Neal Steele interviewed Gail Wilson Kenna about The Contumacious Cat, a
book for children (and adults) is a humorous and honest depiction of how frequent moves and deployments create stress for families and their pets. A military and State Department spouse, Gail has spent decades living in foreign countries and U.S. locations. Frequent moves by the 1980s led to an interest in the effects of moving stress on families. Articles and speeches on the subject followed, with her work adopted for use by United States Air Force Europe (USAFE).
This book for children (and adults) has original artwork and graphics, a glossary of thirty words playfully presented to young readers, and a short piece “in the author’s own words.” In it Gail Kenna explains how a dual army deployment of her daughter and son-in-law caused her to be the caretaker for her granddaughter and two Persian cats. This experience led to the creation of The Contumacious Cat.
Gail Wilson Kenna is a retired college professor, the author of four books, a literary judge, a Bread Loaf scholarship winner. Before moving from Lima, Peru, to Virginia’s Northern Neck in 2004, Gail taught on the university/college level in Germany, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Colombia. After leaving Caracas, Gail taught at American University in Washington, D.C., as a full-time instructor in the Department of English, before moving to Bogota, Colombia.
As the author of three published books, Gail has used traditional and non-traditional ways to publish. Her first book, Along the Gold Rush Trail,
was in print for twenty years through New Readers’ Press for use in adult ESL. The book is a fictionalized account of her great-great grandfather’s journey from Vermont to California in 1849. Then, while living in Venezuela, she co-authored a second epistolary novel, Face of the Avila
, with a New York journalist posted to Caracas. Also while living in Venezuela’s capital from 1991-1995, Gail worked as a U.S. Embassy advocate for incarcerated North Americans in Venezuela’s infamous prisons, labeled by Amnesty International as the most dangerous in South America. In 1999, the Puffin Foundation of New Jersey, awarded Gail a grant to print Beyond the Wall
about her experience with Venezuela’s corrupt judicial system and illegal involvement in the drug war. The Puffin grant provided the means for Gail to distribute her book to journalists, organizations, and policy makers.
From 2005-2016, Gail taught literature and writing courses for Rappahannock Community College’s Institute for Life Long Learning (RILL). In 2012, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference awarded Gail the prestigious Donald Axinn Fiction Scholarship. Her awards for writing are numerous, including five winning submissions in the 25th Soul Keats literary competition in San Francisco. At the awards ceremony in March 2017, Gail was introduced as the new judge for Creative Nonfiction, one category of ten for adults in this old and respected contest. Borrowing from Robert Frost, she says: “I would have written of me on my stone/ I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”