I met Neil Serven at Bread Loaf last year and was first impressed by the story he submitted for workshop. The characters were clearly drawn and familiar—in the sense that I felt like I was reading about people I’ve known and wanted to hear about—and their actions and choices were fresh and surprising. The piece was both heartfelt and smart, and I felt like I could have stayed in that world for a long time. Neil was sharp and generous in his critiques, and over the course of the ten days, I came to look forward to his insight on each story up.

So I was especially grateful to come across this kind post he wrote about about Crooked Hallelujah over at Neil Serven | Fiction Short and Long. Thank you, Neil.

Oh yeah! This essay over at Electric Literature especially spoke to the 80s kid in my nostalgic heart.

-from “ Before the Internet, TV Guide was the Place for Smart Criticism” at Electric Literature

-from “Before the Internet, TV Guide was the Place for Smart Criticism” at Electric Literature

You can find other links to his work here.

Well this is something.

Somebody should pinch me.

The Plimpton Prize for Fiction is a $10,000 award given to an emerging writer published in the past four issues. Named after our longtime editor George Plimpton, it commemorates his zeal for discovering new writers. This year’s Plimpton Prize will be presented by the novelist Richard Ford to Kelli Jo Ford, for her story “Hybrid Vigor,” from the Winter 2018 issue. “Hybrid Vigor” focuses on the unforgettable Reney, a young woman struggling to find her way through the adulthood she’s been dealt, living paycheck to paycheck. She manages a Dairy Queen, attends night school, and scratches out a life on a dwindling plot of farmland, where a calf and her prized mule, Rosalee, have just gone missing.

This is such an honor. All I can do right now is speak in cliches and grin. I’m so grateful.

More Good News!

! I learned this week that Crooked Hallelujah won University of Central Oklahoma’s Everett Southwest Literary Award, a prize for story manuscripts written by writers living in or writing about Texas, New Mexico, or Oklahoma.

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I’m so grateful for this honor and for the time and attention judge Rob Roensch paid our work. He said this about Crooked H, which, I mean, YES THANK YOU SO MUCH:

“As a collection, Crooked Hallelujah tells the vivid and enveloping story of the contentious relationships and unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters across generations in the unforgiving landscape of rural Oklahoma and Texas. Each individual short-story is alive with fierce struggle and fierce love. It is an unforgettable work of art.”

It’s been a good week, friends! If you find yourself here, still reading, thank you.

is this thing on? toot toot

Hi again! I recently found out that my story “Book of the Generations” won the Missouri Review’s Peden Prize for the best story published in their 2017 volume year.

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Novelist Elise Juska, this year’s judge, generously said:

The world of the story was so immersive and absorbing, the language so fluid (it felt almost effortless, though surely it was far from it), the characters so fully real. It struck me as a short story with the richness of a novel, one that dealt with universal struggles--with family, and sense of belonging--through such a specific and original point of view. And the last sentence blew me away.

I’m blushing. And so very proud. I love that story, and I love those characters. An interview and full text of the story should be featured on the Missouri Review’s site in a couple weeks. On October 15th, I’ll be reading from the story at the Peden Prize reception in downtown Columbia, MO. Details to come! Yay!!

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

I am thinking this morning about those dear kids, their loved ones, and their teachers and coaches. I sit and cry and cry, and then I try to figure out how to start this day.

A five-year-old girl wakes up and, wearing nothing but Wonder Woman undies, rides a giant plush unicorn into the living room. The day starts.

But then she is at school by a magic of propulsion and happenstance because, surely, I can no longer send this beautiful, wild creature into a school. Not today. But she is there now. And if anything happens to her, this world and myself will be unforgivable. 

I don't think we are made to withstand this kind of tragedy.

That seems right. But then I look around me and understand--that's the only reason some of us are here, because people have withstood (and, of course, are at this exact moment) so much and somehow survived. Maybe violence of such scale from within one's own community is a different kind of...whatever this is. I don't know. Maybe I am staying with big thoughts because the other thoughts are so very hard.   

