Now in her fourteenth year at Andover, Kathryn McQuade, Instructor in English, balances teaching classes, developing a summer workshop, house counseling in Nathan Hale House, and more. McQuade’s first novel, “Two Harbors,” was published in 2005 under the name Kate Benson. Right now, she is hard at work on a second novel, “The Translator’s Daughter.”
McQuade’s newest novel is the first of a two-book deal and is set for publication by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, in the summer of 2019. The novel will follow a group of students at a boarding school who unsuccessfully try to solve the murder of a teacher. This murder becomes a turning point in the students’ lives after school, which McQuade tracks throughout the novel.
“This book feels entirely different, particularly because the
first draft of [“Two Harbors”] I wrote when I was in college… for an academic assignment. That’s not true anymore obviously, so I have to go seek out my prompts and my assignments… In some ways, I felt I was writing the stories just for me and nobody was watching, and I could do more experimental things with them, and that was really fun,” McQuade said.
On campus, students describe McQuade as upbeat and encouraging whether in the dorm or in the classroom.
“Every single day when she walks into class, she’s literally like a beam of sunshine, and she’s smiling so brightly. She has this positive, happy countenance always, and she’s so energetic… I think it’s hard to have a balance of being really positive and happy but also encouraging your students to grow… but she’s both,” said Lila Brady ’18.
Nathan Hale resident Phoebe Bicks ’21 agreed. Bicks said, “Ms. McQuade is such an amazing house counselor. During dorm meetings, even if we have a problematic topic to discuss, she always always adds a positive tone to things and is always smiling.”
Although she says she loves her job now, McQuade did not always want to be a teacher. She found Andover through the Teaching Fellow program in 2004 and has continued to teach English and writing ever since.
“I was a teaching fellow here in 2004, which was a little bit of an accident. I actually thought for a really long time I was going to go into publishing… then realized very late in college that I actually didn’t want to work in publishing. I had to suddenly figure out what I wanted to do and what I thought I wanted to do was teaching, so the Teaching Fellow [program] is a really amazing program because it lets you come learn how to be a teacher,” McQuade said.
McQuade normally teaches English-200, but this year she is only teaching the Senior elective English-501 Creative Nonfiction, in which students write and workshop short personal essays based on life experiences.
“One of the most standout things about Ms. McQuade as a teacher is the attention she gives to your feedback… She reads all of our four-to-six page drafts, and she will return them to all 40 kids within one to two days. That is incredible… Not only are they just returned quickly but they are extremely helpful and she pours her heart into this class. It’s so evident that she cares so much about it and she loves supporting her students,” Brady said.
Some students in McQuade’s creative writing elective are looking forward to the release of McQuade’s second novel because they want to experience their teacher’s own writing style.
“I’m curious to see what her novel’s going to be like just because I want to know what her writing style is… Although we do get criticism and feedback from her, it would be fun to see how she writes, too,” said Alexandra Loumidis ’18.
According to McQuade, she decided to reduce the number of classes she took on this year to focus on designing a new summer writing workshop. This workshop, open to female eleventh and twelfth graders across the nation, will meet online and in person during Summer Session. Two weeks of the workshop will take place on campus, and three will take place at the writers’ homes.
“I think one thing that’s really wonderful about writing workshopsisthatyougettobeinareally supportive environment with other writers, but often when a writing workshop course ends, all of those supports fall away. What I wanted to design is a hybrid course that slowly ramps up to independence… I really wanted to teach this independence that writers need to have to get work done when they’re not in an academic environment through that gradual shift in the class,” McQuade said.
McQuade was inspired to create the workshop after discovering statistics about gender bias in the writing and publishing industries. Because of this research, McQuade decided to dedicate the summer program to empowering and teaching young female writers.
“I hadn’t realized until I was researching the issues that there are still a number of gender imbalances in publishing. I started to ask whether that was a problem with publishing and with bias or whether that’s a problem that might start earlier in writing classrooms — that we might not encourage female writers to get their work out there enough to be published at the same rates as male writers,” said McQuade.
In addition to teaching, house counseling, writing, and developing a summer program, McQuade is also leading a workshop at the Young Writers Symposium hosted by the student club Andover Writers’ Alliance on Sunday, February 18. McQuade’s workshop will focus on creating new ideas in fiction. In addition, she will give the keynote speech and address writing on unfamiliar subjects.