Lori OstlundLori Ostlund

Winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction


I spent the first eighteen years of my life in a Minnesotan town of 411 people (or 413 if the sign as one entered from the opposite direction were to be believed—the two signs disagreed by two residents throughout most of my childhood). Though I left as soon as I graduated from high school, I find that my writing is deeply influenced by this place. We had one television station, internet had not been invented yet, and we rarely left town, so I grew up fairly isolated but wanting to know absolutely everything about people and the world. In fact, to this day, I find a lack of curiosity unforgivable.

As a child, I attempted to access the world through reading. The other day, my partner and I attempted to calculate how many hours of non-required reading we had done by the time we graduated from high school; we determined that a safe estimate was well over 15,000 hours for each of us. I approached reading almost like a job: during the school year, I ‘worked' part-time (25+ hours of reading a week), and during the summer, I was a full-time reader (easily 40 hours a week). When I finished graduate school in 1991, I wanted to learn about the world firsthand. I moved to Spain, and from there, traveled frequently to Morocco and other places. Traveling has been one of the biggest pleasures and teachers in my life; half of the stories in my first collection, The Bigness of the World, are set abroad. Though I have spent much of my adult life in Albuquerque, where I initially moved to attend graduate school, I love to move. I have lived in Moorhead, Minnesota; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Madrid, Spain; Malacca, Malaysia; and now San Francisco. I find the sense of freedom that accompanies the initial period of newness and anonymity highly stimulating and conducive to creativity.

I have worked as a teacher most of my life, with the exception of the seven years that my partner and I owned and operated a furniture and antique business called Two Serious Ladies. Over the years, I have taught college writing, ESL to foreigners, GMAT and GRE preparation to Spaniards, SAT preparation to high school students at Madrid's American School, and business communications to Malaysians. Currently, I teach transitional (developmental) English and story writing at the Art Institute of California-San Francisco.

I took a rather circuitous route to becoming a writer. I did not do an MFA program, though my intention was always to be a writer. My first story collection, The Bigness of the World, won the 2008 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and was published in the fall of 2009. Stories from it appeared in The Georgia Review, New England Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Bellingham Review, Hobart, and Blue Mesa Review. In the summer of 2009, I learned that I had been chosen for a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award, a $25,000 grant that allowed me to take time off from teaching in order to finish my novel, tentatively entitled After the Parade. I am currently the Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a position that will end in May of 2012. During my two years in Chapel Hill, I have been teaching fiction writing and have continued to work on my novel as well as a second short story collection.

For my official bio, see Media Kit.