“Starving the Host,” by Katelin Carter

I’m always skeptical of designers showing up for The Invictus Writers project, but when last year’s Invictus Writer (and Designer) Kelly Shea told me I should include Katelin Cartner I wasn’t going to argue. Kelly is like a daughter to me, and I trusted her judgement.

Plus, there is a group of designers trained by my friend and colleague who have a certain temperament about them. They are quite easy to spot in the hallways. They have a very steady nature about them externally, and a dramatic streak internally. And this designers get things done.

Katelin was part of that group so I never worried that she would stick it out. What I didn’t know was whether she could — or wanted to — write. She did, and I’m happy today to give you “Starving the Host,” a story about life with an eating disorder.

***

Whenever I work with students on big projects, I usually choose them from a pool of former students. I don’t like to be surprised with personalities, and I’ve found it nearly impossible to form any type of lasting bond with students whom I meet for the first time in a project class.

Katelin turned out to be an exception. She joined the Transmedia Indiana project, a year-long class working with the Indiana State Museum, and quickly became one of our design leaders. As such, I had the chance to spend time working with her in class.

She — and a few others — eventually joined me on some of my early morning runs through Muncie, and a few times on trips to New Harmony, Indiana, where the Transmedia Indiana team went for research.

It was along those runs that we first started talking about her life, and partiucularly the part of her life that would become “Starving the Host.”

***

I imagine it’s difficult on some current students to hear me tell stories of my former students. What they don’t realize is that stories become legends when the main characters aren’t around anymore. The characters become larger than life. They become perfect.

In every conceivable way, they become a figure that no actual person could be compared. 

While Kelly and Katelin are friends (e.g. they both interned at the same magazine, and they live in the same city), my relationship with Kelly would by all rights be a difficult hurdle for some students to overcome. 

But Katelin and I shared a commonality that became clear as she talked more about her story. The one truism I’ve found in the world is this: No matter how addiction flares up in your life, addicts of any type can understand.

Our addictions — Katelin’s eating disorder and my alcoholism — manifest in very different ways, but the internal workings of the machine are the same. While the love and support of our families are key to long-term success, the reality is that addicts need other addicts around to kick them in the ass a little bit.

***

Before she moved, Katelin and I spent nearly half a day sitting in a coffee shop talking about life, the universe, and everything. I’m not sure what we accomplished that day, but after working with her for a year on two major projects, I wanted to make sure that she knew I’d help her no matter where she was.

I also wanted her to know that she didn’t need any help.

That’s the promise of The Invictus Writers. If you come, you write, and you finish, you join a very elite club. As of today, there are 11 writers who saw their projects through from beginning to end.

Finishing matters. 

Finishing gives you a strength of character, and a confidence that you can go forth into the world and face whatever comes your way. Finishing builds that resiliency within you that allows you to fall down, dust yourself off, and stand back up again. Finishing helps remind you that failure is just temporary.

Katelin’s Invictus story is finished, but the story of Katelin is just beginning. As she moves into Act 2 of her life, she doesn’t yet know it but there’s a whole transformation ready to happen. She’s going to use the strength she found to deal with her disorder and to face those around her who were affected by it, and she’s going to be powerful.

I don’t know where that journey will end for her, but I know it will be one worth reading about.