When Trueline Managing Editor Kate Gardner showed up at her local animal shelter near Portland, Maine, in early 2019, she had only two rules.
One was from her fiancé, Chris. Kate had long wanted a cat, but Chris had held out, saying their apartment was too small. Finally, when Kate found herself between jobs with more time on her hands, he caved. But he sent her off to the shelter with a warning: “Do not get the first cat you see.”
The other rule was from her mother, a vet tech: “Don’t get a cat with runny eyes and nostrils, because it means he has an upper respiratory infection that will follow him for the rest of his life,” she said.
So, Kate, having reassured them she would do no such thing, found herself in the shelter’s parking lot one January morning after she read on its website that it would have a few litters of kittens ready that day. The parking lot was full, and when a worker came to open the door, everyone bolted from their cars.
Kate was second in line. Once inside, she ran to the first cage that held a litter of kittens. They were all asleep save for one. She asked the shelter workers if she could see that kitten. So, they handed her the kitten, whom they’d christened Whopper.
“He just reached out onto my shoulder, and I pulled him up,” Kate recalls. “He had the leaky eyes and the leaky nose. He was the first cat I saw. And now it’s over four years later, and I’m so glad I chose him.”
Autumn Wedding Bells
Today, that cat is named Maui, and he is the resident “little angel” (most of the time) in the home of Kate and Chris, who are preparing to walk down the aisle this September. Chris, like Kate, is a big Taylor Swift fan; she says he can scream-sing every lyric alongside her: “It’s one of the reasons I’m marrying him.”
The wedding—which was going to be more traditional, until the stressed-out couple scrapped the elaborate plans in favor of something truer to her and Chris’s style—will be a small, laid-back outdoor ceremony featuring just their parents and siblings and a meal at a nice restaurant afterwards.
“We’ve been together for so long, we just never felt like we wanted to do a big wedding,” Kate says. “We’re keeping it a little more low-key, but still special to us. We’re excited.”
Of course, Kate’s brief absence while on her honeymoon will not be easy for Trueline’s writing department, which she joined two and a half years ago on the recommendation of Staff Writer David Harry, who had worked with her at The Forecaster, a Maine newspaper.
Because Kate interviewed for the staff writer job opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, the interview was a Zoom call with Trueline’s then-Director of Content Jim Cavan. She prepped for the Zoom carefully, dressing professionally, setting up a blank background and even getting Chris to take Maui out to the car until the interview was over, so the cat wouldn’t interrupt the conversation.
“I had it all set up,” Kate says. “And then, as Jim is asking me a question, I heard this screech and this bang and I looked out my window right in front of me, and there had been this massive car crash right in front of my building.”
Kate was flustered, but she rallied and tried to focus on the interview despite the wailing sirens outside her window. A few minutes later, she had to answer a timely question: “What is your ability to concentrate through distractions?”
“Well, there’s a massive car crash outside my building and lots of police and EMTs, and I’ve been looking at you the whole time!” Kate replied.
Telling True Stories
A storyteller from an early age, Kate grew up thinking she wanted to become an author. She was raised in a small New Hampshire town where there was nothing to do but imagine adventures, play make-believe with her friends “until we were a little too old to do that” and make movies on handheld camcorders.
“I think that was a big turning point for me of realizing, ‘I have something to say, and I can be funny and have a point of view and use stories to entertain people,’” Kate says of her cinematic ventures with friends. “At the same time, I was always writing.”
In high school, Kate became interested in journalism. At the University of New Hampshire, she studied journalism, joined the student newspaper and landed several internships at local newspapers. Her first job out of college was at The Forecaster.
“I covered very small little coastal towns with their small-town problems, which was a really great crash course in covering all types of things, and just learning how to talk to people and interview people on a wide variety of subjects,” Kate says.
Over the course of her newspaper career, Kate found that women and girls with interesting stories consistently inspired her—be it a Holocaust survivor, a sexual assault survivor or a teenager who dedicated her life to helping children of addicts after her own mother died of an overdose.
But eventually, Kate began to chafe against the conventions of newspaper work and sought out opportunities to do more creative writing. She freelanced for online magazines. She landed a job at Maine Magazine in 2018, which was short-lived but served to drive home to Kate the importance of workplace culture and healthy office environments.
“It also really pulled me more towards activism,” Kate says. “After that, I got a job at Planned Parenthood in Portland; I was the first digital organizer there… That just kind of opened up my whole worldview. It was bigger than me.”
She left Planned Parenthood right as the pandemic began, seeking a way to return to full-time writing. After about 10 months, her former Forecaster colleague tipped her off to the opportunity at Trueline.
Today, having migrated from writing to editing, Kate says she appreciates the work-life balance at Trueline, which gives her time to revise her completed but as-yet unpublished novel.
“I like the editing process; it’s kind of like a puzzle,” she says. “And I like that Trueline allows each writer to have their own voice. We’re all under this umbrella of our style guide, but if any of the writers turned in a story without their name on it, I’d be able to figure out who wrote it.”
All the while, Kate draws on her previous journalism experience to keep the quality of Trueline stories high. And though she’s grateful for that experience, she doesn’t exactly miss the days of being awoken by a 6 a.m. phone call demanding she go take pictures of a burning building, for instance.
“At Trueline, no one would ever contact me at 6 a.m.,” Kate laughs.
Did you know?: Kate is obsessed with books and reading, and oftentimes plans trip itineraries around bookstores she can visit. Her favorite bookstores are All She Wrote Books, Books Are Magic, Bluestockings, and hello hello books.
Who’d play you?: Either Victoria Pedretti or Dakota Fanning
Bucket list: Meet Taylor Swift
Greatest achievement: “Not just being published in major publications like Teen Vogue and The Washington Post, but believing in myself enough to try and go after those bylines.”