“What is it about a small college that feels like opportunity?” Katey Schultz wrote in a recent entry on her website. While teaching a creative writing course at Randolph College, she has found an environment that fosters her creativity as she pens a novel about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Schultz has been writing fiction about the wars in the Middle East for a few years. Although she has never been to the Middle East and does not have family members or friends serving in those wars, she became keenly interested in the topic when she realized that terms related to those wars had become a part of the normal lexicon for students in the arts-centered high school where she taught.
“I was amazed how the language of the global war on terror had infiltrated the everyday speech of the average teenager,” she said. “They don’t have any memories of this country when we weren’t at war. They have grown up in such a different world, with a familiarity of warfare and violence and oppression and power.”
“My little cousins, in 5th or 6th grade, they know what a jihadist is,” she added. “I think that’s changing society.”
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 8 p.m.
Alice Ashley Jack room,
Smith Memorial Hall
Schultz began reading first-person accounts of the wars, watching footage from YouTube and documentaries, and making lists of military words. That research grew into her first book of short stories, Flashes of War, which will be published in May. Each story explores a question, such as why someone enlists in the military during wartime, or what it is like to be fighting a war that many at home are not thinking about. Some of those stories inspire the novel she is writing now.
A couple of years ago, Schultz learned that she had lost a writing prize she had sought, but she noticed that the winner had been an Emerging Writer in Residence at Randolph College. That piqued her interest, and she contacted Randolph’s English department.
The Emerging Writer program is part of the College’s Visiting Writer Series. It brings young writers who have not yet published a full-length book to teach a course for several weeks and to present a public reading.
Schultz has enjoyed working closely with Randolph students and teaching them about the creative process of writing. “They are curious about what you can do with creative writing, and they want to do a great job,” she said. “Everyone here is trying to learn and wants to be here. When you share those two basic principles, a lot of things can happen.”
Schultz will present a public reading of stories from Flashes of War on Feb. 6 at 8 p.m., in the Alice Ashley Jack Room on the second floor of Smith Memorial Hall. She hopes that her audience will feel the passion behind her work and think about the implications of war. “My stories are really bearing witness to something that we’ve done a pretty good job not looking at,” she said. “I hope it invites people to look at these wars again.”