Geneseo graduate completes book series

Claudia Loucks
Author Kate (Anderson) Ristau, Portland, OR, and formerly of Geneseo, shows the books she has written and published with number six on schedule to be published in 2022.

Her final book in the “Shadow Girls” series is finished and will be published in 2022, and author Kate Ristau shared that she is “so excited to see this series to the end.”

The book is steeped in folklore and mythology, as are all of Ristau’s books as she said her background is folklore and mythology…”I’ve been reading myths since I was a kid.”

Her book series, “Shadow Girls,” takes place in Ireland and is published through a small press, Not a Pipe Publishing, and Ristau said, “They are, to put it simply, a dream publisher. They encourage all their authors to work together and support one another. My final book in the ‘Shadow Girls’ series is finished, but still needs a fair amount of editing before it gets published in 2022.”

Ristau, the former Kate Anderson, daughter of Jeanne Anderson, Geneseo, now lives in Portland, OR., with her husband Bob Ristau, also formerly of Geneseo. The couple has a son.

After graduating Geneseo High School, Ristau graduated from Illinois State University where she majored in English. She then was a student at the University of Limerick for an Irish Studies program that explored the Irish language, folklore, and music…”My time there shaped the stories I would write later,” she said. “I learned that the best stories speak right to the reader – they resonate with them. My professor stood in front of the class and told us the story about the time a friend of a friend met a leprechaun late one night by the fairy tree. I learned that stories that stick tell us something about the world we live in – the way it works and who we are.”

“That’s the thing about mythology, the stories that last are the stories that matter to a culture and to a people,” Ristau said.

She went to graduate school to study folklore and mythology and it was the stories she read about Ireland that sparked her first book, “Shadow Girl,” which Ristau said “is about a girl who is born into our world but kidnapped by the fey. She returns to our world to discover the story of what really happened to her as a child.”

“The draft of that first book flew out of my fingers, but it was years and many revisions before it was actually published by a small press,” she said.

The young author shared that she grew up “reading and writing…I still have stories I wrote in third and fourth grades, and so many poems scratched in notebooks and journals. I always knew I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure how someone actually became a writer. Now I know that you become a writer by, well, writing!”

Ristau added that just as important as writing is reading, and said, “You have to read too. Reading is your chance to explore other worlds and learn from writers. In fact, I have learned the most from books I hated.”

Her background in folklore and mythology was part of her childhood when her Mom read stories to her from Greek mythology. “They helped me understand how stories work and what matters to us,” she said. “We watched ‘Clash of the Titans’ over and over until the VHS tape was scratched thin, and we turned into ‘Hercules and Xena Warrior Princess’. I kept thinking about those stories and writing my own. I still remember teachers like (Stephen) LaCroix encouraging me and believing in me.”

Ristau writes her first drafts quickly, “but they need a lot of work before they are ready for readers,” she said. “My first reader is, and always will be, my Mom. She reads the book, tells me I’m amazing, and then gives me advice that always makes the book better. After I make her edits, I share the book with other readers and make their revisions before my editor reds it through.”

Ristau’s newest book, “Wylde Wings,” went through “a heavy round of editing the last few years,” she said. “I actually got great help from two of my Mom’s eighth grade classes. (Jeanne Anderson taught at Geneseo Middle School prior to her retirement). They read the book and gave comments that helped transform the book.”

She received a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council to launch her Mythwakers series, a nonfiction exploration of mythological characters…”I am starting with the ‘Minotaur,’ of course. I’ve been reading about him since I was a kid, and I love sharing his story with new readers.”

“Wylde Wings” is now available for preorder on Kickstarter and all of Ristau’s books are available online at independent bookstores, and “at the library, of course,” she said.

Ristau is a firm believer in the power of libraries and she recalled reading through the stacks of books in her classroom while a student at St. Malachy’s in Geneseo.

“After school, we would head to the Geneseo Public Library to see what was new or uncover unexpected treasures,” she said. “I still get that feeling of wonder every time I walk into a library with my own son.”

“Since the pandemic began, I have also had a chance to help with the virtual programming at the Geneseo Public Library,” Ristau said. “It has been a joy to work with young writers as they explore their own new worlds and create fantastic characters.”

Her advice to other writers – “Being a writer is hard but writing itself is so rewarding. When I’m down in a story, the world fades away and I can tell truths that I couldn’t in any other way. Narratives have a way of revealing love and life and truth. When you write your truth, your world cracks open, sentence by sentence. You start to see everything differently. Just like mythology, a good story can lead us down to the core of whom we are and who we want to be. So, if you’re struggling, just keep writing. Keep telling your truth. The world needs your stories.”