By Amy Wenk
When Sandy Springs resident Katherine Marris was young, she loved all things creative. She would read every book in sight, craft her own stories, sew clothes and create pottery.
But the stresses of adult life — namely raising two kids as a single mom — sent her down a corporate path far from her early passions.
For more than 30 years, Marris worked in the competitive homebuilding and real-estate brokerage industry. For her, the bottom line mattered most.
Success followed Marris, and in 2003, she started Keystone Residential Brokers, a company that worked with builders and developers to sell and market homes. She felt accomplished at her dream home overlooking the Chattahoochee River.
But when the housing bubble burst, there was not enough business to stay afloat.
It was time to recreate herself. When she sat down for January resolutions, she wrote a new kind of list.
“I started a list of what I wished I could do if there was no obstacle in front of me,” said the Akron, Ohio native who moved to Sandy Springs 20 years ago. “My list turned into a ‘What do I wish about life?’ list, and the wishes poured out.”
After encouragement from her daughter, Cameron Cashion, that list has now become her life’s work. With her friend Brooke French, she started the publishing company Willis Harding in March. And in July, Marris published “I Wish, A Good Book for Pondering,” a handheld book that marries inspirational phrases with colorful images.
The change from corporate to creative has meant adjustments for Marris — like selling her dream home on the river — but she does not wish to turn back.
“I have lost my savings, my retirement, looking at bankruptcy, putting whatever I have left into my book, the foundation and what I love,” she said. “But I have never felt more fulfilled and open to life, free to love and to share who I really am … My life is so incredibly different. I laugh harder, smile bigger and look at each new day as another time to create.”
Self-publishing has not been easy, but the book is now at 88 stores in 24 states and in Canada. Find the book in Sandy Springs at Belles Choses, Felicity, Little European Bakery or The Scarlet Tassel. Other locations are at www.willisharding.com.
“God has put my heart where my circumstances are, and I have a whole new joy,” said the grandmother of 5-year-old Piper Kate who attends Heards Ferry Elementary School. “This is like reaching back and finding my old life. It took me 40 years to rediscover my love.”
Although universally appealing, the notions in “I Wish” are also personal to Marris. For instance, one page spread says, “I really wish … my brothers had not left us.”
Those words stem from her family’s tragic experiences. Marris’ younger brother Jeff became schizophrenic in 1976.
“That was the year he graduated college, was accepted into law school, president of his fraternity, athlete of the year, dean’s list and a future wide open to success,” she said.
And in 1994, Marris’ older brother Don unexpectedly committed suicide.
“No note, no explanation, just a call to 911 to tell them to come get the body before my parents came home from Christmas shopping,” she said.
“It’s amazing how many people relate” to that phrase in “I Wish,” Marris said.
Mother Goosed & Jiminy
After the launch of her first book, Marris’ wheels are turning.
Advanced copies of her second book, “Mother Goosed,” will be out this month. The cute and comedic publication transforms nursery rhymes into mantras for the modern-day woman.
Marris also began the Jiminy Foundation, an organization “to fulfill the wishes of the elderly.”