Why I Write

Aug 11
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Conversations, Writing

My friend Leah Lax invited me to be a part of her blog tour by answering the questions below about my writing life. Leah is one of the authors in our book Beyond Belief who is currently shopping her own beautiful memoir. She’s a dog-lover, a writing teacher, and a musician. Leah lives in Houston.

Note: I have a sinking feeling that I was supposed to do the interview questions below and then send them on to three other bloggers. I never sent the questions on, so the chain-letter experience will end with me, but after the body of this post, I have listed three bloggers whose sites I go to almost every day. Check them out just for fun.



  1. What are you working on?

Right now I have a few projects in the works. For one thing, because we are on this grand 5-month adventure to Chile, I’m BLOGGING as regularly as I can! I love blogging precisely because people read what you write almost instantly. Right now, blogging is a way for me to stay connected to community back home.

But I’m also working on a book (working title: Running Undercover—or something like that) which chronicles the history of women’s running. Before women comprised more than 50 percent of the runner population in North America, we were discouraged from running, told our wombs would fall out if we ran long distances, and prevented from signing up for races. We’ve largely overcome all of that in the west, but there are still populations/communities where running is rare, discouraged, or even illegal for women. This book explores the lives of women who buck their respective systems and find their way to running as a subversive activity that ultimately leads to life-changing freedom and self-authority.

  1. How does your work differ from other work in your genre?

I’m sure as a writer I share some qualities with others who write memoir or who write about women’s issues and/or running. Because of my background as a psychotherapist, what I think I bring to the table is a unique blend of story-telling and psychology. In every story I write, fiction or non-fiction, I’m looking for/listening for the metaphor that makes that story applicable to other people’s lives. Everything has a lesson for us if we pay attention. I’m not saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” The idea that everything which happens to us is pre-planned for a specific reason is a philosophy I don’t have much affection for. I don’t feel like I have any idea WHY things happen. What I’m saying is that we can choose to consider each thing that happens to us an opportunity to find a way to grow. WE construct the narratives of our lives. When I write about my own life or about the lives of others, I look for how to tell a meaningful story that has some generalizability. I want people to relate to what I write and to feel encouraged by it.

  1. Why do you write what you do?

Well, I alluded to this above. I want those who read what I write to walk away feeling like they can take hold of life and live it on their own terms. This passion to encourage others probably comes from my years of living inside of a small religious dogma that made me feel there wasn’t much wiggle room for self expression. Now I feel like creative expression is central to my sense of well-being.

  1. How does your writing process work?

Ah… Well, it starts with my calendar. I block out chunks of time and then I put my butt in the chair, open my computer, and place my hands on the keyboard. I always have at least one project going. If I can’t come up with anything to write on any of those projects, I open a blank document and listen to the voice of my deeper self. I write down whatever she tells me. Eventually, I settle down and feel I can get back to one of my projects at hand.



So three blogs I go to very regularly:

A. Pam Helberg. Pam is runner as well as a memoirist, poet, and essayist who is currently studying to become a therapist. I’m watching her journey closely.

B. Wendy Welch. Wendy is my pal in Big Stone Gap. Her life couldn’t be more different than mine, and so I peer into it through her blog with fascination (and sometimes with befuddlement).

C. Dawn Landau. Her website, Tales from the Motherland, features such posts as “I May Be Lame, Clueless and Demanding… But You Still Came out of My Vagina (and other ugly truths).”

Meet Sarah Attar, one of the First Saudi Arabian Female Olympians!

Jan 30
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Conversations, Guest Blogger, Read This

As you know, I’m in the process of doing research for a new book on women runners who run covered (such as with clothing prescribed by their religion, or by secrecy because running is forbidden to them for some reason).

A few weeks ago, in the process of doing my first round of interviews, I had the pleasure of meeting (via phone) an extraordinary young woman. Sarah Attar is the first female runner to participate in the Olympic Games on behalf of Saudi Arabia.  Sarah grew up here in the U.S. and runs for Pepperdine University in California. A mature young woman who understands her place in history, Sarah told me she dreams of a day when running for girls in Saudi Arabia is “no big deal,” but just something girls do. I share Sarah’s vision. Running makes a girl feel brave, proud, strong, and free. Girls who run come to know that they can think for themselves and stand on their own two feet–literally and metaphorically.

Graffiti of Sarah's image running in the Olympics by the artist Shaweesh

Graffiti of Sarah’s image running in the Olympics by the artist Shaweesh


As a senior in college, Sarah is an art major. And at this time, she is working on a creative project for her senior project. I’d love it if you would consider helping her with it. Check out what she has to say:

“From my experience in the Olympics I have started exploring and researching the idea of participation in sport, and my art has been a great way to do that. With my senior thesis exhibition coming up, I am starting a global collaborative project to collect runs from people around the world. Powerful things happen when people come together, and I would like as many people to be involved with this as possible. This project will demonstrate how all of our runs, while individual and distinct, are all part of a larger community, that we are all connected through the simple and beautiful act of running.

