Kimberly with her award-winning flexible, edible stained glass.
The basics of course: tell us where you’re from, what you do, what family you have etc. And why you love being a Ladybird!
I was born in Toronto and grew up in a small suburb outside of it. I lived there all my life until I went off to Carleton university in Ottawa, where I did a double major in journalism and anthropology. Which is why, naturally, I am now a competitive cake decorator and feminist novelist.
Okay a few other things happened in the middle there, like me moving from Canada to the US to marry the Aussie-Kiwi man I’d met online, getting into cakes because I was bored and couldn’t work without a green card, and then being inspired while on hormone-laced infertility drugs to write hot-sex-filled romance novels that didn’t conflict with my feminist values.
The product of said infertility drugs is now my nearly-11-year-old daughter Peo, and I also have an adopted 3.5-year-old daughter named Robin.
When Corran and I first got married, we lived in Las Vegas. Then we moved to Austin for his job. We all came to Cambridge in August of 2014 on what was supposed to be a one-year UK visit as part of Corran’s work, but it took us all of three weeks to realize just how much nonsense we’d learned to put up with in Texas – even lefty liberal Austin – and we decided to try to find a way to stay in the UK permanently.
We took all of our documents to a lawyer who immediately told me I was British by birth. Apparently having been born to a Scot in Canada before the end of 1983 means I’ve been British all this time! So we sorted out my citizenship and passport, and now I’m the sponsor for my husband and kids. As far as we’re all concerned, we’re staying in Cambridge for good!
What do I do: I am a competitive cake decorator, author, activist, and terrible housekeeper.
Because of me, there’s now an Innovator Award at the largest cake show in North America. I entered so many weird new techniques into the competition that judges didn’t know what to do with, so the Austin cake show created a special award to encourage innovation instead of making it too risky for competitors to try new things. I was the first winner of that award and so far the only multiple winner of it.
I’ve also won Best Show Cake at the Austin show, Best of Division, and numerous other medals and awards. I’ve won gold, trophies, and other awards at British shows as well. I also teach cake classes, particularly focusing on making beginners and kids feel empowered to play with edible media. I write a blog called Eat The Evidence, where the core philosophy is to give cake decorating a go because worst case scenario: you have ugly but delicious cake! Eat the evidence, nobody has to know you messed up.
And as mentioned above, I write feminist romance. Consent is hot, rape is not. I was once traditionally published, but in recent years went indie. The sales are terrible but at least nobody’s telling me to sacrifice my values anymore.
As for being a Ladybird, I first heard of the WI in August of 2015 via a Lucy Worsley BBC show. I watched on the edge of my seat and when Corran got home I announced, “I HAVE FOUND MY TRIBE! I want to be a lefty busybody crafter in the WI!” I searched online and found the Ladybird website and read some of these very member profiles. I decided I wanted these people to be my friends, and as soon as we got back from a return trip to the US to sell off our house and car and move all of our stuff over, I got on the waiting list to be a member. I feel like I’ve finally for the first time in my life met a large group of real friends. I’ve never felt so warmly welcomed into anything in my life.
While I was packing up my Scottish Granny’s old tea set – a gaudy floral and gilded thing I’ve loved since I was a little girl and inherited when she had to go into a care facility – getting it ready to return to the UK after having been transported around North America, I had the epiphany that all my life I’ve wanted to be an old British lady! Now I’m going to be an old British WI lady, so watch out!
Kimberly and her family (photo by Melanie Reed).
If you could rule the world for a day state something that you’d ban.
Oh there are so many environmental disasters that need to go. Microbeads, endocrine-disrupting chemicals in plastics that don’t even need to be there, gasoline in cars, pesticides…so many things we could eliminate but choose not to. I’d like to say something grand like “bigotry” or “poverty” but that’s an all-too-easy thing to say without policies to back it up.
Let’s say I’d ban nuclear power until such time as we have a 100% safe, effective way to deal with the waste. I lived in Las Vegas when the US was planning to build a high-level nuclear waste storage facility 90 miles north of the city, and the whole scheme was predicated on a pile of lies and unanswered questions. It was a bogus attempt to shove a very difficult problem on a state with very little political power, and the only reason it got effectively shelved was because the state got some political power right at the last minute.
