Katherine Fast, Graphology, and a #giveaway

by Barb, typing on a cold and rainy day in Portland, Maine

Please welcome author Katherine Fast to the blog. Katherine has been an important influence in several phases of my life. We worked together at Information Mapping, where Kat was an instructor and course developer. We drifted apart after I left, as people did in the days before social media made staying in touch easy. Then I ran into her in Harvard Square. Exchanging info on what each of us was doing, we discovered we were both writing. Kat auditioned for and joined the writers’ group I was in, and so we went on for 15-some years, learning a great deal about each other as we critiqued the other’s writing. Then, together with group members Mark Ammons and Leslie Wheeler, we became the third set of co-editors at Level Best Books for six years. Level Best is the hands of a new group now, as is the Best New England Crime series we edited. I owe so much to those relationships and experiences, which have made my life immeasurably better.

Katherine is a debut author in novel-length fiction after many years of publishing short stories and non-fiction. She is also a certified graphologist and writes about handwriting analysis. She is giving away a copy of her debut novel, The Drinking Gourd to one lucky commenter below.

About the Book

After serving ten years in prison for dealing cocaine, a crime she swears she didn’t commit, Casey Cavendish returns to the small college town of Oberlin, Ohio determined to clear her name, finish her interrupted college degree, and build a new life. Her arrival coincides with an upsurge in drugs on campus. When her erstwhile best friend Jules, who married Casey’s old love while she was in prison, is found dead from an overdose of cocaine and alcohol in the cellar of the Drinking Gourd, an historic inn on the outskirts of town, Casey graduates from pariah to the prime suspect for murder. She must discover who betrayed her before she’s railroaded a second time, this time for life.

Much of the action takes place in the Drinking Gourd, an inn named after a song that helped guide fugitive slaves on their journey north to freedom during Abolition. The Gourd, once a safe house on the Underground Railroad, now serves as a restaurant and local watering hole, and is far from safe.

Take it away, Katherine

In my debut novel The Drinking Gourd, the protagonist Casey Cavendish, uses handwriting analysis to understand the personality traits of other characters and to help her write (well…forge) a suicide note.

Handwriting fascinates me. Always has. It reveals worlds about the person at the time of writing. I studied handwriting analysis and am a Professional Level graphologist, certified by the American Association of Handwriting Analysts. I’ve applied graphology professionally in hiring, head hunting, counseling, analysis of threat letters, and now in fiction. I’ve also taught courses in handwriting using my introductory text Graphology the Fast Way.

Formally, graphology is defined as a method of personality assessment based upon empirical examination of handwriting strokes. The marks on the page represent a unique personality imprint, a symbolic portrait of the writer’s intellectual, emotional and physical state at the time of writing. It cannot determine sex, age, religion, ethnicity or right or left-handedness, although there are some tell-tale signs that provide clues.

For a quick example, my script is small, rather heavy, and connected which, if you were a graphologist, would suggest that I tend to focus and become an expert in things that interest me. The angles that sometimes appear reflect a direct, critical, sometimes pain in the neck attitude, and there are definite hints of authority resistance…but enough navel gazing.

My interest began when I was seven. Our family broke up and my father was institutionalized in a state mental hospital in Maryland and my mother, brother and I went to Ohio to live with my grandmother. I loved my father dearly—a gifted and charming man afflicted with manic depression, now called bi-polar disorder. However, when he was manic he combined mania with alcohol and a temper, a volatile and dangerous combination. I was the only member of the family who wrote to him. My grandmother would hold his return letters out to me at arm’s length as if they were dead rats. His name was never mentioned in her household.

Even as a child, I could tell by the writing how he was faring because the extreme shifts in his moods were reflected in his writing. Tiny, light, downward slanting writing showed his spiral into depression and catatonia. Large, flamboyant script, heavy pressure that carved into the paper and writing that crowded the page were indications of ascent into mania. Of course, the telltale unicorns decorating the margins gave me another clue. I inherited the bi-polar gene and over the years, the fluctuations in my writing also attested to mood shifts which are now thankfully largely controlled by meds.

Handwriting is really brain writing and is as unique as a fingerprint, which is why it can be used to identify forgeries by forensic document examiners and also why you can always recognize your own writing no matter your mood. The brain instructs the hand what to do. Although age and infirmity can also change a person’s script, it’s the personality of the individual that shows in the way he or she writes.