So hard that I come back to myself (it never takes long) and to the human body and mind and how these vessels might not be built to hold such sorrow and senseless tragedy, even from a distance. And that if by some miracle of biology and grace, they can--for they must!--then we must mindfully bear witness. We--I should switch to the "I" here: I must break a little, for if I don't, I'm afraid then I will become fully broken. I'm afraid of how many times this has happened. I am afraid of how many times I've looked away. 

All of this is talking from a distance this morning, a distance brought about only by luck and circumstance, I'm afraid. I am devastated and unsure how we continue in a world like this, a world seemingly of our own making. Even our words mean so little now. 

Senseless.
Tragedy.
Thoughts.
Active.
Prayers.
Shooter.
Tragedy. 
School.
Thoughts.
Shooting. 
Prayers. 

My heart and my mind aches waking again to stories of teacher turned hero, of kids texting loved ones goodbye. I'm so angry and hurt for those kids and the parents and loved ones who received those words over their phones and then had to wait for hours to know what the rest of their days were going to look like. And those who will never get to wake their sleepy teenager again and prod her out the door to school. I sit and I cry and I wonder how we can go on like this. How did we send our children to school today? How will we tomorrow?

It’s never always obvious.

Today's Lorrie Moore's birthday. Here she is in The Paris Review 15 years ago. 

What an odd interview. What a delight. ❤️

In general, if a person were to watch me work—which I am grateful no one ever has—I suspect it might look like a lot of cutting and pasting of notes, stopping, starting, staring, intermittent flurries (as the weatherpeople say), sudden visitations (by invisible forces), the contemplation of the spines of various dictionaries and reference books stacked behind the computer, and much reheating of cold coffee (a metaphor and not a metaphor). But what it feels like is running as far as I can with a voice, a tuneful patch of a long, nagging idea. It is a daily struggle that doesn’t even always occur daily. From the time I first started writing, the trick for me has always been to construct a life in which writing could occur. 

And then:

Well, it is possible to believe that the busier and more disorganized a writer’s life, the easier it is to write a novel as opposed to a short story. To write a short story, you have to be able to stay up all night. To read it all in one sitting and at some point see the whole thing through in a rush is part of the process. There’s urgency and wholeness in stories. 

Further still...

INTERVIEWER
Could you talk about the moment you decided to become a writer, if there was one that you can put your finger on? Or was it always obvious?
MOORE
It’s never always obvious.
INTERVIEWER
Some writers seem to think it was inevitable—they were writing poems when they were five and never stopped.
MOORE
Does that mean it’s obvious? I’d like to see some of those poems.
INTERVIEWER
So you don’t feel you were destined to it, that you had no other choice but to be a writer?
MOORE
Well, that’s all very romantic, and I can be as romantic as the next person. (I swear.) ...

-Lorrie Moore, The Art of Fiction No. 167

News!

Hi, Friends. I'm so excited and happy to tell you that I've been named one of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation's 2016 National Fellowship Artists! It's an amazing group of Native artists, some who I've admired from afar for some time (Bunky Echo-Hawk!) and some whose work I can't wait to get to know. 

I'm so grateful and only hope the work I produce honors those who've believed in me along the way. 

 

Love Medicine

"Ahhhhh," she said, surprised, almost in pain, "you got to be."

"I got to be what, honeysuckle?" He tightened his arm around her slim shoulders. They were sitting in a booth with a few others, drinking Angel Wings. Her mouth, the lipstick darkly blurred now, tipped unevenly toward his. 

"You got to be different," she breathed. 

-"The World's Greatest Fisherman" (1982), Louse Erdrich

I'm having a hard time figuring my way into this revision, so I sat down with a master. Every time I come back to the book, I find something else that stuns me. 

I'm at School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe as Indigenous Writer-in-Residence now, speaking of stunning, beautiful gifts. I'm going to finish this book.