Kathy A. Zahler

© 2009 Bob Ellis

Born in Seattle but raised in Ithaca, New York, Kathy A. Zahler has come full circle, moving back to the Finger Lakes region in 1991, marrying her best friend’s brother, and continuing to write without having to live across from Tompkins Square Park. Kathy’s bread-and-butter is El-Hi textbooks, and on a typical day she may work both on kindergarten math and high school literature or on 10th grade social studies test prep and MCAT Verbal Reasoning. Kathy and her husband have a newish house they built from the ground up on 150 acres of fields and woods, where they raise chickens, peacocks, guinea fowl, pheasants, chocolate and yellow labs, turtles, fish, the occasional black bear visitor, and their teenage daughter, Olivia.


What was your favorite book when you were a child?

All the E. Nesbit books, the Narnia books, A Wrinkle in Time, Charlotte’s Web, anything by A. A. Milne or Lewis Carroll, the Moffats series, the Melendy quartet, the All-of-a-Kind Family series, the Betsy-Tacy books—and Nancy Drew mysteries by the bucketload.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

It changes regularly. Lately, I’ve been musing on this line from de Tocqueville: “When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.”

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

The people whose books I can’t wait to read include Elizabeth George, James Lee Burke, and Richard Russo. There are many, many others, but those three consistently delight me.

Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?

Whenever I wasn’t reading, I was writing. It seemed a natural fit. I’m an educator by training and calling, so writing for kids made sense, too.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?

Educate yourself before you try to communicate ideas to others. Before you put a word on paper, think about where you intend to go—and why.