Thursday, February 13, 2020

Meet me and Melissa in Missoula at Fact and Fiction Books, February 20

"Pringle captures the dynamics of family and small-town community in a way that recalls Tennessee Williams and Flannery O'Connor, yet her voice is lean and smart and entirely her own. Hezada! I Miss You is a powerful narrative about how we reckon with the cages we're born into, or craft for ourselves. What a beautiful gut-punch of a book.” 

— Melissa Stephenson, 
author of Driven: A White-Knuckled Ride to Heartbreak and Back

Melissa Stephenson and Erin Pringle 


Why I asked Melissa Stephenson to read Hezada! without saying why I asked her. 

When I was growing up, my father had dreams of leaving town without us and living in Montana. He had a silver van he'd packed with everything he would need: guns, tackle box, toilet paper, sleeping bag, binoculars, life vest, cooler, girly magazines. He drove around in that van day after day, year by year. Once, when I was five or six, he did start driving to Montana, though I'm unsure how far he got. I remember my mother crying. Or the feeling of her as we drove on our own through town, trying to figure out what life would be like now that my dad was gone.

He came back that day.

He might have even been in the driveway when we gave up imagining and drove home.

If I've told you this story before, I apologize.

In the mind of a child growing up in rural Illinois, I only imagined Montana as dirt and blue. Montana was the word for where my father would rather be. And I don't think I felt loss about it, or that there was any cruelty in his desires. It's just how it was. There were better places than Casey, Illinois, and my dad knew it.

The first time I saw Montana would be on the drive from Texas to Washington in the move to Spokane. When I saw it, I understood for the first time what my father knew. He'd been there once, maybe twice on vacations with my mother in the decades before I was born. Montana was beautiful. Green, blue, streams and clouds. No wonder.

It would be seven years later that I would meet Melissa Stephenson in Missoula, Montana. We were to be on the same panel, talking about fairy tales. We'd connected online before the event. But it wasn't until we met in the bookstore that I faced the person who would become one of my fondest friends. We learned that we'd been moving in a similar choreography over the course of over lives. She grew up in Ohio. I grew up in Illinois. We both went to Texas State University for graduate school and had thoughts about it. We missed each other by one year.

When the fairy tale panel began, we were sitting by each other. Her memoir, Driven, was a year out from publication. I didn't know much about it. Then she said her brother died by suicide. I was in the midst of trying to transform the experience of my sister's suicide into writing.

She came over to Spokane to read from Driven when it came out.
I returned to Missoula last September to read from Hezada! now that it was a year out from publication.

I don't know how to describe the importance of finding Melissa.

We check on each other.

That's what we do.

We check on each other.

In May, we'll run a marathon together at Priest Lake, Idaho.

This February 20th, we'll meet in Missoula again, again at Fact and Fiction Books, again at the back of the store where people will gather (or chairs will gather, waiting). And it's Melissa who will keep me from breaking when the event begins.

I hope that you can come.
Missoula, MT
7 PM
Thursday, February 20th, 2020