I used it when I taught technical writing seminars to understand the students in class. They’d fill out a preliminary form before the class began. From the writing, I knew who would excel, who would be a pain in the butt, and who wouldn’t get the subject in this lifetime. As a contract instructor you’re only as good as your last seminar, so course evaluations were important. I’d tell the class not to sign the forms, that they were anonymous, but of course, I always knew who wrote what.

There’s a distinction between graphology—the study of writing to understand personality traits—and forensic document examination, the use of measurement techniques to identify the writer of a particular document. Graphology is not accepted as scientific evidence in a court of law. However, police, FBI, physicians, counselors and shrinks often call on graphologists for profiles in their cases.

Comment to be entered in the giveaway

Readers: I welcome your questions. How might an understanding of handwriting be useful to you in your profession? In your writing? Ask a question, make a comment or simply say “hi” and I’ll send a copy of The Drinking Gourd to one lucky commenter below.

About Katherine

Katherine Fast is an award-winning author of over 25 short and flash fiction stories. She was a former contributing editor and compositor for six anthologies of New England crime stories. The Drinking Gourd is her debut novel.

In her prior corporate career, she worked with M.I.T. spin-off consulting companies, with an international training firm, and as a professional handwriting analyst.

She and her husband live in Massachusetts.

68 Thoughts

  1. Welcome Kat, and congratulations on the novel! I don’t know how, but your release escaped my attention (and, while I saw you a few times in passing at Malice, I didn’t get a chance to chat).

    My college roommate (a very long time ago) studied graphology and I’ve always found it fascinating. Am off to order your book.

    1. Thanks, Edith! Hope you’re feeling better. With all your pseudonyms, would be interested to see your writing…

    1. Even when we scribble to ourselves, we can recognize our own writing! And so can a handwriting expert because our writing is as unique as our brain which instructs the hand. I’m lucky if I can find my list…

  2. I like to ask my high school students to write rather than type at times. The ease of their script tells me if their thoughts are flowing or if they’re into the material. It is becoming a lost art, I had them write a thank you letter to and had to teach them how to address an envelope!

    1. My husband is a teacher and he gets his students to write in-class responses to prompts…and then brings their writing home. Amazing how different the writings are! And how much you can tell about the writer’s development. These days with all the school shootings, I’m often looiking for disturbances and anger.

      Interesting that they don’t teach cursive in some schools now. Luckily we can also tell a lot from printing.

    2. When I taught English to 10th graders, I would make them hand write their rough drafts for their research paper. I would write notes on them to help them improve their papers. One girl came to me and said that she could not read my comment. I told her that I did not know why not as I wrote it very clearly and not fast as sometimes do in proofing 150 at a time. She told me that I did not understand as she could not read cursive. So, I looked back at all of their papers, and they were all printed except one that was written in cursive. It was eye opening. Cursive is already a lost art.

  3. Good Morning! I usually require my coffee before participation, but your book blurb pulled me in and then delving into your graphology background was fascinating. I’ve always found handwriting intriguing since I was little girl and admired my Aunt’s lovely script – her everyday handwriting was a work of art. Congrats on your new book! Time for coffee!

    1. I bet your Aunt was a lovely lady! I write a lot like my mother whom I greatly admired…but her handwriting is nicer with fewer angles.

      1. I’m curious about your thoughts on spontaneous mirror writing- that’s my party trick. 😊

  4. Congratulations on the new book, Katherine! What a fascinating career you:ve had. I’d love to know what my handwriting says about me. Then again, maybe not! Cheers!

  5. Thanks for the insights, Katherine. I’m hopeful writing will continue to be taught in schools; else, who will research our hand-written history? May the reception of your book exceed your highest expectations!

    1. Alas, friends and family have cottoned onto my craft and no longer send me written notes. How will we communicate when systems are down and there’s no longer a post office? Maybe revert to the telegraph.

  6. Congratulations, Katherine, on the publication of your book. I, too, was at the New Authors Breakfast. I am so sorry to see the demise of cursive writing among young people and wonder what block printing will do to handwriting analysis.

    Barb, I took training years ago in Information Mapping and found it invaluable in my work writing computer documentation.

  7. Thanks, Grace. I have to wonder if I was your Information Mapping instructor! I’ve found the organizational parts of mapping also help in writing fiction. I think Faulkner chunked things relevantly and then scrambled it all lup and left off all the labels!

  8. Handwriting analysis is interesting to me. I’ve read about it some in conjunction with other forensic and investigative techniques but haven’t found a good book about just handwriting. What happens as more and more switch to strictly computers and some schools don’t even teach writing anymore?