“I would love your help with this. I think we can reach a wide range of people and through that create an even greater global community.” -Sarah Attar


To be a part of Sarah’s project send the following to runningroutesproject@gmail.com:

1. Your age.

2. Your gender.

3. An image of a running route you’ve enjoyed (this can be a screen shot or a link to your route online).

4. The country where your run took place.

5. Your story about running (optional).

To learn more about Sarah’s project, visit runningroutesproject.tumblr.com

Wanna Talk to My Coach?

Apr 25
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Advice, Conversations, Training

Sign up for a free tele-workshop! Details below:

Running 101: Why and How Running is Awesome for You

When: Monday, April 29 at 11:00am Pacific Standard Time

Cost: FREE!!

Tele-Workshop Description: Are you a runner who would like to improve your workouts and feel better during and after your runs? Or maybe you’re someone who has been thinking about taking up running but you don’t feel you know what you’re doing.
In this interview-style workshop, running coach Carol Frazey of The Fit School will talk about good running form and offer suggestions on running workouts that will take you to the next level no matter where you’re starting.

How to sign up: Send an e-mail to clostman@live.com. Write Running 101 in the subject line. Please include in the body of your e-mail:1. Your full name, 2. Your e-mail address. In response to your e-mail, you will receive confirmation of your registration and the telephone number for the call.

About Carol Frazey: Carol Frazey is the author of The Fit School Newsletter and The Fit School Diet Plan: 1 Year to a Nutritionally and Physically Fit Life e-book and co-author of 26.2 Life Lessons: Helping You Keep Pace with the Marathon of Life. She earned an M.S. in Kinesiology from the University of Colorado while working with athletes who would go on to become Olympians. As an undergraduate at the Pennsylvania State University, Carol was a member of both the cross country and track and field teams. Carol has worked as a teacher, coach, and healthcare professional. Currently, she is president of Fit School, Inc. (www.TheFitSchool.com) where she provides newsletters, consultation, and workshops for schools, families, and businesses on exercise and nutrition and balancing life, family, and health. Her mission is to educate and motivate individuals to make small changes each day to live healthier lives….and to have fun while doing it! She lives in Bellingham, WA with her husband, two children, and a few furry and scaly creatures.

Week 5 of Training and a Visit from Marathon Man

Feb 14
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Around Town, Conversations, Training

Happy Friday! A big thanks to those of you who have commented regularly on my training updates. I’ve never really blogged about my training process before and it’s fun to hear about your workouts as I’m going along with mine.

This week I’m moving my long run to Sunday because we’ve got company (more on that in a moment). So, quickly, here’s the training for this week:

Sunday: 3 slow miles

Monday: Speed work. After a warm up, Carol’s group did 25 minutes of “ins and outs” (running hard on the straight part of the track and slowing down to bring the heart rate back to normal on the curved part of the track). Carol ran with me and really pushed me on the straights. I was sore on Tuesday.

Tuesday: Off

Wednesday: Pace work. This week I did two-mile repeats (two of them) with two minutes rest between. My goal was to run each of the 4 miles at my 9:30 pace, but I started out too fast. My first mile was about 9:20. I say “about” because my Garmin funked out on me and stopped measuring my pace for the first mile, but I’m starting to get the feel of the different paces. The second mile I definitely ran at a 9:31 pace. Miles 3 and 4 were slower: 9:54 and 9:47, respectively. Carol had encouraged me to slow down a bit from my one-mile repeats, even at the beginning of this workout. She was wanting to make sure I don’t go out too fast (which I did) and that I finish strong (which I didn’t). This is my last pace run before the 10K Smelt Run in La Conner next Saturday, so we’ll see how it goes! Even the pace I did on Wednesday would get me in under an hour (my goal) for my 10K next weekend.

Thursday: 3 slow miles.

Friday: 4 slow miles.

Saturday: I’ll be walking the “Two For the Road” with my pal, Sharon.

Sunday (I know it’s the start of next week, technically): Long run at Birch Bay–maybe 10 to 12 miles.

Marathon Man Comes to Visit:

So, aside from my training this week, the other exciting thing we’ve had going on is that Bill and I have been hosting an international visitor. Trent Morrow, otherwise known as Marathon Man, is here in the States working on his goal to break/shatter/smash/take down the world record to run the most marathons in one year. To complete this quest, he’ll have to run at least 160 marathons in 2013 (that’s right, if you do the math it comes out to 3.08 marathons per week). We are home base for him these last few days as he gets ready for the Woolley Runs (Saturday), the Birch Bay Marathon (Sunday), and the President’s Day Footrace (Monday).

