Sara Batkie, a 2004 Pleasant Valley High School graduate, says she's always been a writer.
Batkie earned the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction for her collection of short stories, "Better Times."
“I’ve always been a writer in some form or another, even when I was young,” she said. “The first person who really made me think more and seriously about it was Kate Stangler at PV.”
Batkie was in Stangler’s class when she was a junior.
“She opened my eyes up to the possibilities of what writing could be. We read a lot of good stuff in that class.” Reading Raymond Carver’s story 'Cathedral' “was a huge moment for me,” Batkie said. “This is something short fiction can do in such a short space of time.”
Stangler had high standards for her students, but was kind. “She made you want to be a better writer and a better student,” Batkie said.
Writing, Batkie said, was the way she found it easiest to interact with the world. The daughter of Cathy and Steve Batkie, she’s a little like her father, who doesn’t write, but is “sort of a well-known storyteller - -he always has a story in his back pocket.”
Sara Batkie was born in Bellevue, Washington and grew up in Connecticut and Iowa, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa in 2008. She pursued her master’s degree in creative writing at New York University and graduated from its fiction program in 2010.
In June of 2014, Batkie was awarded a residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, where she worked on a novel.
Her stories have been published in various journals, received mention in the 2011 Best American Short Stories anthology, and honored with a 2017 Pushcart Prize.
She lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan as the writing programs director for The Center for Fiction, an arts non-profit that “has been around in one form or another” since 1820. “We have events, a membership library, do awards and fellowships. It’s our goal to celebrate the art of fiction and connect readers and writers together,” Batkie said.
Her story collection “Better Times” won the 2017 Prairie Schooner Book Prize and is available from University of Nebraska Press. She will sign copies of it at an event in Davenport in October.
She recently completed work on her first novel.
She has some advice for young writers, and it’s pretty simple: “Read, read, read!” she says. “And not just in the form you're most interested in. If you write nonfiction, read poetry too. If you're into science fiction, try a crime novel once in a while. Also, rejection is a huge part of the publication process so try to not to be discouraged by it early on.”
At the moment, Batkie is reading the newest collection from poet Terrance Hayes “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin,” along with “Flights,” the first English translation of Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk.
Her favorite short-story authors include Lorrie Moore, Denis Johnson and Amy Hempel. Her favorite novelists are Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison and Kazuo Ishiguro.