Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I was just made aware of this award -- go ahead, nominate your favorite workshop teacher! Or anyone--you must have a writer in your heart who helped you over a hump or who you think deserves some recognition. It's super-easy to nominate, just send an email.

here's the whole scoop:

Beyond The Margins
1st Annual
"I saw her rarely over the years, but each time our paths crossed she
threw her arms around me as if I were exactly the person she was
hoping would round the corner. I'm sure there are hundreds of people
who felt that way because her attention to each of us was so special,
so individual, so generous!"
Elizabeth Winthrop on Grace Paley
By Kathy Crowley
Tayari Jones calls Judy Blume her fairy godmother.
Stephen King chucked his manuscript for Carrie in the trash; his
writer-wife Tabitha King plucked it out.
Harper Lee traveled to Kansas with Truman Capote, playing a crucial
role in his research for In Cold Blood.
When Raymond Carver was young, poor and unknown, John Gardner gave him
the keys to his office so that Carver could write (and sleep) there on

We have all benefited immeasurably from the generosity of other
writers, people who have given their time, labor, money and care to
further the work of fellow writers. As we approach the second
anniversary of Beyond the Margins' first post, we'd like to
acknowledge this important part of our writing lives.

So, we're inviting your nominations for Beyond The Margins' 1st Annual ABOVE AND BEYOND AWARD!

Sponsored by:


Who can be nominated?

Any writer who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help
fellow writers. Extra editing, mentoring, putting writers in touch
with each other, putting writers in touch with agents and editors,
running classes for young people and seniors, organizing readings: If
there¹s someone you know who has done one or more or all of these
things, we want to hear about it. Workshop leaders or class
instructors are eligible, but no formal teaching position is required.
(BTM authors and family members are ineligible, though their family
members certainly deserve an award.)

Who can nominate?

You! And any other writer out there who feels inspired to do so. The
only people who cannot send in nominations are BTM members. (And their

How to nominate?

Send an email to: Please include
your name and contact information, the name and contact information of
the nominee (email address is fine), any formal affiliations or
publications of that person, plus a brief (250 words) description of
how you know this person and what makes him/her such an exceptional
contributor to other writers. (Please do not send books, articles or
other publications belonging to you or the nominee.)


Any time between December 1st and December 31st, 2011. Winners will be
announced in mid-January 2012.


Though kindness is its own reward, we'll garnish it with a glowing
Beyond The Margins write-up on the winner, plus a beautiful
paperweight-type Above & Beyond award of some yet-to-be-determined
size, weight and design.

So: who made the difference for you?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Novel Idea

This summer, inspired by a nonfiction essay I read, an idea for a novel-length story came to me. I'm really excited about the idea and it's been percolating for months, waiting for me to DO something about it and start getting it down on the page. But it's a big project that will involve a lot of research involving topics of which I currently know very little.

The whole thing scares the hell out of me because:

1. I've never written anything that required library time to do well/correctly.
2. I've never written a novel.

There's not much I can do about the first point but dive in and start reading the relevant books I've found and take notes.

To give me some confidence about the second point, I've been engaged in National Novel Writing Month.

Because you're all literary folks, you've probably heard of NaNoWriMo. If not, it's a month-long effort to whip out a 50,000 word manuscript. No going back, no editing, no fixing. Just write approx. 1666 words a day, full speed ahead. I am loving it. Not since I wrote my MFA thesis have I *made* the time to write every single day, and this time, there's no pressure to produce anything great. The editing and rehashing comes later. (And shouldn't it always?)

I'm having fun with my silly novel and learning that there's less to be afraid of with something of this length than I thought. My concerns about how to plot and structure a book and where all of the characters come from are working themselves out. Don't get me wrong: some days it's a truly awful process and I have to force myself to sit down at the keyboard. But on the days when I have more ideas than time to get them down, it's like flying.

When I'm done, I'll know that I have the stuff to attempt the novel I *really* want to write.

Are any of you attempting NaNoWriMo this year, or have you in past years? If so, what did you learn about your writing?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Q&A with Katey Schultz, a new Fiction Reader here at Our Stories!

