Katherine Dykstra


Upcoming reading: Montclair Literary Festival

I'm honored to be included in the lineup for the Halfway There reading during the inaugural Montclair Literary Festival. Details below.

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm Halfway There Reading Series. Montclair’s well-known reading series presents work by five emerging local writers: Katherine Dykstra, Teka-Lark Lo, Joseph Rathgeber, Abby Sher and Lauren Marie Schmidt. A chance to hear and be inspired by the literary voices of the future.  Venue: Montclair Public Library YA Room


I am thrilled to learn that "Like Held Breath," originally published in Crab Orchard Review, was included in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays 2015 guest-edited by Ariel Levy.



Kelly Sundberg on publishing in Guernica

Kelly Sundberg was interviewed in Brevity about the experience of writing "It Will Look Like a Sunset" published in Guernica. In it she mentions our editing process.

The original essay had some more lyrical components that didn’t fit into the revision. They were some of my favorite lines, and I miss them, but they didn’t fit within the context of the new draft. Once the lyrical components, which had been the connective tissue were gone, we actually had to cut and paste the crots in order to re-achieve that balance.

Read the rest here.


Guest Blog: An Essay Like Mousetrap

Essay Daily: Take One Daily and Call Me Every Morning

A little something I wrote for Essay Daily about my job as Senior Editor at Guernica went up today. An excerpt:

I like essays whose inner workings are on full display, essays that don’t skip steps or make assumptions, essays that are logical, which is different from predictable. I am all for ideas that tangent and spiral but I want to be walked through these wrong turns, realizations and back steps.

The piece has to be like a game of Mousetrap, or like a Rube Goldberg machine. One sentence leading inevitably into the next. Each sentence completely dependent on the one before it. Every word clear, precise, considered.

Find the rest here: An Essay Like Mousetrap

Essay: The Hard Way

I placed third in the 2013 Real Simple Life Lessons Essay Contest!

Two teenage girls sitting on a bench

Emily and I became friends the year my family fell apart. I sat next to her in seventh-grade art class. I didn’t recognize her, which meant she was probably new. This made her a good candidate for friendship, since I had been on the outs with most of the girls in my class since my former best friend turned against me during an ice cream social. While the teacher spoke, I leaned over to Emily and whispered, “I like your sweater.” It was the only thing I could think of to say. But in the magical ways of 12-year-olds, that was all it took.

Emily became a locker-sharing, lunch-seat–saving, necklace-exchanging, call-every-night-from-home-even-though-we-had-seen-each-other-all-day type of friend. I spent whole weekends at her house, which I knew in the same intimate way I knew my own. Her family brought me to Hilton Head on their summer vacation. She and I agonized over the boys in our classes—did they like us? Could they?—and over what our lives, at that time unformed and wide open, could possibly be about, too.

Emily confided in me easily. She told me about her mother’s taste for vodka, how it made her father yell. I had seen her mother pour a drink during a lazy afternoon and had even witnessed Emily’s father snap, but I didn’t know what advice to give, so I only listened.

Emily knew that my father had moved out. One night, quietly over the phone, I even told her that he was gay. But we never discussed either topic again. When it came to difficult subjects, I kept Emily at a remote distance, just as I did everyone else.


Interview: Hard Wired

I got to interview Emily Bazelon for Guernica

On the evolution of Internet bullying, underdogs' resilience of underdogs, and the promise of today’s teens. 

Kids can be cruel. For generations, this was seen as an unfortunate fact of life. Adults advised the targets of adolescent nastiness to try not to dwell on it, to let it roll off their backs.

As Emily Bazelon writes in her new book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, this all changed in 1999 when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris walked into Columbine High School wielding a couple of semiautomatic weapons. Klebold and Harris’ rampage resulted in thirteen dead, two dozen more injured, and a country left struggling to understand what exactly had gone wrong.

Bazelon, a Slate senior editor and contributor to the New York Times Magazine, as well as a trained lawyer, writes in her prologue, “Harris and Klebold weren’t themselves targets of bullying (or known bullies). But,” she continues, “when a subsequent nationwide investigation revealed that most kids who turn into school shooters have previously felt persecuted, bullied, or threatened, the lesson was driven home: to brush off bullying was to court disaster… ”


Essay: A Place for Everything

I won first place in the Waterman Fund's annual Essay Contest!

Editor’s note: The winner of the fifth annual Waterman Fund essay contest, which Appalachia sponsors jointly with the Waterman Fund, ventures into new territory. In the previous four years of the contest, writers have reflected on the ways civilization encroaches on the wilderness. This year’s winner turns it around, describing the clash of wild animals with a busy car campground. More black bears show themselves near Delaware Water Gap, on the New Jersey–Pennsylvania border, than most people will ever see in darkest Maine. Katherine Dykstra’s honest story of what happened when she met her first bear on her first camping trip left us squirming and thinking harder about what happens when wild animals wander into settled areas. The Waterman Fund is a nonprofit organization named in honor of Laura and the late Guy Waterman. It is our mission to encourage new writers. See the end pages of this journal for information about next year’s contest.

We'd thrown the trip together in a flurry of phone calls and email exchanges all in 48 hours. Parker researched state parks, campgrounds, driving times. Ann went to a dollar store and bought four nylon camping chairs. I went to Target and came away with two tents. There was a moment when we nearly called the whole thing off, Seth having phoned every rental car company in the five boroughs and coming up dry; it was Fourth of July weekend after all. But dogged in his pursuit, he eventually found a car that had been returned early. It was the last, we believed, in the city.

      As we inched our way west on Canal Street, Seth caught my eye in the rearview mirror: “So I hear you’re worried about bears,” he said, amused.