CHHS Teacher Wins Award for First Novel

by Kassie Petermann
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Laurel Osterkamp has proven that creativity coupled with determination can go a long way.

Osterkamp, a Columbia Heights High School English teacher, wrote a novel titled "Following My Toes,"
which is a winner of a National Indie Excellence 2008 Book Award.

Osterkamp's novel is about a woman who gets dumped by her boyfriend for her best friend.
Although she never faced that particular situation, Osterkamp says she went through a growing
period in her 20s when some of her relationships were really tested.
She became interested in writing a book during the summer of 2004. "I thought it would be a fun
summer project," she said.

"Creative expression has always been really important to me," Osterkamp, 37, said of her interest in
writing a novel.

She received a major in theatre at the University of Minnesota - Duluth and for several years
performed with comedy improv groups. However, after she started teaching full-time and gave birth
to her son, Osterkamp said she didn't have the energy or the drive for performing.
"I switched to writing because that was something I could do in my own time more easily," she said.
"Writing is more fun for me than acting or performing ever was.

"When I sit down I can create this world that's entirely within my control. It's all about what's going
on in my head, and I can form it the way I want it to come out. It's really rewarding.

"I tried to base the book off of what it's like to go through that stage where you're trying to find the
right person for you romantically," she said. "While your friends sometimes feel like family members,
the forgiveness isn't going to come as easily."

She added that her novel is about what it's like to feel betrayed by friends and to get to a point
where you can forgive them.
Osterkamp said her novel titled "Following My Toes" relates to how the main character, Faith, believes
that she is psychic and gets a sensation in her toes when something good is about to happen.

The title of her novel also connects with learning to follow one's instincts and to trust oneself, she

To aid in her writing process, Osterkamp took a romance novel class at the Loft Literacy Center in
Minneapolis, which offers programs and services for readers and writers.

While taking the class, Osterkamp visited a Web site about how to write a romance novel, and the
advice she read said to write at least 500 words a day. She committed to working toward that goal,
and said some days she had to force herself to write.
"I started thinking about what it felt like when I first moved down to Minneapolis," said Osterkamp. "I
took situations that actually happened to me, but I made them way more dramatic and exciting."

She completed her novel in March 2006 and began working toward getting it published.

She sent her novel to a lot of agents, but only received one e-mailed response from an agent who
said they thought the novel was great, but that they weren't taking new clients.
Her mother, Lynn, already had two published self-help books - one was self-published. While
Osterkamp was trying to get her novel published, her mother was working on a murder mystery.

Lynn decided to again go the route of self-publishing because she had had a better experience doing
it herself, Osterkamp said, who worked with her mother to get their books published.

"I learned a lot about promoting my work, figuring out how the system works and getting reviews,"
said Osterkamp, who also took an online book marketing course.

Her mother worked on book layout and found a company that would print their books.
Osterkamp's novel was published in April 2006 by PMI Books, the publishing company established by
Osterkamp and her mother in March 2006.

On May 7 of this year, Osterkamp found out her novel is a winner of a National Indie Excellence 2008
Book Award. She submitted her novel into the Chick-Lit category, a fiction genre that markets to
single, working women in their 20s and 30s.
"I'm especially thrilled to have won this award," Osterkamp said. "There's sort of a stigma to being
self-published, so after you've won an award you have more credibility."

The National Indie Excellence Awards competition, for independent publishers, is judged by a panel of
experts from all aspects of the publishing industry including editing, marketing, publicity and design.
As a winner in the competition, Osterkamp said she's received "bragging rights" along with an award
sticker that appears on the cover of her novel.

She is finishing her second book, which she said is based off of themes pertaining to her 30s, which
are connected to high school (she's a high school teacher), motherhood and marriage.

Osterkamp, who has taught in Columbia Heights for eight years, teaches sophomore English, creative
writing, film studies and TV production.
She lives in Minneapolis with her husband Rich, and her 3-year-old son Eli.

Osterkamp's novel is available at and at local bookstores by request.

For more information about Osterkamp or her novel, visit
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