from experts in their local chapter and from other states.
Another aspect that interested me was that the WNBA is a non-governmental organization member of the United Nations. Because I’m a proponent of banning nuclear weapons, I have a great interest in the United Nations — especially since it passed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
What value does the promotion of books bring to your community?
The more we promote books to students/readers — especially diverse titles, the more united we can become as a community. Books are a way to open readers’ minds as well as their hearts.
What book has had a lasting impact on you?
Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata. When I read it in 2008, it was the first time that I saw a main character in a book that looked like me.
I admire Kadohata’s writing style, her world building, and the research she does for the historical aspects of her novels.
She also was kind to answer an email I sent her years ago. It with a one-page draft — which looking back at that now, I’m horrified by how bad parts of it were! She graciously gave me words of encouragement and advice. I realized then that I would like to write about my Japanese heritage, starting with my mother’s life in Hiroshima during WWII and surviving the atomic bomb.
Follow Kathleen on Twitter: @klburkinshaw1
Interview compiled by assistant editor Pam Ebel (WNBA-New Orleans).