Contributor Spotlight: Gina Ochsner

headshot of Gina Ochsner

Gina Ochsner’s story “The Kingdom of Paper” is part of Issue 76 of Bellingham Review. Subscribe or purchase a single issue through our Submittable page here.

What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?

I grew up reading folk tales and loved the stories collected by the Grimm brothers and those written by Hans Christian Anderson. They seemed to echo a hard truth children everywhere know: it’s dangerous to be a child. Children exist in a world governed by the compassion and cruelty of adults. I wanted to write a story where a child instinctively understands this and figures out how to navigate around the adults in her world to make her voice heard.

Tell us about your writing life.

I love stories. I love hearing them. I love reading them. I love telling them. I love to see and hear what other people are doing with their words and this is what propels me from inertia to the books, the keyboard, the blank page. I’m fascinated by how older stories (again those folk tales and anecdotes from oral traditions) inform other newer stories. I’m at work now collecting folk tales (some ghost stories and a vampire story) from the Roma living in southern Serbia.

Which non-writing aspect(s) of your life most influences your writing?

Every morning I read from a parallel Bible (Russian and English) in the King James Version. The language is so rich, so redolent, and in some places downright quirky that I almost always stumble across a startling image that burrows like a tick into my skin.

What writing advice has stayed with you?

A teacher noticed that I was struggling and had been for several months. He put a hand on each of my shoulders and looked me in the eyes. “Sometimes you have to walk through a desert to find the water,” he said. That’s stuck with me. The desert might be a season in life, a transition that seems to take way too long to resolve, a general fogginess of the brain or heart or spirit that may take months to clarify, a frustrating run of rejections. The desert has been all these things and more, and yet in time water has always appeared just when I needed it most.

What is your favorite book (or essay, poem, short story)? Favorite writer(s)?

I love Anna Kamienska’s Astonishments. Also high on my list: anything by Bohumil Hrabal, Bruno Schultz, Milorad Pavic, Alice Munro and Angela Carter.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading The Yellow Fairy Book, folk tales collected by Andrew Lang.

What project(s) are you working on now, or next?

I’m just finishing a collection of short stories all set in Northern Oregon, and all of them containing elements of the other worldly, of haunted characters, of watery creatures who may or may not be mermaids, of children who must outwit people in authority who may or may not have their best interests in mind.

Where can our readers connect with you online?

Gina Ochsner lives in Keizer, Oregon and teaches writing and literature at Corban University and with Seattle Pacific’s Low Residency MFA program. She is the author of the short story collection The Necessary Grace to Fall, which was selected for the Flannery O’Connor Award, as well as the collection People I Wanted to Be. Both collections received the Oregon Book Award. In 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt released The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight. Her latest novel entitled The Hidden Letters of Velta B was released in July 2016; the paperback edition will be released this summer. To find out more about Gina, please visit

Featured Image: “John Anster Fitzgerald, “Rabbit Among the Fairies”” by Sofi