facultydetails | Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA

Chatham University

Creative Writing (MFA) Faculty and Staff

Katherine Ayres MA

Katherine Ayres

Lecturer; Coordinator of Children's Writing Program
Hometown : Pittsburgh, PA
Joined Chatham : 1998

Academic Areas of Interest

Writing for Children, Writing from History (American History), Writing Adventure and Mystery, The Craft of Writing

Personal Areas of Interest

Gardening, Travel, Outdoor Activities and Recreation

Personal Website : Visit Website


Katherine Ayres has been a lover of books since earliest childhood, when she began inventing stories before she could write them. Her childhood home state of Ohio is the setting for her first two novels, Family Tree and North by Night: A Story of the Underground Railroad. Her present home, Pittsburgh, is the setting for her third novel, Voices at Whisper Bend. As part of her research for this book, which takes place during World War II, she spent a day on a tugboat on Pittsburgh’s Monongahela River. Ayres traveled farther afield for her fourth and fifth books. Silver Dollar Girl begins in Pittsburgh, but quickly moves to the untamed terrain of the Colorado Rockies during the 1880s’ Silver Boom. Under Copp’s Hill visits turn-of-the-century Boston’s North End and explores mysteries that lurk in a settlement house and pottery. Stealing South returns to the 1850s in Ohio and Kentucky and is a companion book to North by Night. Her newest novel, Macaroni Boy, a look at depression-era Pittsburgh, is in production as a stage muscial by Stage Right, Greensburg PA. Whether writing about contemporary characters or historical ones, Ayres enjoys the opportunity to travel and study the real places she includes in her books. Ayres’ love of literature was a theme during her first career as a teacher and elementary school principal, and she continues to enjoy working with children and teachers in the school setting. She teaches Writing at Chatham College, where she also coordinates the Masters of Arts in Children’s and Adolescent Writing.


  • BA The College of Wooster (Wooster, Ohio), Phi Beta Kappa, 1969; MA Tufts University, Eliot Pearson Child Development Center, (Medford, MA), 1974


  • Family Tree, Random House (1996) North by Night: A Story of the Underground Railroad, Random House (1998) Voices at Whisper Bend, Pleasant Company (1999) Silver Dollar Girl, Random House (2000) Under Copp’s Hill, Pleasant Company (2000) Stealing South: A Story of the Underground Railroad, Random House (2001) Macaroni Boy, Random House (2003) A Long Way, Candlewick Press (2003) Up, Down, and Around, Candlewick Press (2006)
  • Ayres is a frequent contributor to "Children's Writer"; her poetry has appeared in "Along These Rivers", "Dante's Heart" (e-zine), "The Pittsburgh Post Gazette"


  • Several of Ayres' novels have been nominated for statewide readers choice awards in various states.
  • Her newest picture book, Up, Down, and Around has been selected as the 2008 Pennsylvania One Book (Every Young Child) and is featured in schools and libraries across the state.


  • Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators


  • Pennsylvania Association for Adult Continuing Education (Keynote Speaker); Black White and Read All Over (Pittsburgh Lecture Series, featured speaker)
  • Visiting Author in the Schools (ongoing)
  • Scholar-in-residence at the John Heinz History Center: Underground Railroad through the Civil War and Reconstruction, sponsored by The Pennsylvania Council on the Humanities.
  • Keynote Speaker, Fall Festival of Children's Books, Fall 2007; presenter, Early Childhood Literacy Conference, September 2007
  • Workshop Presenter, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (various)
  • Ligonier Writer's Conference
  • She has been a speaker at the California Reading Meeting (for teachers of reading), at Aspen Summer Words (a writers’ festival), and at various National Council of Teachers of Reading meetings.