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.
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.