As a nonfiction author speciailizing in social history, Cathy spends a great deal of time researching the past. Her research has taken her into the belly of a whaleship on an icy January morning in Mystic, Connecticut, deep into a coal mine in Northeastern Pennsylvania, to tenement buildings on New York City's Lower East Side, and even into the Secret Annexe in Amsterdam where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II. But she also researches the archives of old newspapers and digs for insights to people's past lives by reading their diaries and letters.
Cathy is also the national director of Letters About Literature, a reading promotino program of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Additionally, she is the principal curriculum writer for The Story of Movies, a visual literacy initiative of The Film Foundation, Los Angeles and New York City.
Prior to returning home to Northeastern Pennsylvania in 1997 to write full-time, Gourley was the editor of special projects for Weekly Reader Corporation. In this position also she edited Read, a literature magazine for middle school students. In addition, Gourley spearheaded the relaunching of the Barnard College Young Adult Biography Series in 1996-97, working both with Barnard College and the series publisher, Conari Press, Berkeley, CA.
Gourley's first published book was a historical novel, The Courtship of Joanna, that explored the experiences of Irish immigrants who worked in the anthracite coal mines of Northeastern Pennsylvania in the 1880s. This adult book was nominated for the Carl Sandburg Award through the Chicago Public Library and was a finalist for the Jefferson Cup fof excellence in historical fiction.
Radio was the media venue for her first work of fiction, a short story title “Breaker Boy” which she adapted for broadcast on national public radio in 1986 through an award from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
Cathy's hometown is Wilkes-Barre, PA. But she has lived and worked in a number of states: Ridgway, PA, where she first began publishing her short feature stories, Corpus Christi, Texas, where her freelance writing career got started; Chicago, Illinois, where she published her first book, a historical novel titled The Courtship of Joanna; Essex, Connecticut, where she worked as an editor for Weekly Reader's Read magazine. She returned to Northeastern Pennsylvania in 1997 to write full-time.