Nebraska Center for Writers

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CATHERINE KIDWELL was a graduate of the University of Nebraska — Lincoln, where she received a bachelor's degree in Art and a master's degree in English. She began writing her first novel, Dear Stranger (1982), as a writing assignment in a short story course, and later developed it into her master's thesis. Kidwell has the distinction of being the first person at UNL to simultaneously publish her creative thesis in two countries: the US and Great Britain. To date, this work has been published in nine different language versions. Describing herself as a feminist writer, Kidwell is also the author of The Woman I Am (1979) and I Couldn't Put It Down: How to Write Quality Fiction in Ten Easy Lessons.
She was born Catherine Arthelia on Jan. 14, 1921, in Lowry City, Missouri, the daughter of a salesman and a dental receptionist. She married Don B Kidwell in 1946, and like many women in her generation she became a housewife — rearing children, keeping house. But her life changed in 1969 when she entered the University of Nebraska — Lincoln as a freshman with her daughter, Jane.
Kidwell went on to get her master's in English and was the first UNL English graduate student to write a novel as a creative master's thesis. It was this thesis that her semi-autobiographical novel, Dear Stranger, was based on. Set in Lincoln at The Cornhusker Hotel during World War II and the thirty years following the war, the book topped the Los Angeles Times best-seller list in 1984 for six weeks.
She taught writing workshops and a fiction-writing course at Southeast Community College, saying, "We [writers] are people who see life a little differently, recognizing the dramatic possibilities in our own crises even as we experience them. ... Being a 'good' writer means more to me than having money or fame, although I would have no objection to having it all."
Kidwell suffered from Parkinson's disease for the past four years of her life, dying on February 17, 2002 at the age of eighty-one.

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Nebraska Center for Writers