Feb 6, 2008

The Best Creative Nonfiction, vol. 2

One of my stories, The Egg and I about egg donation, published this past summer on Etude has been chosen to be included in the 2008 edition of The Best Creative Nonfiction .

Here's a story , announcing the news, which I've copied below.

SOJC graduate student Katie Campbell among Literary Nonfiction’s “cutting-edge best.”
by Zanne Miller — last modified 04:34 PM Thu Jan 03, 2008
Literary Nonfiction student Katie Campbell's essay "The Egg and I," published in the summer 2007 Etude, has just been chosen for inclusion in The Best Creative Nonfiction vol. 2, edited by Lee Gutkind, to be published July 2008 by W.W. Norton & Company.

Literary Nonfiction student Katie Campbell's essay "The Egg and I," published in the summer 2007 Etude, has just been chosen for inclusion in The Best Creative Nonfiction vol. 2, edited by Lee Gutkind, to be published July 2008 by W.W. Norton & Company. Gutkind, editor of the journal Creative Nonfiction and professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, has been called the “Godfather of Creative Nonfiction”; the book is described as “Narrative nonfiction at its cutting-edge best from writers at the cusp of recognition and fame.”

Campbell “pretty much has it all,” says Lauren Kessler, professor and director of the SOJC’s program in literary nonfiction. “She knows a good story when she sees it and has the talent and skill to develop it. During her first year in the program, she developed a number of significant stories that involved both traditional journalistic research and immersion fieldwork. "The Egg and I" was one of those -- carefully researched, beautifully and sensitively crafted. A gem, really. I am thrilled, delighted—and not at all surprised—that it was chosen for inclusion in the anthology.”

Campbell, who has a B.A. in journalism and English (2002) from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., has worked as a reporter and photographer at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida, and Wales. She and her partner, Michael Werner (also an LNF student), came to the SOJC in fall 2006 after living in Costa Rica for two years, where they taught English and were later hired to be co-directors of the English program at Universidad Latina.

Below, an interview with Katie Campbell.

Q. How did you feel learning your story was chosen for the anthology?
A. I got the news in an email and my feelings went something like this: Confusion followed by the sensation that I was going to either faint or vomit. Then I looked up the publishing company to make sure that it was actually the same Norton of the Norton anthologies. Then I just sat there shocked. Having my story being selected is a huge honor. I’m thrilled really. So often the emotional experience of being a writer is up and down. There have been many times when I’ve wondered if I’m any good at it at all, so getting this news was like receiving a nod of assurance that I have some business being in the business of writing.

Q. Tell me about the story—what gave you the idea to do it?
A. I didn’t think my decision of whether to donate my eggs was something to write about until months after I first saw the egg donation advertisement. I wasn’t looking for an immersion journalism project. It really started out as something that caught my eye as a way to support myself during grad school. When I did start thinking about writing about it, I thought it would only really become a story if I went through with it. But I wasn’t just going to donate my eggs so I could write about the procedure firsthand. That would be messed up. As I contemplated donation and did all the research to make an informed decision, I realized there was a lot of the tension and internal conflict surrounding the decision itself. I talked to a lot of my friends and family members at the time and they were very interested in learning about my decision-making process. Across the board everyone I talked to was eager to find out my final decision. It seemed clear then that it was a story worth writing whether or not I ended up donating.

Q. It's very personal—was that easier or more difficult to write than other pieces?
A. I usually write about other people because I tend to think other people lives are way more interesting than my own. Also my background is in newspaper reporting and there just isn’t much room for personal narrative writing. So while I don’t shy away from writing in first-person if a piece calls for it, this is one of the few stories I’ve written that really is all about me. And I’m not sure whether it was easier to write than non-personal stories. In some respects yes and in others no. One thing I’ve always thought was really hard about writing about other people is knowing whether I’m getting a good sense of the truth when I’m reporting. I always want to know what people are or were thinking and feeling at specific times or why they reacted to something the way they did, but that takes a ton of self analysis and some people aren’t used to being that introspective or they tell me what they think I want to hear. It’s hard to know if they’re being honest. And when I’m observing, I’m trying to interpret their actions and reactions and figure out what it all means and that’s incredibly challenging. It’s difficult to know if I’m getting it right. It was much easier to analyze myself and I feel like I was able to interpret my actions in a way that accurately reflected their meanings. On the other hand, being so open about my personal life was very difficult. It took me months before I was able to share the story with anyone besides my boyfriend and my professor Lauren Kessler. I was worried that people would judge me and I had to get over that.

Q. What made you choose the LNF program?
A. I took a graduate-level course in Literary Nonfiction the final semester of my undergraduate career and I fell in love with the genre. After graduating I began experimenting with trying to write in that style in my newspaper articles and when it came time to look for graduate school options I really wanted to hone those literary writing techniques. This is the only graduate journalism program that’s focused exactly on that, so it seemed like the perfect choice.

Q. How has the experience been?
A. I’m so happy to be here in the J-school and in the LNF program. Lauren is a fabulous writer and a wonderful teacher and I feel like I’ve grown so much as a writer/reporter in the past year. During our LNF writing workshops last year, I’d leave class knowing exactly what I had to do to put together a good piece. I knew what to look for while reporting and how to think about structure. Lauren breaks it down to the essential parts and gives us the tools to be great writers. She also really de-mystifies the process, which does a lot to empower the writer. I had high hopes for what the LNF program could be and it’s been even better than I imagined. I seriously love studying here and I don’t want to leave.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. I’m co-producing a historical documentary for Oregon Public Broadcasting on WWII conscientious objectors who were interned in work camps here in Oregon. I’m also in the beginning stages of research for a book proposal on environmental activism.


l.ementary said...

I just read the story-- finally-- and I loved it. I get told all the time that I look like someone's friend or cousin, and I hide my frizzy perm pictures, too. I wish you would post the pics you used in the profile on this blog. :)

John said...

Congratulations on the inclusion. That's awesome. I just found your blog today, and I'm looking forward to reading more here. I'm bookmarking the link to your story so I can read it tonight.



b said...

I'm gonna be in Vol 2 with ya! I'm still kind of in disbelief (thus the google search that brought me here), and I very much enjoyed your account of finding out, as it was eerily similar to mine. All the best.


Mark Brown said...

Fantastic story, Katie. It's educational and beautiful — a wonderful combination of fact, introspection and poetry.

Egg Donors said...

Great Post.....

I found your site on stumbleupon and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

Thanks for sharing....

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