Katey Schultz graduated from Pacific University with an MFA in Creative Writing. Her fiction has received numerous awards, including the Press 53 Award for Short Story and the Linda Flowers Literary Prize. She is author of the nonfiction chapbook Lost Crossings; editor of TRACHODON Magazine; Advisory Board Member for Memoir (and) Journal; and editor of two fiction anthologies, Dots on a Map and Coming Home (Main Street Rag). Currently, Katey is touring the United States from 2010-2012 as Writer-in-Residence and Fellow for organizations such at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Jentel Foundation, Fishtrap, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Since the tour's kickoff, Katey has snowshoed across a frozen lake, inadvertently charged a bull moose while looking for the Northern Lights, taken Iditarod sled dogs on a training run, lived in a haunted Southern mansion, coached hundreds of teen writers in flash fiction, watched bald eagles soar above Wyoming's high desert, been caught in an Eastern Oregon cattle drive, and seen the first signs of spring in the deepest canyon on the North American continent. Katey journeys from place to place in her epic, undying 1989 Volvo station wagon affectionately called THE CLAW, more of which can be seen at

Here's a Q & A we had with Katey. Enjoy!

OS: So, what made you sure you wanted to become a writer? (Or, did writing choose you?)

Katey: My love for writing actually began before I knew that's what I was falling for. Junior year of high school, a wonderful English teacher introduced me to Thoreau and, by extension, to the worlds of philosophy and nature. Ever since that moment, I understood that I could use writing to explore and make sense of the world around me--just as Thoreau wrote his way to new insight in Walden. In college, I read Joan Didion's The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Didion showed me how this same kind of exploratory writing could be applied to contemporary society, utilizing the landscape of people rather than the natural world, to yield insight. Of course, this "exploratory writing" has a name, and that is the tried and true essay--still my go-to form of writing whenever I have something I really need to figure out.

It wasn't until after graduate school that fiction really took hold of my heart. Out there in "the real world," I encountered so many unanswered questions. I couldn't travel all over the globe investigating answers for myself, and I couldn't literally be inside the mind of another person...not in real life, at least. But I could in fiction, and once I realized that, I also realized that fiction yields just as much insight as nonfiction. The same kind of explorations I'd been enamored with through writing essays, suddenly became possible through fiction. Using research to make my stories realistic (my current collection involves military and civilian characters in and around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries I've never visited and two subcultures of a war zone I've never personally experienced), I tend to write my way into a story with enough facts to make something believable, but I always let my imagination take over in the end.

In fiction, I can still get that "ah-hah" moment that any good essay affords, only it's a lot more fun! Now, I write actively in both genres depending on whatever I'm exploring at the time. I've been delighted to find that there are deep insights to be discovered no matter which genre I'm writing in. Realizing how many "tools" I had at my disposal as a writer in both genres, it was easy to imagine myself dedicating my life to this art. Who wouldn't want to spend time exploring and understanding their surroundings--literally and figuratively--through art? It's a tough career to make a living at, though, so I'm grateful that I find it so rewarding.

OS: Could you share some thoughts about what you tend to look for in a work of fiction?

Katey: It's hard to beat a story that has a unique voice or perspective. But of course, voice doesn't always mean five syllable words and perspective doesn't always mean point of view. What I'm talking about here is a narrator or character's particular way of seeing the world. Do they notice the fingerprints on the window, or the majestic view on the other side? Do they hear the clock's incessant second hand, or laughter coming from across the street? I look for stories with that kind of attention to detail, because details after all, lead to insight.

I also look for stories of smart surprise. Smart surprise works best when a writer can create a world or character so thoroughly, that readers go along for the ride without question. The surprise comes into play when that thoroughness is disrupted or confirmed in a crafted manner that enhances story. I think this is done most successfully by tying up loose ends, presenting a convincing shift in mood, or (my personal favorite) a particularly fitting metaphor.

OS: What's next for you and your writing?

Katey: Over the next year, I'd like to finish my collection of war stories, tentatively titled Flashes of War. After that, I envision a collection of personal essays based on my current travels across the United States. That said, I'm obsessed with flash fiction--writing it, teaching it, reading it--and wouldn't mind a side project of an anthology or textbook of some sort. Did I just say that? Yeesh. I'd better stay focused. Back to the desk...

Friday, November 4, 2011

To type or not to type

I am old enough that when I took typing in junior high school, I learned on a typewriter. (Generation X fistbump!)

And so when I saw this yesterday, I got a little excited:
A Remington USB Typewriter!

Of course, now that I've been writing on computers rather than manual typewriters for a good twenty-five years (Another high five for Generation X? Anyone?) the clip showing how slow typing on one of these babies really goes sinks my boat a bit.

Are you a pen-and-paper writer? Or do you do most of your work on a computer? I wonder if I would write more carefully if my brain-to-hand-computer-mind-meld thing wasn't at play. If I had to deliberately push every key on a typewriter again, would I choose my words deliberately?

I suppose only $800 or so stands in the way of finding out...