The chapters of author C.H. Armstrong’s life take her from Oklahoma to Minnesota and tell the story of a writer whose inspiration is close to home.
A 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in history, Armstrong, who likes to be called Cathie, has lived here for 27 years and now has two novels on bookstore shelves.
“The Edge of Nowhere,” published in 2016, revolves around her grandmother’s challenge as a young widow with fourteen children during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma. Armstrong’s second novel from early this year, “Roam,” is set in Rochester and follows a homeless teen, Abby, and her family as they brave the cold of winter living in their van.
“The mother of a current Mayo High School student and a 2014 graduate,” Armstrong says, “I often find inspiration in its students and teachers when developing characters. Readers of ‘Roam’ will recognize Mayo in the descriptions of Rochester South High School and many of the more endearing characters were inspired by former teachers and students who made a profound impact on my daughter when she was a student.
Please tell us about your style.
Comfortable and unpretentious. Stated differently, "What you see is what you get."
The most essential components in your wardrobe?
A nice, solid, V-neck T-shirt -- several of them in various colors. Comfortable jeans. Black dress pants. And a nice cardigan. With those four items, I can dress for almost any occasion.
What should every well-dressed woman have in her wardrobe?
Oh, gosh. I don’t know if I would ever be called a "well-dressed woman." But with that said, I feel strongly about dressing from the inside out. So nice, comfortable undergarments is a must. If you spend all day pulling at your undergarments, then it really doesn’t matter what you’re wearing because your discomfort will shine through.
I’m really more of a minimalist, so I don’t have a lot of accessories. But I do love purses and totes. While I have many in many different styles, my favorites are my two black totes. One is leather, for when I’m dressed up for a book signing, and the other is a Vera Bradley tote. Both are large enough to hold my laptop for emergency writing moments -- as well as everything else I might need.
Priceless sentimental items?
My dad was always my strongest supporter. It didn’t matter what I did, he always backed me with complete confidence, and then was there to pick me up when I failed. He always carried with him a cloth handkerchief and I can’t tell you how many times he handed me one of these handkerchiefs to wipe my tears in moments of defeat. I lost my dad in January 2018 and the only things I really wanted of his when he passed were his handkerchiefs. So I have a handful of these cheap, old-man handkerchiefs and I often carry one with me in moments were my confidence is flagging.
Any remaining Oklahoma overtones in your wardrobe?
My first year in Minnesota, my parents sent me a leather, mustard-yellow, fringed vest with a set of matching mustard-yellow with fringe boots. No Minnesotan would get caught wearing these, but they wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in Oklahoma. Neither fits anymore, but I can’t seem to get rid of them.