    1. One of my favorite books is Andrea McNichol’s Handwriting Analysis, Putting it to Work for You.

      What happens? Graphologists probably starve. Forensic document examiners will still deal with forgeries because we still sign our names to documents, although now we have electronic signatures…

  9. Your description of your father’s handwriting and how you became interested in this subject is both fascinating and moving. I have often wondered what a person’s handwriting can tell about him or her but never went any further. I’ve looked at family members’ handwriting and am sometimes surprised to see the variations from one letter or card to another. Recently, while cleaning out our basement, I saw some of my college notebooks and my own writing is quite a bit different now from what it was then.

    Congratulations on book #1. Your new book sounds terrific and I am rooting for Casey to clear her name. Is The Drinking Gourd real or fictional? It’s history makes it sound real, whether or no.

    1. I bet you’ve also changed some since the college years. Handwriting is really brain writing, so when your brain changes so does your script.

      The book is fiction, although it takes place in Oberlin, Ohio which was one of the stations on the Undergrouond Railroad. I set it in 1974 which almost qualifies as historical these days.

  10. One of my favorite books on handwriting is Handwriting Analysis Putting it to Work for You by Andrea McNicol. Most graphologists will probably starve or become forensic document examiners–we still need to sign documents, and there are still those nasty characters who like to forge signatures. Some of us retire and write fiction.

  11. Oh my word, that’s incredible how much you can determine from handwriting!! Who was the serial killer in a-d above??

  12. Welcome, Kat and congratulations! When we lived in Dayton, Ohio the planetarium had a program on follow the drinking gourd and we bought our daughter the book. So, of course, your title grabbed me right away! Who is the serial killer in the sample?

  13. Yes, our handwritings change as we change. Luckily, because otherwise we’d be cases of arrested development. As we mature, so does our handwriting. (And as we fall apart, so does our script!) But we can recognize our own writing–some things about our personalities remain constant. That’s what a graphologist can see.

    The Drinking Gourd is fictional, but set in a real place (Oberlin, Ohio) and at times is perilously close to events that the author experienced…she didn’t go to prison! Hope you enjoy.

  14. Congratulations on the release of “The Drinking Gourd”! Sounds like a fabulous book and one that I would love the opportunity to read. Can’t even begin to imagine the heartache of being in prison for something you didn’t do and then think that it might all be repeated. The story definitely got my attention and it’s now on my TBR list.

    Find it fascinating that one’s handwriting can tell so much about a person. Thinking back and realizing how much my handwriting has changed over time, I’m assuming that evolved from maturity and life experiences. Think it would be fun to go back through past years knowing what events took place when and see how it might have affected my writing.

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy of your book!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  15. Thanks! b is Jeffrey Dahmer. The rest are from my writers group. Worrisome, no?

    Follow the Drinking Gourd is a beautiful old slave song. As you know, slaves called the Big Dipper the drinking gourd because the stars in the bowl point to the North star and freedom.

    1. I thought that it was b but did not know whose writing! Thanks for answering your questions for us to see.

  16. Thanks! You’ll find the changes interesting and also see that there is also some consistency between earlier and current writing.

  17. Hello, Kat, a huge congrats on the publication of The Drinking Gourd! It’s a book I know and love, having seen it in its various iterations over the years as a member of the same writing group, and I highly recommend it. As for graphology, it’s a fascinating subject, though I’ve learned the hard way not to provide handwriting samples lest I be revealed as a wannabe serial killer. Good luck w/ the book!

  18. My handwriting used to be so neat and precise. Now it is…not. I don’t even want to know what that says about me.

    Congratulations on the debut!

    1. You’re in a hurry and your mind is running faster than your hand. We’re all trying to juggle too much and it’s crazy making. Shows up in our writing. Don’t worry, when you slow down for a moment, your writing will normalize.

  19. Handwriting analysis has always intrigued me! I was taught two styles, Palmer script in public school, then I went to private school where we were taught what we called boarding school backhand. That style has stuck with me since I used it for most of my life. Every now and again, script will creep in for scribbled notes. Wonder what that says!

    1. Ah, regressing… I don’t know about boarding school backhand. Did it slant backward? I’ll have to investigate. Maybe it’s a bit of Kit Carson sneaking in? Nah, sorry.

      1. Yes backward slant almost connected printing. I worked with a lawyer at one point who q
        was a descendant of Kit Carson!

