Catherine Orkin Oskow

I was the kind of kid who loved horses, dogs and wolves; reading, writing stories and poems; swimming in lakes and hiking in forests. I also dreamed of Scotty beaming me up to the Starship Enterprise to “explore strange new worlds,” or walking out of a wardrobe to discover the secret land of Narnia. I still am that kind of kid, except I have big kids of my own.

My great uncle, John L. (“Jack”) Sinykin, trained the first guide dog for the blind in the United States, before the Seeing Eye. He was old, but still vital when I was growing up. I wrote a biographical docudrama about his life, His Master’s Eyes, which was a Quarterfinalist in the Nicholls Fellowships in Screenwriting, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. It has been performed in staged public readings with actors.

Have you ever heard of Jewish cowboys? Our family homesteaded in South Dakota. I grew up in the Minneapolis area, but my older cousin’s family still lived on the ranch when I was young. At age twenty, her father was the first Jewish competitor in the National Rodeo Championship. His ride on the famed bronc “Widowmaker” was so admired that a sportswriter dubbed him “Bronco Lou.” The name stuck for the rest of his life. A few years ago, his daughter and I stayed on the ranch with the current owners, her former neighbors, and I wrote the screenplay A Home on the Range, a modern Western love story, inspired by her memories.


 

Here I am as teenager, like Gen in my novel Star Jumper.

Here I am as a teenager, like Gen in my novel Star Jumper.


 

I raise, show, and write about an ancient breed from Israel, Canaan Dogs, which are closer to nature than many modern breeds. (Meet my mischievous puppy Matan in my blog.) I bred the highest-achieving Agility Canaan Dog in the United States. I also trained dogs for other people, including a stint as personal dog trainer for the singer Helen Reddy.

The original Mazel, inspiration for the Canaan Dog in Star Jumper.

The original Mazel, inspiration for the Canaan Dog in Star Jumper.

I earned an undergraduate degree in English and American Literature/Writing Track at Brandeis University, where I studied with writers like Saul Bellow and Andre Dubus and poets like J.V. Cunningham and Ruth Stone; and a Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California, where I worked closely with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Robert Pirosh and poet, screenwriter and playwright James Ragan.

I taught writing and literature to public middle school students for ten years, taught a screenwriting class to adults at the Loft Literary Center, and then became a Jewish day school and community school librarian, all while raising children and dogs and continuing to write. Working as a librarian is a great job: I get to buy and read new books and excite young people about them!

My stories, articles and poems have been published in magazines such as: American Kennel Club Gazette, Bloodlines, American Jewish World, Israel Today, Identity Magazine, Desert Tracks, Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Pasadena Weekly, and online at Blue Mountain Arts. I edited scripts for the Web series Abnormally Normal for Smokin’ Yogi Productions and copy-edited the book We Tell It to Our Children by Mary Anne Barrows Wark.


 

Unlike the alien Prince in Star Jumper, I am not USUALLY royalty.

Unlike the alien Prince in Star Jumper, I am not USUALLY royalty.

 

HONORS, AWARDS AND GRANTS:

  • Minnesota State Arts Board Career Opportunity Grant—to work with a significant mentor: Newbery-Honored author Marion Dane Bauer, on editing the first draft of Young Adult novel, Star Jumper
  • 2 Grants from the Harmony Women’s Fund for writing residencies at Norcroft: A Writing Retreat for Women—for work on Star Jumper
  • Quarterfinalist, Nicholls Fellowships in Screenwriting, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, for screenplay His Master’s Eyes
  • Screenplay His Master’s Eyes chosen for Industry Connections by the Minnesota Screenwriters’ Workshop
  • Semi-Finalist, Nissan Focus Film Competition, Screenwriting Division, for Young Adult-themed screenplay Rehearsal
  • Minnesota High School Press Association Award for ten years of high quality service to Minnesota high school journalism
  • Minnesota High School Press Association “All Minnesota Award” for the literary and arts magazine I founded and advised at Inver Grove Heights Middle School—the only middle school magazine to win the award for 5 years running

 WRITING MEMBERSHIPS:

  • Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
  • The Loft Literary Center
  • Screenwriters’ Workshop
CatherineBio: