Thursday, September 21, 2017

Meet Me in Missoula

Fact and Fiction Bookstore, Missoula, MT (link to origin site for picture)

Northwestern writers will soon leave their own cities and towns to pour into Missoula, Montana to read, meet, talk, learn, and generally celebrate all things literary at The Montana Book Festival. I will be one of those writers.

The festival runs Wednesday, September 27th through October 1st and will host a number of interesting panels, readings, and activities that writers, readers, and community members can participate in. Rather than taking place in one main area, the festival will be popping up in local bookstores, art galleries, bars, event centers, hotels, and more. Sort of like a flash mob everyone expects.

Aside from other places, chairs, or quiet corners, here's where I'll most definitely be:

Saturday (9/30/17) 
12:30 PM 
Panel: "Embracing the Unhappy Ending: Why Sad Stories Matter"
Panelists: Donna Miscolta, Wendy Oleson, Erin Pringle, and Melissa Stephenson
Where? Fact and Fiction Bookstore220 N. Higgins Avenue

2:00 PM
Reading: "A View of The Whole World at Once"
Polly Buckingham and I will read from our new story collections.
Where? Fact and Fiction Bookstore, 220 N. Higgins Avenue

I hope to see you there, or to run into you at any of the other cool events. I'll be the writer chasing alongside her child who's riding his balance bike down the sidewalk. To view the daily festival schedule, including evening events (!), visit the festival website or go directly to the schedule here.

Montana Book Festival 2017: website

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fuse Spokane Book Club: Barefoot Dogs in October

Please join the Fuse Spokane Book Club this October to discuss Barefoot Dogs by Antonio Ruiz-Camacho. Stark and beautiful, Barefoot Dogs is collection of stories that follows a wealthy Mexican family forced into exile after the patriarch is kidnapped. 

Oct. 11, 2017
6 PM-8 PM
Spokane Library (downtown), floor 2, Level-Up Classroom
Free and open to the public

Book Details:

More information about the book itself:

About the group: The Fuse Book Club is an arm of the Immigration and Inclusion Action Team; we meet the second Wednesday of every month to discuss books by writers of color. Fuse Washington is the largest progressive organization in the state. Learn more about Fuse Washington.

Please join us!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

In My Defense: Waiting Years to Visit Riverside State Park

Swinging Bridge at Riverside State Park
photograph by Erin Pringle, CC license

Never an avid trail walker, I do remember walking as a child with my aunt and uncle, grandmother and mother in Wesselman Park, in Evansville, Indiana where my mother had grown up and we visited once or twice a year. Then there was Fox Ridge, which is any easy drive from Casey, IL, where I grew up, and so my mother and I went once a year, or every other. My sister liked walking trails, and took her family when she thought of it, and she was good at thinking of it.

The time I spent with wet leaves, unidentifiable wildflowers, and leaf-covered skies, came less from nature parks and more from bicycling a mile down the rural road to Ruley's, which, may not be how it's spelled but was how it was pronounced.


Roolie was the sound of the name of the old man who once owned the tree-covered property, or maybe his was just the house closest to the woods where my brothers took me to sled then roam, and later find old vases, part of cups--the bits of people's ghosts they left behind or purposely dumped. I never have known. Which is probably why broken things in the ground tend to appear in most every story I write.

Riverside Wildflowers
photograph by Erin Pringle, CC license
But even for my limited adventures, I didn't roam that much. I was not a Tom Sawyer, not an Anne of Green Gables. Though I did read both and loved Anne. Not so much her love of nature but her love of high romance and her wish for the glamorous-never that wasn't her life. Now that I think of it, most of the books I read, and loved, were set in nature. Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia, My Side of the Mountain, and all the books by Mary Downing Hahn. .

Though this tendency toward reading rural settings may not be a proclivity so much as impossibility of escaping as a child reader since there has long been a symbolic connection between the child and nature, and a tendency to romanticize one as symbolic of the other. Isn't Rousseau's Emile a much healthier and better boy the closer his knees are to crawling through the field? And the enchantment of Kate Greenaway's children seems not fully possible without their flowers and green grass. Dorothy and Alice both leave countrysides to more crowded places, and so those places are more nightmarish than ideal. A warning, then, of leaving nature. Or perhaps, like myself, I read a vast number of children's books by writers with social anxiety, and so of course the books are set in nature. They were simply set where people were not.

