BLUEFIELD — Kathi Stogner lived in Bluefield, W.Va. for almost fourteen years. She was a Mercer County schoolteacher, a member of Westminster Church and a former board member and volunteer at the Wade Center. She now lives in N.C., and has published a nonfiction narrative about her grandmother’s brutal but inspiring life called, “Beautifully BAD Wanda.”
The book is the unbelievable true story of Stogner’s grandmother, Wanda Konschak’s battle to rise above her unwanted destiny by “trying to create a beautiful life from the ashes of badness.”
Wanda was a first-generation American born in 1916 on a farm inDelaware. Konschak was one of eleven children in her family.
“Her dad would not let them go to school if it interfered with the farm,” Stogner said. “She only went up through the eighth grade and she actually graduated with the highest grade point average in her class, but he said she could not continue because her mom was sickly and he needed her to do everything.”
According to a press release, Wanda was forced to work the farm at the expense of her freedom, education and dreams. She also suffered physical, emotional and verbal abuse from her German father who called her “Schlecht Wanda,” which means Bad Wanda, which inspired the title of the book.
The book is the story of Wanda’s fight to overthrow a nickname that marks her as immoral and guilty while also preserving her drive and passion to rise above her unwanted destiny and create a beautiful life for herself.
“One of the tragic things that happened to my grandmother was her mother died when she was 15, and she became the mother figure of the family,” Stogner said. “When her mom died, who she was really close to, she took over and took care of her two youngest siblings. Her dad, soon after that, married his dead wife’s sister, who was a lot younger. They say my great grandmother had left home before this woman was born.”
According to Stogner, her grandmother’s stepmother was the reason she was kicked off of the Delaware farm where she was born. The book is split into two sections, one is all about life on the farm and how difficult it was, and the second half is about Wanda’s adventures in Philidelphia, Pa. after leaving the farm.
“When she was kicked off the farm she put herself through beauty school and eventually had her own hair salon and actually met my grandfather at her job,” Stogner said. “He was one of her client’s siblings.”
Stogner takes on her grandmother’s persona to write the nonfiction narrative that reads like a memoir. She said the book begins with Wanda as a child, then the majority of the book is the adventures and horrors she and her siblings experienced on the farm.
“She was strong in her faith and did not give up which I think a lot of people would have,” Stogner said. “My grandmother was a Christian and so her faith was in God, I think it is inspirational for everyone, but I am a Christian and I think it is a good witness to Christianity.”
Kathi’s first-hand memories of her grandmother’s stories, audio recordings of Wanda, letters, various documents, online research and interviews have all been utilized as corroborating evidence in writing the book.
“I have been wanting to write this for a long time and I have never had time to do it and when we moved here to Wilmington, N.C. from Mercer County, I had a break and I started writing the book,” Stogner said. “I had all the stories that she told and my mom and my aunt, they were smart enough to tape-record her telling these stories before she passed on so I could press play and hear her voice telling these stories.”
While all of her grandmother’s siblings have passed away, a wife of one of Wanda’s brother was still alive and Stogner was able to interview her for the book.
“Wanda was always told she was bad and you will find out in the book that sometimes she was, she was not one to be quiet or submissive; she was bright and intelligent,” Stogner said. “People say that I inherited her facial expressions. I can just picture her. We heard the same stories a lot, but the stories stuck with me and it made me more curious.”
Kathi is a licensed English and AIG, K-12, teacher with a BA in English Education from Lenoir-Rhyne and an MA in English from UNC-Charlotte, and she was certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards in 2002. However, in a press release, she said what truly qualifies her to create this story is a feisty resolve to share her grandmother’s spiritually enriching and motivational story.
“I definitely wanted to inspire people. I am self-published and I consider the book inspirational, historical and narrative, but definitely inspirational,” Stogner said.
While Stogner may have moved away from Bluefield, she said it feels like home because her children grew up in Mercer County.
“We moved to Bluefield for my husband’s job when my oldest daughter wasn’t even one year old yet,” Stogner said. “My second daughter was born at Bluefield Regional Hospital. We lived there for about fourteen years. It became like home because that is where my kids grew up.”
Stogner currently resides in Wilmington, N.C. with her husband, daughters and dogs.
“Beautifully Bad Wanda, a true story of when being bad is good,” by Kathi Stogner, is available at Amazon, Walmart, Target and Stogner’s website, https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2181.
— Contact Emily Rice at firstname.lastname@example.org