THIRSTY: a novel by Kristin Bair O'Keeffe

25 Things About Kristin (as a writer)

  1. I started writing when I was eight years old. I received a shiny pink journal (with a lock and key!) for my birthday and immediately began to fill it with tales of adventure (along with silly gripes about my sisters and small crushes I had on various boys at school).
  2. I wrote my first poem shortly thereafter; it was called “The Hummingbird.”
  3. I had never seen a hummingbird when I wrote “The Hummingbird.”
  4. Sara Teasdale was one of my first inspirations. I discovered her poetry in the Bethel Park Public Library and read everything she’d ever written. (rather passionate stuff for a ten-year-old, but I was a rather passionate kid)
  5. Brahm Stoker’s Dracula was also one of my first inspirations (again discovered in the stacks at the Bethel Park Public Library).
  6. As a kid, I spent a lot of time at the Bethel Park Public Library.
  7. I only write on one side of a page in my journal. (I want to stop this. I know it’s a waste of paper. But, ugh, writing on both sides messes with my process and my psyche.)
  8. During high school, I wrote a series of plays about my older sister Traci and her friends. I parodied “Camelot.” (“Sir Lanceless” was the most successful of the series. It probably will never make it to the big stage, but it got a few laughs.)
  9. Favorite book during high school? The Odyssey.
  10. In Mrs. Holman’s ninth-grade English class, I memorized the first verse of Walt Whitman’s “O, Captain! My Captain.”
  11. I can still recite the first verse of “O, Captain! My Captain!” (if you ask, I will give a very passionate performance)
  12. I bought a used copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones in the bookstore at Indiana University in 1984 for $5.50. (That same copy is still on my bookshelf and I still refer to it.)
  13. I studied with some amazing poets during college, including Lynda Hull and Yusef Komunyakaa.
  14. I published my first poem in the Indiana University literary magazine Quarry (1987 or so). The poem—“Crumbling Steeples”—was about the death of the steel mill industry in Pittsburgh.
  15. I was super, super, super shy as a kid and throughout college. Talking out loud in class was such an excruciating experience, I would have rather walked barefoot across burning coals (slowly), eaten nails, or been thrown at the mercy of cannibals.
  16. While super, super, super shy, I blushed so easily and so often that my sixth-grade social studies teacher called me “Blushing Bair.” (Oh, geez…this made me blush even more.)
  17. Reading my writing out loud to groups was even worse than speaking out loud in class (all those eyes…). I once passed out in the middle of a reading.
  18. I outgrew my shyness during grad school when I started to teach. Now it’s hard to shut me up.
  19. I still blush pretty easily.
  20. I got an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College in Chicago. During my blissful years in the Fiction Writing Department, I discovered Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.
  21. My graduate thesis was an early draft of Thirsty.
  22. I read my work out loud as I write. Over and over and over. (even when I’m working in coffee shops…much to the dismay delight of those around me)
  23. I used to write exclusively by hand, transferring work to the computer only at a late stage in the writing process. Now I often write first drafts on the computer.
  24. I often begin first drafts as emails or letters to friends.
  25. If I had to be something other than a writer, I would be a ventriloquist, a roadie for Meat Loaf, or a time traveler. (First choice? Time traveler.)


Four recent novels that I’ve read more than once are: