Katie Grindeland, on writing, inspiration and authenticity

Katie Grindeland is the author of The Gifts We Keep, a selection from The Library Writers Project, which highlights local self-published authors. In an innovative partnership, Ooligan Press worked with the library to publish this novel about an Oregon family struggling with past tragedy while caring for a Native Alaskan girl with sorrows of her own.

Reading with friends? Start the conversation with this book summary and discussion guide.

Why did you want to tell this particular story?

I have always been a very character-driven writer, so I was excited at the prospect of diving into first-person emotional exploration with a somewhat diverse group of people. It was really important to me to try and give voice to their internal experience since we don’t always have a platform for that in our put-together grown-up lives. Big feelings, authenticity, connection, these were pillars for me. Not just as words on a page, but as an open-handed gesture to the reader’s experience as well. If someone reads this story and feels emotionally seen or included, I would consider that my biggest success.

Who or what inspires you, writing wise? Who inspires you in your life?

I am always inspired by those really good writers who make you stop in your tracks, by virtue of how purely they can weave a phrase or present an idea. The kind where I have to put the book down to stare at nothing and just think for a few minutes. Yann Martel and Marilynne Robinson and Jonathan Safran Foer and Barbara Kingsolver. But I also really love the writer who just wants to borrow your ear for a minute to tell a cool story they know. Lynda Barry and Stephen King and Cheryl Strayed and Diane Ackerman. These and so many more. Outside of writing, hard workers inspire me. Nose-to-the-grindstoners inspire me. Bad-at-something-but-trying-it-anyway inspires me. I find a lot of bravery in authenticity. And kindness. Kind-hearted people are secret super heroes and they don’t even know it. That inspires me.

Can you recommend a book you've recently enjoyed?

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It undid me, in all the best ways. Beautiful, meaningful, incandescent. I read much of this by headlamp on a solo camping trip near The Dalles, listening to trains run by in the dark, simply because I couldn’t put it down. I also love “S”, by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams. It's a novel within a novel, filled with miscellanies that fall out of the book into your lap if you aren’t careful, postcards, notes, photos -- all of which may or may not be clues to unraveling the story. Plus, if you’re anything like me, it will have you spouting about the Ship of Theseus parable to friends and family, whose reception may be lukewarm in comparison to your enthusiasm for the idea!

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