So yes, let’s go with that. I’d ban nuclear power until we have a proven way to deal with the waste on site, safely and effectively, to entirely nullify its dangerous radioactivity. When we have that science, then I’d lift the ban.
You are on a desert island, you have water and basic food supplies, what’s your one luxury item.
A comfortable, dry, well-pillowed bed. I have a lot of sleep issues, and if I’m going to be stuck on an island with no wifi, I want some quality nap time instead.
What advice would you give your 15 year old self?
Hang in there. It gets better. These jerks all around you will matter so little later in your life that you’ll forget most of their names and faces.
Which film/book/TV character do you think you’re most like? Which character would you most *like* to be like?
These sorts of questions are always difficult for me because I identify most with my own books’ characters. When I feel the cold fury of wishing I could enact terrible justice upon an evil person but I have to restrain myself, I identify Jason Truitt from my novel Finding Gaia. When I am a raging intersectional feminist dropping f-bombs on the general stupidity of the world, I’m Trish Merewald from that same book. When I’m feeling like the tired, beleaguered maternal figure everyone relies on but few respect, I am Bohdannah from one of my next books I’m working on.
Very few of you will even know who any of those characters are. But I am them, they are facets of me, and I get through every day stresses by playing them out in my head as the different fake people who live in there.
As for whom I’d like to be, I definitely have fantasies of being a badass warrior with some kind of superpower. There again, I’d love to be more like Anna from Finding Gaia, or Elsa from Frozen (come on, that Let it Go song is an incredible feminist anthem!), or the women from movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers. Sometimes I like to walk down the street imagining that at any moment I could pull out a sword or Wolverine-esque claws and go full Galadriel with an “all shall fear me and despair” scene. It’s been a running joke with my friends for years that I’ve turned Dexter into a verb, and have dark fantasies of exacting terrible vengeance on those who harm the innocent.
But there we are again with me really being Jason (someone who has learned to suppress those violent thoughts and instead go out into the world as a pacifist) and Trish (someone who occasionally needs to spew expletive-filled rants as a result of said suppression).
Kimberly most certainly does not have an obsession with Wolverine, has never rendered him in a 3′ tall modelling chocolate version, and does not still keep what she calls “The Head of Not Quite Hugh” in a cabinet in her house because that’d all be very, very weird. And this is not a photo of her using The Head of Not Quite Hugh as a finger puppet at the end of the 2011 Austin cake show where she won second in Show Cakes with a Wolverine Fan Girl Ultra Cake because that would be ridiculous. (Photo by Stickman Photography).
What’s the most important part of your daily agenda?
Yeah, that question didn’t say “agenda” as asked. Some of you know what it actually said. Look at how well I’m behaving not posting it here. Gold stars for me pretending to be a responsible adult on the group’s website!
As for the most important part, it probably is indeed a version of the joke answer to the original word. Every day I feel obliged to battle some element of sexism or other bigotry online. I would rather not. I frequently say that I’d like sexism fixed already so I could play more video games instead of having to bash my way through patriarchal nonsense that my daughters are already starting to face. I hate having to repeat myself constantly on gender issues, but I feel like if I don’t, I’m resigning my daughters to the same pile of nonsense I’ve had to endure.
So every day in some way or other my most important task is fighting for a more equitable, decent world for all humans regardless of gender, race, religion, economic status, or geography. It mostly feels like we’re not getting anywhere, but every now and then there’s a small step forward, and that comes from all of us grinding away at it daily like this. From teaching our kids to be better humans to shouting down those who didn’t learn those lessons themselves, there’s a lot of work to be done but I try to contribute at least a little every day.
Which tool do you own that you couldn’t live without?
My hands. I also really like needle-nosed pliers, knitting needles, sewing needles, rulers, and my massive array of cake decorating tools, but in the end if I had to live without those I could as long as I still had my hands to either make more tools or make do without them. I type my novels, I sculpt fondant, I knit and stitch all with my hands.
Kimberly also never would have moulded her own hand in disturbingly flesh-like homemade gummy candy. Oh no wait, she totally did that and then got an award and speaking engagements for it because the world is more mad than you imagined.
Tell us one unknown/unusual fact about yourself.
