I’m so pleased my interview in the Winter 2017 issue of Appalachian Heritage puts me in the same company as former Kentucky poet laureate, George Ella Lyon; my former student, Tasha Cotter; and so many other established and emerging writers. Thanks to editor, Jason Howard, for making me part of this outstanding journal.
I’m over the moon with Allyson Hoffman’s review of Landfall at NewPages.com. The quote above sums it up nicely, but if you care to read the review in its entirety, you can do so by clicking here. Thank you, Allyson. Thank you, NewPages!
I recently received some happy news from my M.F.A. Alma mater, Arizona State University. The December 2016 issue of ASU Alumni Magazine includes a review of my collection, Landfall: A Ring of Stories, in its Shelf Improvement section.
To read the full text, click here.
And, of course, Go Sun Devils!
My novel-in-stories is available ahead of schedule! Friends are already receiving their pre-sale copies of Landfall: A Ring of Stories. This is the book that Michelle Herman selected as the winner of the 2015 Ohio State University Press Non/fiction Prize and Rilla Askew selected as the winner of the 2006 Everett Southwest Literary Award. (Many, many years in the making, it was conceived as my MFA thesis back at Arizona State University.)
Landfall chronicles three generations of several families in Conrad’s Fork, a fictional Appalachian town. I’m lining up lots of readings and book club visits starting this summer, including some via Skype. Email me if you’re interested.
You can order Landfall: A Ring of Stories as a paperback or e-book through Ohio State University Press or through dozens of other online bookstores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Thirteen years ago, I had just finished up my MFA at Arizona State University. It was a summer evening in the low desert, the kind where the heat rising off the asphalt can breed a kind of angst. I was driving with Bob Johnson (not yet my husband and not yet R. Dean Johnson, the author of Delicate Men and Californium) and Jenn Spiegel (not yet Jennifer Bell, the author of The Freak Chronicles and Love Slave). We were talking about what it felt like to finish up graduate school. Specifically, we were whining about the fact that we hadn’t really published anything yet. We’d started sending our work out, had in fact been submitting our stories for several months, but we had been getting nothing but rejections in the mail—that’s how they came back then, in envelopes with your own handwriting on the front, suspiciously thin. You didn’t even have to hold the envelope up to the light, the sheer lack of weight gave the bad news away: No contract.
I had spent a week’s worth of Euro Café tips on The Writers Market. I had dutifully researched journals. I had even purchased some of them at Changing Hands Bookstore. I had sent out a pile of submissions. Back then, I would have to spread out all the pieces and load the big envelopes assembly-style. (It took up every surface in our apartment. It was a kind of clutter only rivaled when I now decide to have a “clothes folding party” in front of the TV, sifting through three weeks of laundered clothing.) I had earned two graduate degrees in creative writing, spent five years studying craft—oh, dear, God, that was long enough I could have been a lawyer or an engineer or some other lucrative, respectable thing, but here I was a writer, and no one would publish me. No one would ever publish me! Suddenly, as I whined all this to Bob and Jennifer, I felt my throat close up and my chest get heavy. I literally saw red spots. For a second, I thought I was dying. I think we had to pull over and a man in a gas station had to ask me to breathe into a paper bag. A rejection-induced panic attack.
Fortunately, Indiana Review contacted me two days later asking to publish my first story, “Seeing Red.” That small success (and a whole lot of yoga) helped me work through the anxiety and keep trudging into this beautiful writing life.
I’m so pleased that Indiana Review is featuring that first, published story on their website as part of a special feature remembering their favorite stories over the last twenty years, and I’m proud that “Seeing Red” will be part of my first book-length fiction when Landfall: A Ring of Stories is released by Ohio State University Press in May. Thanks again, Indiana Review!
(Here’s the link to the story:
The proofs for my poetry collection, Viable, arrived yesterday evening. Five Oaks Editor Lynn Houston has put together a beautiful book! This collection might be the most deeply personal thing I ever write, so I’m both nervous and excited to share it with readers. It includes poems about my own girlhood, marriage, pregnancies, miscarriages and motherhood, as well as poems which chanel the keening voices of grief-stricken historic and literary mothers.
Viable would make a great gift, especially for a mother or daughter. Lynn has worked hard to get the book out in time for the holidays. It is now available for pre-order, both as a paperback and an e-book. You can order through Amazon, but since more of the money goes to the actual press if you order through Market Square, I encourage you to support the wonderful small press that is championing my creative work. Here’s the link:
I just finished an amazing residency at Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences in Rabun Gap where I worked on my novel-in-progress, The Recklessness of Water. Nothing like greeting fall in the mountains of North Georgia. The first few days were rainy and cool. I loved waking to the sound of the rain on the roof of my studio. As always, it took me a day or two to withdraw from my busy life and sink into all that creative quiet. To cope, I constructed an elaborate, colorful outline on the wall of my studio and worked on short, lyric, intercalary chapters.
Halfway through the residency, I took part in the Hambidge Great ARTdoors festival. My family came down for the event. The kids loved watching the ten-foot wolf puppet move through the crowd. They got to paint Raku pottery and “help” create an amazing community sculpture from borrowed ladders. While it was hard to say goodbye, I was eager to get back to work.
When the sun came out, the leaves began to fall, and I found a lovely rhythm. In the morning, I led yoga classes on the screened porch of Lucinda’s rock house or hiked the waterfall trail. I wrote all afternoon. My desk was in front of a large window, so whenever I looked up from my laptop, there was the golden flurry from the ash and maple trees. One evening, when I drove out of the holler to phone my kids, a double rainbow spread across the farm pastures.
I finished eight intercalary chapters and three regular-length chapters—meaning I have only one and a half to go! I also began mapping possible creative collaborations with two amazing artists, print maker, Catherine Clements and painter Isabela Munci. Even the tire blow-out I experienced on the way home just outside of Sylvia, North Carolina, couldn’t dampen my experience. Now, if I can just keep that momentum going!
Check out more Hambidge pics on my Facebook author page: Julie Hensley