Faculty Friday: Kat Ross’ Versatility as an Author and Receptiveness to the Doors God Opens

All throughout life, doors open and close. While some only stay open for a season, others last a lifetime. For Kathryn Ross ’15, MA ’18, she never imagined that English would be her major, her hobbies would become a career, and she would stand in front of a classroom of students eager to hear what she has to teach. By stepping through the doors God opened for her, Ross has discovered value in vulnerability, developed deep relationships with a heart for knowing others well, and pursued truth and goodness through everything she writes.

Ross grew up in Covina, Calif. As a child, she wrote poetry and journaled, but envisioned becoming a marine biologist. During her freshman year English class in high school, Ross’ teacher was impressed with her thoughts and perspective, pushing her to pursue her affinity for writing beyond just a hobby. When she started reading Ray Bradbury novels, Ross was inspired to pursue creative writing, certain that God was steering her toward a career in English.

After one year at the University of La Verne, Ross was drawn to Azusa Pacific University’s inviting community and creative opportunities, leading her to transfer. Ross’ undergraduate experience was where she truly found herself. She found lifelong friends in her English classes, and built connections with professors who offered mentorship and support. Finding a community of like minded creatives made Ross feel seen, leading her to hone her skills as a writer and storyteller.

Ross decided to pursue a Master’s in English at APU because she wanted to continue fostering relationships with her classmates and professors who impacted her personal and professional growth. “I knew continuing at APU was the right choice for my masters because they cater to all spectrums of English,” she said, “so creative writers like myself could have a wider breadth of an education followed by more flexible opportunities in the future.”

The faculty Ross made connections with have championed her work to this day. “I adore all the professors here. They’re such kind, helpful, and knowledgeable people,” she said. David Esselstrom, PhD, and Michael Dean Clark, PhD, have been prominent mentors throughout Ross’ career journey, getting to know and appreciate Ross as a person while guiding her as a writer.

Ross’ publishing journey began during her undergraduate years, when she wrote an essay in Thomas Allbaugh’s, PhD, creative nonfiction class. While deciding what to write her master’s thesis on, she returned to the essay, and realized she disagreed with what she had written. Her thesis became a response to her previous essay. Toward the end of her graduate years, Ross met a publisher who was interested in publishing her work. She immediately knew she wanted Clark to be her editor, since he had offered great advice while helping her with her thesis.

Even though she was hesitant at first to publish her debut novel, Black Was Not A Label, in fear that a personal testament to her life story would cause people to disagree with her claims, Clark encouraged her to share her experiences. Ross later realized that being vulnerable allowed audiences to feel seen. Her book shows that many are not alone in difficult circumstances. In terms of what readers gain from the book, she said, “I want people to be more cognizant of how they treat others, because words can split a person and change their sense of reality.” Ross has also published Count It All Loss, a collection of poetry about the different ways people experience loss.

Additionally, Ross writes for Hallmark Mahogany, an ecommerce lifestyle brand centered on Black women experiences. While she writes product copy, Ross also writes articles reflecting on personal anecdotes and prompting readers to think of experiences through a new lens. “Pushing myself to write about past experiences in Mahogany’s community has led me toward self-acceptance of my own story,” she said. “God has revealed to me that everyone has something to say, and we give our stories value.”

In 2020, the English department asked Ross to design a freelance writing class from scratch, considering she had spent seven years as a freelance writer, and developed her own personal business. Although teaching was not something she had planned to pursue, getting to guide students through learning about a variety of avenues they can take as writers has been rewarding for Ross. “I love helping students discover the lifeline God threw me without all of the red tape that I had to wade through,” she said. Ross’ advice to any student interested in writing is to make connections, be friendly, and be open to opportunities.

In every new venture of Ross’ life, she has been open to the doors God guided her to walk through. “God always knew what I needed and said to just walk through and see. I have confidence that I will be successful in what I am doing because I am called,” she said. Whether she’s writing creatively, working with clients, mentoring students, or trying something completely new, Ross’ desire to connect with others and share God’s love shines bright in every door she walks through.