I am ridiculously insecure and always certain that people are on the edge of hating me for something I don’t even know I’ve done. The only reason I’m ever social is because I force myself to get over that terror and go out into the world and prove that fear wrong. Unfortunately, it often gets proved right, which is really hard on me.
One of the reasons I compete in cake shows is because I enjoy being near one of my competition pieces and hearing people praise it and not know it’s mine. I feel like I can accept compliments anonymously for my work, but it’s incredibly difficult for me to accept or even believe compliments directed at me because I get this constant fear that someone will find a way to be angry at me for it.
It’s your last night on the planet – who would you Snog, who would you Slap, and who would you Avoid?
Well the obvious snog is my husband but that’s not the tantalizing answer you’re looking for, so let’s say another woman. I have never kissed another woman and that’s something I’d really like to try someday if a legit opportunity arose.
As for slapping, there’s a fairly long queue of people I’d like to slap, but again, I remain a pacifist and will instead just sit here and fantasize about Dextering all the terrible people. Although if you make me choose, I’m going to say somebody needs to slap Donald Trump, purely because he thinks nobody ever would yet he champions violence against others.
Avoid…there’s a long list for that too. The prime way I’ve learned over the years to preserve my sanity and pacifism is to excise nasty people out of my life. I will take a lot of criticism, I will put up with a lot of drama, I will even endure a lot of verbal slings and arrows if I think I can trudge through towards a goal, but as soon as I reach a point where abusive people are not only abusing me but preventing me from accomplishing my goals, I walk away. The older I get, the more I realize that time is wasted on people who just want to bully you and keep you from progressing. As I’ve many times said about why I’m estranged from my abusive parents, when you have cancer you cut it out before it kills you, even if hurts, even if it shares your blood. So I’d avoid them and all of the other people who have tried to bring me down.
If I ruled the world for one day I’d…
There was already the question above where I said what I’d ban, and there’s not much I could do in a day that couldn’t be immediately undone, but if I had absolute power for a day I’d enact a law that couldn’t be repealed to mandate a basic standard of living for every human being, and put clauses in there that the top 1% of the wealthy people are barred from acquiring more wealth themselves until that basic standard is fully in place and protected. That would mean shelter, good quality food and water, education, health care, and personal safety standards for every person.
Because I truly believe we’re on the precipice of violent global revolution over resource issues – particularly water – if we don’t start thinking with social justice in mind fast.
Someone gives you a million pounds to spend on yourself. You can’t give it to charity or spend it on friends or family; it all has to be for you. What do you do with it?
I would build myself a cake studio that is not the family kitchen. Oh the things I could do if I didn’t have to share a space with breakfast dishes waiting to be washed, grease-spattering frying pans, and a table where others need to eat! Just being able to do something simple like leave a half-decorated cake sitting still instead of constantly having to move my work out of the way so people can have lunch…oh, that’d be amazing!
And to be honest, when I wrote this question for other members to answer, I did it entirely with that personal goal in mind. I figured other Ladybirds might have similar unfulfilled career/hobby needs.
In a thousand years when future generations unearth your tomb, what are the wise words you have left behind to inspire them?
Don’t exist to please anybody else unless you choose to do so.
Aliens land on earth and ask you what human life is all about. What do you tell them?
We’re a bunch of pattern-obsessed primates trying to figure out how everything works, sometimes to exploit it for our own needs, and other times because we’re insatiably curious.
Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?
Chocolate. The others are fine but I cannot help but notice the dire lack of chocolate in my face RIGHT NOW.
Do you have a personal or business website you’d like posted as a link?
I’ve got Eat-the-Evidence.com for my cake decorating blog and soon-to-be business of teaching cake decorating, running my own cake club, and a forthcoming podcast.
I’ve also got FindingGaia.com with information about my latest novel.
And I’ve got KimberlyChapman.com as a massive archive of stuff I’ve been doing for many years, ranging from my knitting and older cake stuff to all kinds of projects I’ve been involved with.
Kimberly winning the first Innovator Award, a bunch of other medals, and serving enough roles at a cake show that her badge ribbon stack kept falling into icing while she was running classes. This is all known as “taking on too much at one time” and thus sums her up nicely.
Kimberly, Sep 2016
September’s member of the month is Kimberly!
Kimberly is the person usually asking the questions for Members of the Month recently, so many other members wanted to ask her their own questions. She answers them below along with some of the regular questions.