Minnesota Women's Press

'Following my toes'
Minneapolis teacher publishes her first novel

by Michele St. Martin

New "chick lit" novel, by Laurel Osterkamp
Local author Laurel Osterkamp spoke with the Minnesota Women's Press about writing and publishing her first book, "Following My Toes."

We asked Osterkamp why she chose to write a book that is described as chick lit. Far from being offended by the term, Osterkamp said that she enjoys reading the genre. I found that [writing] in that style came naturally to me. I always wanted to write something with a light touch. I like humor, so I wanted to write something that would be funny, but real."

Deeper than chick lit
Chick lit or not, "Following My Toes" has a deeper and broader message than the genre's typical formula of a young woman getting established in a career, going shopping and having lots of sex. There's a mystery woven in and more important, a strong message about forgiveness. By the end of the book, Faith is able to look beyond the disloyal behavior of two of the people closest to her to see what part she played in their betrayal. Rather than cutting them out of her life, she makes the decision to forgive them and try to salvage the relationships. "Faith [initially] only looked at things from her own perspective," Osterkamp explained. "She learned that people are flawed, and we have to forgive them for that."

As strange as fiction
Many first novels have autobiographical elements; "Following My Toes" is no exception. Like her protagonist, Osterkamp is a classroom teacher. "I've taught at Columbia Heights High School for seven years," said Osterkamp, who's 35. "I teach TV production, film studies and creative writing-my baby." Another autobiographical thread: She once had a roommate very much like Faith's roommate Missy, who worked as a stripper and phone sex operator.

Now that she's published "Following My Toes," Osterkamp is busy promoting it. Because the novel is a print on demand (POD) title, it's not likely to be in your local bookstore, but any bookstore can order it. Osterkamp's book is self-published-she formed a company with her mother, who's also a writer-though she's openly critical of many self-published books and the self-publishing industry in general. "There is a stigma in self-publishing your book and the quality of many self-published books isn't very high," Osterkamp said. "I was really meticulous about it (producing a quality book) when I made the final revisions. I think it's as good as books that are published commercially. I have writer friends whose books are better than many the publishing industry produces. I think it's really hard to get your foot in the door in the publishing industry unless you're famous, have luck or connections."

She's inclined to keep on self-publishing. "My mother's published two books," Osterkamp said. "The one she self-published sold about 20 times more books.

"Even if you publish with a commercial publisher, you have to do your own marketing-and your book may be on the shelf for maybe a week. You have more control doing it yourself."

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