  20. Hey KatFast…reading this was such a welcomed surprise this morning…you know I love your Christmas cards, and I always knew you thought I’d be a PITA when you hired me…but we did have some fun, didn’t we. Congratulations on the book…I can say I knew her when…xo

  21. Hey, KatFast…so happy to read this this morning. Sounds like you’re really in your happy place. I always knew you used that job application to figure out I was going to be a PITA when you hired me! But we did have some fun, didn’t we. Glad you’re doing so well..congratulations!

    1. I’m such a dinosaur, had to look up PITA. Thought it was bread. Great to hear from you Cathy. Many fond memories and laughs at Information Mapping! And glad you like the cards. Watercolor is my other love.

  22. I’m fascinated by handwriting, although I know nothing about graphology. As an English major in college with a focus on medieval literature. I’ve looked at quite a few manuscript facsimiles and wonder how anyone can read them! Some years ago I found some letters to my father from a cousin when he was in the army (1940’s) & was impressed by her beautiful penmanship with a perfectly even bottom – later one of her daughters told me that she always wrote with a ruler. I wonder what that says about her!

    1. Hard to say without seeing the writing, but a really rigid baseline written with a ruler is like walking a tightrope for fear of failure and losing control, toeing the line and avoiding spontaneous, uncontrolled actions. Try it–it’s not easy to do! The person is often a perfectionist who is worried about appearances.

  23. Sure it was your mom? (Haha)

    Without seeing the writing, I can’t say much. Usually when you’re writing for another’s eyes, you will take care in order to communicate. Maybe she was hurried or angry? Hard to speculate, and I shouldn’t.

  24. The book sounds wonderful. Congrats!

    I think my hand writing shows that I’m lazy. And out of practice since we type just about everything any more.

  25. Congratulations on the new release. My handwriting changes. Sometimes I make a loop when I make a B sometimes I don’t. Same for my Ps. I wonder if it would still look like the same person wrote it to a handwriting analyst.

    1. Bet you can recognize who wrote it, and so could a good handwriting analyst. Can’t fool us with a few loops! Write your signature 5 times. None of them are the same! We change every day and so does our writing, with our moods and experiences, if we’re taking notes, writing a card to mother-in-law … (and sometimes if we don’t take our meds). Yet there are unique traits in spacing, formations, pressure and a host of other traits that help the analyst identify the writer.

  26. Did I miss the answer to your question “who is the serial killer”? Handwriting analysis is a fascinating idea. I’d love to know which one and how you deduced the answer. I’m going to look for your book Graphology the Fast Way as well as your new novel.

    1. b is Jeffrey Dahmer. The rest of the writings were members of my writers group. I can’t take credit for the analysis of Dahmer’s writing, although it’s pretty scary. No soul. Of course, the other three writings are enough to give you pause as well! (Not really, but it’s fun to tease them.)

      You won’t find Graphology the Fast Way because it’s a text I use only in my classes. Wish I had an extra copy handy, but sorry to say, not at this time. I print on demand when I teach.

  27. Congratulations on your new release. I love the title! An interesting storyline, I Can notice changes in my handwriting from time to time and I attributed to my mood at the time. Adding your book to my TBR list.

  28. Great! The more, the merrier I am! (By the way, my maiden name was Moore, so I’m Katherine Moore Fast. Wouldn’t you know I married an English teacher.)

  29. Congratulations on your new release!! I love the sound of your book, it sounds very intriguing ! I think handwriting can say alot about a person, when I am tired I know I write different and also when I am not feeling too good , this just fascinates me! Thank you so much for sharing about your awesome sounding book! Have a great weekend and stay safe.

  30. Congratulations on your new book. It sounds really good and I’m definitely adding it to my TBR list. I find the idea of handwriting analysis fascinating. I would think there could be a number of factors that could influence our handwriting. I noticed that under a previous boss who had really neat handwriting that mine own seemed to approve as we wrote notes back and forth. I do wonder how computer use might impact people’s handwriting.

  31. Not clear on the question. I don’t analyze writings in the shows or analyze while watching a show. Takes too much concentration.

  32. Hi Kathie. This book is very interesting. I am interested in handwriting because I notice that with my older son he did learn and use handwriting however my younger son actually prints his name. I also found out that schools are getting rid of handwriting altogether which seems to me to be very strange. I always loved my mother’s handwriting because it was beautiful. I believe handwriting when the pen is gipped and they handwriting is more of a slash movement that there is alot of hate in the person. But I do not know. I do give honest reviews of books.

  33. Congratulations on your latest book! Love handwriting have always been interested in how everyone writes! Thanks so much for the chance!!

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