We had the good fortune of connecting with Katrina Anne Willis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katrina Anne, why did you pursue a creative career?
For me, it wasn’t necessarily a deliberate choice–it’s just who I am and who I’ve always been. I wrote my autobiography at 8, and on the back cover it said, “I hope this book changes your life just like it changed Katrina’s because she put her words on paper and let her feelings show.” I’m not sure my handwritten, yarn-bound, 20-page booklet changed many lives, but I had the right idea. Even at that tender age, I understood that words are powerful enough to transform lives, that vulnerability connects us at a soul level. I’ve always had an innate need to see and to be seen, to understand and to be understood. Studying English in college was a natural step, and creating a career in words was an inevitability. Because I gave birth to four children within five years, my creative career also gave me the flexibility to do both things passionately: mother and write.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art has always been about fierce truth-telling, about vulnerability, about authenticity. As the story of my life changed from suburban, heterosexual, married mother of four to gay, divorced learner and explorer, I’ve always sought to tell the hardest stories with equal parts honesty, reflection, and introspection. Like most humans on this earth, my path was not an easy one, but it was one filled with abundant love, heart-wrenching loss, and a glorious, necessary rebirth. The lesson I want to share most is this: Your story is ever-changing and unique. It is yours and only yours. It deserves to be told, to be shared, to be celebrated. If my art creates one “me, too” moment for another human struggling to understand her own story, then my life’s work has been worth it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am currently residing in Indianapolis, IN, and although it is considered by many to be a “flyover state,” it is a hidden arts and culinary gem. We’d, of course, start the week by visiting St. Elmo’s Steakhouse and eating their famous shrimp cocktail because it’s legendary in Indy. Throughout the week, we’d visit the amazing downtown public library, walk around Monument Circle, and spend most of our time sharing food and drinks on beautiful, LGBTQ+-friendly Mass Ave. A tour of the new Bottleworks Hotel would be a stop on our trip, and we’d follow that with drinks at the Garden Table or Mesh. Of course, we’d rent bikes and ride the Indianapolis Cultural Trail where we’d pass the NCAA headquarters and enjoy the sights along the canal walk. We’d also spend some time on the Monon Trail as we ventured through the eclectic Broad Ripple Village. A day trip to beautiful Brown County and a hike at Brown County State Park would leave us feeling at one with nature, and we’d take a quick drive to Bloomington, IN to walk the gorgeous grounds of the IU campus and enjoy dinner and drinks at Big Woods. A trip to Indianapolis wouldn’t be complete without spending some time in Speedway and seeing where the legendary Indianapolis 500 runs every May. Our final stops would be at Newfields and the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The person who deserves the most credit for my story is the person who–literally–gave birth to my storytelling: my mom. Single mother, number one fan, and champion of all my endeavors, my mom is fierce, fabulous, hard-working, kind, hilarious, and beloved. She made room for all my dreams and gave me both the roots and wings to pursue them.
Mary Claire Willis