Trent is working hard to find sponsors and welcomes conversation with folks who can share local knowledge with him in the cities he’ll be visiting. See his site for his tentative itinerary. As you can see (below), he spent his Valentine’s Day with two lovely Bellingham ladies and a container of chocolate ice cream. What could be better?

If you’d like to follow Trent on his journey (or contribute to his cause, offer him lodging, tweet him with encouragements, or suggest a sponsor), you can find him on Facebook and Twitter. And stay tuned right here for an interview with him in the coming weeks. We’ve been delighted to have the chance to get to know him.


Don’t Forget

And one more thing, since you’re here. This is the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) you can download our 26.2 Life Lessons: Helping You Keep Pace with the Marathon of Life on your Kindle or Kindle app. Spread the word. The more the merrier!

The Next Big Thing

Dec 28
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Conversations, Reflections, Writing

Every once in a while I have the fun of getting tagged in one of these blogger memes. I love them. It’s an online ponzi scheme wherein one author tags five other writers who each completes a self-interview and names five more bloggers/authors. This meme is called The Next Big Thing, where I get to share a little more about my next big thing. It’s perfect because I was just going to write about my next book and let y’all know when it’s coming out and what it’s about.

For this interview, I was tagged by Rebecca A. Saxton, writing teacher and blogger at Binding Wor(l)ds Together. Keep your eye on her because you’ll want to read her book when it comes out!

Here are my answers to the interview questions:

What is the working title and genre of your book?

My first book, Second Wind, was such an incredible delight to live and to write. Once the hubbub of marketing died down a little, I had the chance to think about what I might like to write next (I mean, besides this cool running blog, which I LOVE doing). I’d been discussing a project with a friend of mine for a couple of years that picked up on one of the sub-themes in Second Wind: Religion and faith. After a great deal of work this past year, I’m pleased to say that our new anthology, Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religion, will be coming out in April of 2013!!!
This is obviously not a book about running, it’s an anthology with 25 authors writing about their own spiritual journeys getting into and out of religious communities that, in some way, apply restrictions the secular world wouldn’t choose to adhere to.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Spirituality has always been an interest of mine. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to try and understand the numinous, the Mystery just beyond my reach. My co-editor, Susan Tive, and I met in a memoir writing class and discovered that although we came from different religious traditions, we understood one another’s struggles to distance ourselves from the harshest aspects of religion while still trying to remain grounded. We decided that we’d invite other women to join in on the conversation and it became a book.

Which actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie version of the book?

Well, I’ve always fancied the idea of Kate Winslett playing me in the film version of Second Wind. I wouldn’t mind if she’d like to play me in the screen version of any book I write, I suppose. We’d need a “binder full” of powerful actress to play the characters in Beyond Belief. I’ll have to think about this one.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Women write about their experiences getting into, staying inside of, and leaving restrictive religious communities.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency or publisher?

Seal Press will be publishing Beyond Belief. They are the same publisher whom I worked with on Second Wind. I love them.

How long did it take to write the first draft?

This book took a year. We had to find our writers and then work with them in the editing process. It was exciting to meet so many interesting women!

What other works compare to your book?

Drinking Diaries: Women Serve their Stories Straight Up (editors Caren Osten Gerszberg and Leah Odze Eptsein) and Love InshAlla: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women (editors Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu) are both collections of women’s writings that let us see inside private spaces often not talked about.

What or who inspired you to write this book?

I’m genuinely inspired by my therapy and coaching clients, to tell you the truth. Over the past 12 years I’ve had the privilege of sitting with individuals as they sort through the complex questions of life and try to move forward out of difficult situations into meaningful and productive existence. Faith/spirituality/religion is one area of deep, deep grappling for many people, and I’m inspired by how brave many of my clients have been as they ask hard questions and make tough decisions–especially when they decide they must walk away from something their community still values.

What else about your book might pique interest?

Susan and I were privileged to work with some pretty awesome authors who contributed fresh pieces to the anthology, including but not limited to:

Julia Sheeres (bestselling author of A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown)

Lucia Greenhouse (fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science)

Donna Johnson (Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir)

Mary Johnson (Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life)

Carolyn Briggs (Higher Ground: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost)

* * *

Tagged Authors:

Wendy Welch: The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap

Jennifer Wilke: THEN now

Pam Helberg

Jolene Hanson: Jolene’s Life in Focus

Kari Neumeyer: Rhymes with Safari

The Fit School by Carol Frazey

Janet Oakley: The History Weaver