River view from Riverside State Park
Erin Pringle, CC license
So, maybe I did spend a great deal of time in nature, it was just the imagined sort, and so, compelling in a way the cornfields and country roads around me were not. Sometimes, I would be passenger to my father's long country drives. He carried a gun and camera everywhere he went--moreso the camera than the gun, but he shot with both, and while I assume he took more pleasure from the photograph than the death, I can't say. He collected as many cameras as he did guns. But when he needed peace and calm, it was to the country roads he went. He'd grown up rural, too. More rural than me. And while I'm not his age yet, the age he was when I was a child, I am closer than I have ever been, and have begun feeling, more deeply, the urges to find a country road and follow it. And a raw belief that I'll feel better once I do, the more free, the more myself, the more in the world I will feel, instead of hovering outside of it, pushed there, perhaps, by the awareness of others.

The thing about living far from the place where one grew up is feeling somewhat lost all the time. Not in a pervasive way, but it hovers, that feeling. Whereas my faraway hometown and the entire area of it is in my bones. I know every road to home from every direction, and as far as two and three towns away, if not further. The way animals know where their dens are, or at least the way they seem to. The longing for that knowing hovers in me, too. Perhaps both feelings will fade as time moves on. I somehow doubt it. Maybe I don't wish for it, either, the fading.

But I began all of this to share with you that I finally visited Riverside Park after nearly a decade of living in the Northwest and a meager ten minutes from it, and I assume you would wonder why it took me so long. Because I've never been much of a trail taker. Because I've never known how to see the beauty of nature as more interesting than people. Because I lived smack in the middle of it instead of in an urban place that might send me running to a trail faster. Because I didn't fit in my hometown, and so lots of people assumed I'd be happier in a much different place, and much different meant a city. And so I thought I'd be happy in a city, too, and still have a tendency to avoid nature rather run to it--after years of blaming it for a life that didn't seem to suit me, even though it was mine.

That is to say, I wish I had visited years ago. I fell so in love with the place and so immediately that the only way I can figure out why it took me so long is to tell you this story.

It felt good to be there. I liked the rocks in my path and under the path and along the path. I liked the sound of the rocks against the river. The ducks floating by and quacking as though grumbling. The Vs of geese honking from here to there. The groups of women on horses following ribbons tied here and there to tree branches. The lone woman on a horse, now and then. The great weight of horses. The strangers I encountered now and then who said Good Morning with their mouths and eyes. Watching my son exclaim over the bridge, the spiderwebs on the bridge, the stairs leading up from the bridge to the trails. His eagerness to stop every few steps to examine another rock and decide whether it would be a good rock to pocket, as he has a fondness for pocketing rocks. My partner moving steadily beside, ahead, or behind me, her face against the light, her love for the river there, though we didn't speak of it. The silence. The stones under the water. The pebbles that looked like the pebbles I grew up with. Round and gray, soft. The smell of nature that I remember. The new smell that is a Northwestern one, of so many pine needles on top of so many more.

Also, I took a camera, and I think I will again.

River, Riverside State Park
Erin Pringle, CC license

Sunlight in Riverside State Park
Erin Pringle, CC license

My Face
Nature selfie, CC license

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Five Poems on Memory: New work up in 5x5 Literary Journal

It's nearly the end of summer, and I'm about to return to writing in the mornings. My mind is having a difficult time with my body since my mind is attempting to jump forward in time so that writing can begin, while my body is stuck in clock-time. Or maybe my mind is, too, and my wishes are what are jumping forward. Regardless, it is a good time to have new work published as a sort of summoning.

Thus, I'm pleased to announce I have new pieces from my memoir project available in the new issue of 5x5 Literary Journal. You can read the pieces (for free, no less) by following this link on the technological device of your choice:

You can also follow 5x5 on Facebook (click) and explore their website here:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

New Review of The Whole World at Once: "Each story is beautiful in its heartbreaking simplicity and raw emotion"

Mattoon, Illinois is about a forty-minute drive from where I grew up, and its newspaper, the Journal Gazette & Times Courier covers news and views from the city and surrounding rural areas. It's close enough to where I grew up that I remember walking through its antique malls as a child with my older brothers; in my teenage years, I spent many a late night roaming the aisles of its super Walmart, and in college, I sat in the beautiful, but crumbling (at that time), train station as I waited for the train to take me to Chicago for college and later with my best friend for a trip to New Orleans.

Casey, Illinois is where I grew up, but Mattoon, Illinois is part of the landscape of my life, memories, and imagination, which is the landscape where my stories live. And so I am SO pleased to have someone from the area not only read the book but also incredibly honored that she found it worthwhile on all counts: from theme, content, to the style itself. Reviewer Elena Pruitt writes . . .
"People who grew up in rural areas will feel an eerie sense of stories they've grown up hearing or stories they've lived, a sense that this could happen or has happened here, and yet the pervasive thread of grief opens these stories up to anyone." 
Continue reading the review here. Then, share it with all of your friends, Midwestern or not. :)

"Review: Author weaves stories showing depth of human experience of grief" by Elena Pruitt, Journal Gazette & Times Courier.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Giant Nerd Books in Spokane now carries The Whole World at Once

Spokane's Giant Nerd Books on Monroe Street, now carries signed copies of The Whole World at Once. Have you been to this wonderful bookstore? Giant Nerd Books has the lure of discovery from the moment you walk in, from its mid-century reading chairs to its tall, tall ceilings--perfect for its ingredients: books, books, books, artwork, books, books, comics, and more books. (They have all the Oz books, from the early 1900s. All. The. Oz. Books.)

