When the time for college graduation rolled up, Katherine Oostman was torn: should she pursue an MFA in directing from Florida State University, or seek another path that would be less one-track-mind? Because as much as she believed in and was passionate about filmmaking, Katherine was loath to allow herself to be boxed into one identity: she was a director, yes, but also a writer, a novelist, a photographer, an all-around creative with the drive and talent to render her friends and (few, if any) foes speechless with envy.
But today is not a day to laud Katherine's talents as a filmmaker or a photographer. Today is an exploration of Katherine as a writer.
Katherine, known as Katie to friends and family, was born in Chicago, to an accountant mother who later homeschooled her children and a mechanical engineer father.
"Given such illustrious numerical lineage, it came as quite the shock when I spent all of algebra class writing stories in the margins," Katherine said.
In her own estimation, she began writing as a teenager, when she spent a summer immobilized by a leg cast.
"My mother, sick of my teenage attitude saturated by strict rest, enlisted a retired English teacher to give me tutoring in creative writing," Katherine remembered. "He was a crusty old man with hands that constantly shook, but the kind of mind worlds are born from. He showed me how to make my own."
And make her own she does: Katherine has penned an as-yet-unpublished novel, Amori, a fantasy which explores a world run by women.
Her sister Kelly, who is a "sounding board" for Katherine, listens to all her ideas, tells her which have potential, and reads all of her writing. She is likely the person on the planet with the greatest depth of knowledge about her sister's world-building.
"Katie, the writer, is such a creative, passionate being," Kelly said. "She pours her soul into characters, even when they don’t mirror her own. And she rakes every adjective out of her brain to find the perfect one to describe a moment. She’s kind of a genius."
Another good friend, Rebeca Robles, who shared an apartment with Katherine during their final year of undergrad, also spoke to Katherine's artistry.
"Katie is the kind of artist that sees something that everyone else may view as average or normal, and captures it in a new way," Rebeca said. "She reimagines her subject matter. I may hear a flat conversation between two people at a party, but she'll hear the beats between their questions and answers and see ex-lovers who are reunited by chance and unable to ask what they're really thinking."
Kelly compared her sister's artistic prowess to that of a machine with the ability to create.
"And what’s more impressive, is the machine can spin more emotion into words than you’ve ever felt in your lifetime," Kelly said. "She’s brought me to tears on numerous occasions with a collection of 26 letters."
Want to know what Kelly is talking about? Below is a sample of some of Katherine's musings, which can be found on Medium.
You are my ghosts, the friends I lost to time. You come to me in songs, worn clothing, and 3am recollections. I didn’t mean to let you go. I’m not the type of person to lose things. But somehow, I misplaced the most important things I could be given.
— Excerpt from an article titled "To Those I Left Behind"
Katherine attributes her love of the medium of writing to her introspective qualities, saying she used to write letters because, through writing, she could make more sense of her thoughts and emotions.
"There’s a permanence to it that’s meaningful and a fluidity to it that transcends the cadence of real life," she added. "Furthermore, writing acts as the blueprint for so many other mediums of creation. It’s the foundation of story, and story is the foundation of humanity."
Katherine hasn't had much time recently to pursue the art of writing — she is involved in an intensive filmmaking graduate program.
"Considering we’re in class or on set for 13+ hours a day, my writing output has diminished," she said. "But I try to make up for it by brainstorming and keeping those notes."
Although she is currently full-time pursuing a path other than writing, that is not an art form she is likely to forget about any time soon, mostly because of the effect writing has on her spirit.
"Writing reminds me to take time to be still and explore the world," she said. "There are moments where you’re searching for words and you have to stare at a moment or object and decide how to define its essence. That experience is nearly existential, but it’s also completely subjective to who you are and your experience."
But here's the thing: Katherine is more than an artist. She is a person, a friend, a sister, a daughter. She has relationships to build into in addition to the worlds she creates.
Rebeca, whose friendship with Katherine blossomed when they lived together, spoke highly of her friend.
"Katie is the kind of friend that you can trust to listen without judgement and to advise without bias," she said. "She has a quiet strength and wisdom, and then a wild, adventurous streak that takes you by surprise. She's loyal."
Kelly said she considers Katherine her best friend.
"You will never meet anyone as beautiful, kind, or spirited," she said. "Being a writer is just one facet of her whole. The sum of Katie is the most talented, amazing, fierce, and lovely. She’s the most incredible being I have ever known."
****** My friendship with Katie Oostman extends way way back, to the beginning of our freshman year at Asbury University.
I can attest to the fact that she is, indeed, a brilliant writer and also a wonderful human being.
This has been a disclaimer: Katie is a personal friend as well as a writer I've profiled. Take that as you will.*******