Kathryn Helms Kidd passed away on December 14, 2015. She was 65. Kathy was an accomplished author, writing four novels (including Paradise Vue and Lovelock), one children’s book, and ten non-fiction books, as well as innumerable magazine and web articles. She was the associate editor (or managing editor) of Meridian Magazine until 2008, and wrote articles and moderated discussions for that web publication from at least 2004 to 2013. From 2012 she has written for Nauvoo Times, an Orson Scott Card-related web magazine. Her blog Planet Kathy includes a blog and links to many of her works.
Here is a sketch of her early life, taken from her Nauvoo Times page. “A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn’t believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn’t get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.”
After graduating from BYU, Kidd’s first job was a reporter at the Deseret News. Around that time she married Clark L. Kidd. The two moved to Northern Virginia in 1987, where they have served as temple workers in the Washington D. C. since 1995.
Kidd’s friendship with Orson Scott Card has clearly been a key part of her literary career. Card has said Kidd “had been my friend since back in the days when she was a reporter for the Desert News and I was an assistant editor at The Ensign in Salt Lake City. I had been a witness at her wedding to Clark Kidd. And I had goaded her into writing a Mormon novel to help me launch my small publishing company.” They both wrote for Compute Books in the early 1980s. In 1989 Card created his own publishing house for Mormon literature, Hatrack River Publications. It published nine novels from 1989 to 1997, all by female authors, mostly about contemporary Mormon women. Kidd’s novel Paradise Vue was the company’s first book. She also wrote the children’s novel The Innkeeper’s Daughter (1990), about the birth of Christ, and the novels The Alphabet Season (1991) and Return to Paradise (1997). Richard Cracroft in BYU Today (March 1991) called Paradise Vue “the funniest Mormon novel since Sam Taylor’s Heaven Knows Why.”
I enjoyed her Paradise novels quite a bit. She created a ward full of funny, somewhat crazy members as supporting characters to her more normal (if somewhat condescending) protagonists. They also had a serious, even dark, sides to them, with husbands leaving their families, members doing very cruel things, and obsessive behavior. She also wrote the funniest Mormon short story I have ever read, “Voucher and the Christmas Wars”, in Aspen Press’s Christmas Around the World collection (1991). There is something about Church pageants that go awry that makes for great comedy. She also wrote “The Norman Rockwell Christmas Feast” for Once Upon a Christmastime: Short Stories for the Season, Deseret Book, 1997.
At the February 1997 AML Conference, Kidd spoke on a panel on Mormon Humor. In the talk, entitled “You Stole My Life and I Hate You.”, she said her novels ruined some friendships in her former Salt Lake City ward, besides winning her some new enemies. She warned the audience, “If what you write is too close to home, people will think you’re writing about them. We Mormons don’t like reminders that we haven’t been translated yet. The polite fiction among church members is that we don’t notice one another’s faults.”
Kidd’s one major national work was co-authoring the science fiction novel Lovelock (TOR, 1994) with Card. It is told through the eyes of a mentally enhanced capuchin monkey, who accompanies a family on a huge starship which carried a whole community on a long-term space voyage. In the introduction, Card wrote, “She had strengths that I couldn’t match, among them her natural humor; her ability to create a whole community of quirky, fascinating people: her deft handling of pain.” Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish. It was supposed to be the first of a trilogy, The Mayflower Trilogy, and Card and Kidd have even recently talked about completing the next volume, Rasputin, but so far it has not appeared. The Kidds are often mentioned in the acknowledgments of Card’s books.
In 1998 Kidd shifted back to writing non-fiction. With her husband Clark she co-wrote A Convert’s Guide to Mormon Life (Bookcraft), which won a 1998 AML Award for Devotional Literature. The pair went on to co-write six Mormon advice books for Bookcraft or Deseret Book.
In recent years Kidd has suffered from a variety of serious health conditions, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. In December 2012 she experienced a 12-day medical-induced coma, and was hospitalized until March 2013. She came out of the coma improved in some ways, but suffered paralyzation of her legs and feet, and never fully regained her health.
Here is Kathryn’s book bibliography, from her website.
|Title||Type||Description||Publisher||Year (Note)||Link to Buy|
|Free Agency||LDS Board Game||Similar to the game of “Life,” but with LDS themes||The Game Factory||1980 (1)|
|VIC Games for Kids||Computer||Educational games for the VIC-20 computer||Compute Books||1983 (1)|
|Commodore 64 Games for Kids||Computer||Educational games for the Commodore 64 computer||Compute Books||1984 (1)|
|Compute’s IBM PC Games for Kids||Computer||Educational games for the IBM PC and PCJr computers||Compute Books||1984 (1)|
|Apple II Games for Kids||Computer||Educational games for the Apple II computer||Compute Books||1985 (1)|
|Recipes and Legends of the West Mountain Inn||Travel||A guide to the West Mountain Inn in Arlington, Vermont||Self-published||1986 (1)|
|Paradise Vue||LDS Fiction / Adult||A humorous look at a (not so) typical LDS ward||Hatrack River Publications||1989||Hatrack River|
|The Innkeeper’s Daughter||LDS Fiction / Children||The birth of Christ from a young girl’s viewpoint||Hatrack River Publications||1990||Hatrack River|
|The Alphabet Year||LDS Fiction / Adult||The adventures of a woman and her day care experiement||Hatrack River Publications||1991||Hatrack River|
|Science Fiction||The adventures of a hardy group of space pioneers||TOR Books||1994 (2)||Amazon Books|
|Return to Paradise||LDS Fiction / Adult||More of the crazy antics of folks in the Paradise Vue ward||Hatrack River Publications||1997||Hatrack River|
|A Convert’s Guide to Mormon Life||LDS / Non-fiction||A handy guide for investigators and new converts to the LDS church||Bookcraft||1998 (1)||Deseret Book|
|A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Internet||Non-fiction||What parents need to know to protect children in the Internet age||Bookcraft||1999 (1)|
|Food Storage for the Clueless||Non-fiction||How to start and maintain a successful food storage program||Bookcraft||1999 (1)||Amazon Books|
|On My Own and Clueless||Non-fiction||A guide for those living on their own for the first time||Bookcraft||2000 (1)||Deseret Book|
|Ward Activities for the Clueless||LDS / Non-fiction||Ideas for those tasked with planning LDS activities or events||Bookcraft||2001 (3)||Amazon Books|
|52 Weeks of Recipes for Students, Missionaries and Nervous Cooks||Non-fiction||Basic recipes and cooking skills for novice cooks||Deseret Book||2007 (1)||Deseret Book|
(1) Co-authored with Clark L. Kidd
(2) Co-authored with Orson Scott Card
(3) Co-authored with Clark L. Kidd and Kent and Shannon Pugmire
We here at the Association for Mormon Letters mourn the loss this beloved author. I hope others will correct or add to her life sketch, and leave their memorials.