Kate Dopirak was an elementary school teacher and mother of two sons from Pittsburgh who never stopped trying to make it as a children’s book writer.
“Kate eventually broke through to bloom as a maven of crafting rhythm and rhyme,” her website bio reads. “No matter what role Kate took on — childhood librarian, sitter, teacher, mom, writer or friend — she had a natural way of connecting with people through her smile, joy, wit and energy. Similar to the little boy in her newest book, ‘Hurry Up!,’ Kate knew just how to slow down and become truly present with kids and adults too.”
“My sons inspire most of what I write,” Dopirak wrote. “My nieces, nephews and neighbors get in on the action sometimes, too. I watch them do something or hear them say something and — BOOM! — a story idea starts!”
But in 2018, at age 43, Dopirak unexpectedly passed away from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare neurological condition.
“She was really somebody who helped other writers launch their careers,” says Betsy Fitzpatrick, co-director of Kate’s Kid Book Bash, a free event she helped form in 2019 to honor Dopirak’s memory.
“Kate was really supportive of other writers,” Fitzpatrick says. “She had the gift of being a writer that she was and she also had the gift of helping other people.”
That supportive spirit lives on. Kate’s Book Bash will return after a three-year hiatus this Saturday, Dec. 3 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Kingsley Association (6435 Frankstown Ave.) in East Liberty.
The event will feature more than two dozen local and national authors and illustrators who will read and sign books created for everyone from babies to young adults. Most of the participants are members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the professional organization for children’s publishing of which Dopirak was an active member.
The event is sponsored by Riverstone Books, Duolingo, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Pennsylvania: West, Stories Like Me bookstore and Littsburgh.
Featured participants include Pittsburgh author Kelly Starling Lyons, Navajo author/filmmaker Brian Young and bestselling fantasy author Cinda Williams Chima.
Daniel the Golden Retriever, a winner at the 2020 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the inspiration for the book, “Daniel, the Golden Retriever,” will demonstrate his tricks and moves with author and trainer Tammy Tomlinson.
The event, Fitzpatrick says, is aimed at getting books into the hands of kids.
“Reading is so critical to kids,” Fitzpatrick says. “It teaches empathy. It’s the only art form where you are in somebody else’s brain.”
Dopirak’s legacy of inspiring kids and adults alike lives on through her colleagues who are committed to inspiring creativity, imagination and reading.
Nick Courage, author of the new book, “Snow Struck,” says he is excited to be a part of Kate’s Kid Book Bash.
“It’s a fun festive, and big-hearted celebration of children’s literature in the name of one of Pittsburgh’s most beloved children’s book authors: Kate Dopirak,” Courage says.
Fitzpatrick also sees events like this as a chance to encourage kids to read, write and illustrate.
One of the participants, Jerry Craft, has conducted a drawing workshop for kids to learn how to be cartoonists as part of the organization’s outreach efforts.
At the event, attendees can purchase copies of Craft’s Newberry Medal-winning book, “New Kid,” to be donated to refugee children in Pittsburgh — the “new kids” in town.
Author Brittany J. Thurman says she drew her inspiration for writing from Pittsburgh.
“It was in East Liberty and surrounding neighborhoods that I first began working with children. I saw their spark, creativity and the lasting impact books can have. I am incredibly honored to come back to Pittsburgh and share my picture book ‘Fly,’ at Kate’s Book Bash,” Thurman says.
“It was years ago that I met Kate, who always had a smile and words of advice. The Book Bash continues her legacy, one that values children and all they will grow to be.”