Giant Nerd is definitely a place to check out if you haven't, whether you're out to discover The Whole World at Once or any world between two covers. Learn more about the store and its owner, Nathan, from The Spokesman Review

Thanks to all local bookstores that support our reading habits. And to community members who support our local bookstores.

The Whole World at Once is a collection of stories that trace rural landscapes and the surreal experiences of living, beauty, and breathing in a world after loss. A girl goes missing from the county fair, and her sister is still searching for her a year later; a soldier returns home from war only to plant landmines in the backyard; a widower tries to dig up his wife's garden in an effort to save all he has left. (2017, West Virginia University Press/Vandalia Press). 

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Whole World at Once: Book Giveaway on LibraryThing

Library Thing Logo that says Library Thing: What's on your shelf?

This is just a quick reminder for those readers who don't follow my Facebook or Twitter (hint, hint) that there is one day left to enter to win a copy of The Whole World at Once from Library Thing. Enter by July 18th, 2017 (7:58 PM) for your chance to have luck draw your name to receive this book in your mailbox one soon summer day.

The Whole World at Once is a collection of stories that revolve around loss and take place in the strange, placeless rural Midwest.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Whole World at Once at Montana Book Festival

Pencil drawing of a shack whose form is made of books.
Got the good word that I'll be at the 2017 Montana Book Festival in Missoula. So, mark your calendars, friends.

September 27-October 1

I'll provide more information as I get it. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

First Friday Spokane: Hypothesis at the Richmond Art Collective

Last night, we took part in Spokane's monthly First Friday art tour by visiting the show Hypothesis held by Spokane's Richmond Art Collective. Our friend Ira Gardner is a member of the collective and was showing some of his recent photography, so we wanted to learn what his mind has been up to behind the lens.

The Richmond Art Collective uses a small gallery in the space behind Spaceman Coffee, on Sprague. Above the gallery are art studios where the artists do their work. The show was well attended, and the space added a heat and energy to the experience of meeting the artists' work, which ranged from photography to sculpture to installation to painting. The arts potluck nature of the gathering provided a little something for everyone and couldn't help, I imagine, but cause interesting discussions afterward. Next to each piece was a short background of the work and what the artist is exploring. These were written well, and helped attach the artist's questioning experience in a way that was interesting and not didactic or patronizing. Ira said that one of the ideas behind the show, or driving it, is for the artists to share their work with each other and every three months, share their work again, and start affecting each other's work by this sharing. Hypothesis. Transformation. How? In what way? How fundamental these words are to art and seemed clearly underlying the work chosen for the show. It will be interesting to see how the work starts intersecting as time passes because the artists all seem unlike one another, not in their questioning, but in the way they question through their mediums.

Ira Gardner showed two pieces, both black and white still-lifes of a leaf and pine branch. The lighting and placement of the pieces transformed the pieces into a kind of metal sculpture that blurred both the medium and the viewer's relationship to nature. Are we looking at a photograph of a sculpture of a leaf or a leaf? Is there a difference? Is the leaf both art object and sculpture? It made me wonder about meditative space, and what kind of mental silence art automatically creates by the fact of itself for the viewer. Perhaps something like the white space on a page for poets, the darkness that falls between scenes of a film, or the silence of the ellipses that Samuel Beckett used to his advantage and turned into a tool of transformation.

This quiet space that art itself brings with it had been on my mind because of the conversation that happened on the drive to the gallery. We were explaining to our three-year old why people would be more quiet than usual at the art gallery.
Why? he said.
Because, I said--trying to think it through myself--Because in our culture, people have a tendency to be quiet as a sign of reverence. Like in the library, people are quiet around the books because they appreciate the books. The books are important to them.
A few beats later, I remembered concentration. Everyone moving along the walls, looking and thinking.
And concentration, I said. We are quiet so we can think about what we are looking at.

And we were. Everyone moving around each other to get to the art. Stepping back, stepping forward. Our bodies turning into sculptures themselves that we moved around, giving each other space and silence, and the quiet goodness of seeing people we knew amidst the art, and then the space transforming somehow to allow us to speak, and then return to the meditative as we separated and became different versions of ourselves again. As though caught by light, made central in the eye of another, and then let go.

Richmond Art Collective
228 West Sprague
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