Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Donna Miscolta and Erin Pringle Walk into a Montana Bookstore in 2017

In language that pulses with poetic precision, Erin Pringle depicts with clarity and intelligence a dying village and the dying circus that each year stirs its heart and heartache. In this observant, often mesmerizing novel, Pringle shows how each is hoping to find something in the other to save it, how each succeeds only a little while failing immeasurably in other ways. This novel is a lovely meditation on how the inevitability of change and loss is sustained by nostalgia and memory, and survived by that quiet beat of hope that lives in us all.”
— Donna Miscolta, author of Hola and Goodbye


I was sitting at the kitchen table when Donna Miscolta's words came in about the book. I immediately shared them with my family. Because not only was the blurb long and beautiful but she'd seen it. She'd seen the novel in the way I'd hoped. For me, it felt akin to the moment in a fairy tale when a person is recognized, or when a person becomes visible--Cinderella in her hut with the bloody stains of her sisters' feet printing the floor; the girl without hands standing tiptoe to eat a peach from a tree when someone wandering the forest sees her and leads her to safety.

Donna Miscolta
I met Donna on a panel at the Montana Book Festival back in 2017 when I was wandering around with The Whole World at Once. I'd proposed the panel, one on the tragedy of fairy tales, or something like this. They'd taken it. They asked me to moderate. I'd not known I was proposing a panel, so the request was a surprise; I thought I was offering subjects I could speak on so they could know what to do with me. Thankfully, they found a moderator. Thankfully, they filled the panel. It took place at the back of Fact and Fiction Books, which serves as homebase for everyone during the festival. 

I sat beside Donna, and I'd bought and brought her book Hola and Goodbye! to the festival in order to read it and thereby have a way of talking to her that didn't rely on nicety and manners. I was in therapy actively working on my social anxiety. People with social anxiety don't do well following a script of niceties (because the script ends, and . .. then what?). I had to create my own, or one that made sense to me. Melissa Stephenson was on the panel, too. Wendy Oleson. All of us will join again in April at the Hugo House to discuss tragedy, fairy tales, and all between. More on that later. 

I finished reading Hola and Goodbye! that autumn. It's an involved work, storytelling through generations of family over the course of nearly a century. Later, Donna would allow me to interview her about the book (read it here). Then she would take part in the Summer Library Series and the Book Your Stocking series. Meanwhile, she's attending writing residencies, writing for the Seattle Review of Books, working a full-time job, writing her own fiction, and maintaining a blog (and I suppose eating and sleeping). And still she agreed to write for these little projects I kept thinking of. Still she agreed to an interview on my website instead of a bigger elsewhere. Still she agreed to read my book and write a blurb. 

Now, I know she was reading Hezada! while her daughter was pregnant and she was in the midst of retirement, moving, becoming a grandmother, and the final round of her own next book. 

Grateful. I'm grateful that I was sat beside Donna at a folding table. I'm grateful that she responded to my emails. That she kept responding. And I'm more than grateful that she read Hezada!, much less that she took the risk of putting her name on my book, beside my name, within the writing community that is smaller than you'd ever imagine (than I ever imagined coming from my cornfield childhood). 

I don't know that Donna would call me her friend, but whatever kindness describes our relationship, I'm happy for. 

This is all to say, or I'll this is how I'll end by saying, that when a book comes out, especially by a small press, there is so much more going on beneath the good words written by writers on the dust jacket. Those words don't fall out of the sky or wand. Those words aren't bought by a publisher (or at least not in small press world). Those words were a sacrifice by the writer who agreed to spend x number of hours reading a brand new book whose destination and value is unknown--hours reading that could have been spent on their own writing, own life. 

So, thanks, Donna Miscolta. 

Thank you. 


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Hezada! on KYRS Radio

I was on KYRS Community Radio last Saturday to talk about Hezada! I Miss You. Thanks to hosts Liz and Neal for reading the book and putting the show together. I forgot to summarize the novel, but hopefully you can piece it together enough to keep listening. Also, I cry, but that part lasted longer in my mind than in reality (so they assured me afterward).

Listen here: https://www.radiofreeamerica.com/show/personally-speaking-thin-air-community-radio
(I'm the January 18th episode.)


Friday, January 17, 2020

"To the bone, with cadences that sing": Regi Claire on Hezada! I Miss You

Regi Claire
© Dawn Marie Jones, Stoyanov and Jones
Brilliant. A heart-wrench of a debut novel. The writing cuts right to the bone, with cadences that sing. Reminiscent of Bradbury and Sherwood Anderson, Pringle's Hezada! I Miss You is a kaleidoscopic vision of love, desire, loss – and life.”
— Regi Claire, author of The Waiting and The Beauty Room


I have not asked Regi whether she knows Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio is on the top of the book-list I casually refer to as DEVASTATING-FANTASTIC-STORY COLLECTIONS-BROKE MY HEART AND THE BIRD THAT LIVED INSIDE IT IS NOW FREE. But I should ask her.

I loved Winesburg, Ohio so much that I waited a year before reading the last story because I did not want to finish the book.

Regi Claire and I encountered each other back in 2009 when my first book, The Floating Order, was published by the same publisher of her collection, Fighting It. When Two Ravens Press was sold and then suddenly fell off the face of the earth, we navigated what that meant--how to re-own our books. Then she was always game for my blog ideas and contributed to the library series ("Cigarette and Astrid Lindgren") and the book-your-stocking series (2017 and 2018). In this way, slowly over the past decade, we have forged a friendship that deepened once we both had sisters who died suddenly.

All of this is why I hoped she'd understand what I was after in Hezada! and asked if she'd be willing to read and blurb it. She agreed. And that is one story of how the words on the dust jacket got there.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

"Spare, haunting": Jack Kaulfus on Hezada! I Miss You

Spare, haunting, as honest as poetry gets, Hezada! I Miss You is a dream of a novel that conforms to neither expectation nor demand. Though the external forces at work on this family succeed in tugging them away from one another, Pringle's precisely woven narrative connections are unbreakable. She again finds a way to render time and place as emotional states, while making memory as corporeal as you or me.”
— Jack Kaulfus, author of Tomorrow or Forever: Stories

Jack Kaulfus
Jack Kaulfus is the author of Tomorrow or Forever, serves as fiction editor at Gertrude Press, plays in the band Brand New Key, and teaches and lives in Austin, TX. More importantly, Jack is my dear friend and we attended the same MFA program in Texas. Jack is the person you hope to meet in grad school, the person who will understand your work in the deepest of ways and who you will turn to over your writing life to look at work you'll give to no one else. I am grateful to have found Jack, blessed to have them as a friend, and in love with the writing that comes off Jack's desk--the angles of the stories, the way they click together (or against themselves), the clear empathy and curiosity beneath the rendering of the characters, the language--all of it. So, when I needed to ask writers to review the book, you can see why Jack was first on my list.


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Countdown to Hezada!: One Month, Friendship Bracelets, Doubts, and a Party

Hezada! I Miss You Book Release Party

Sunday, February 9th
2:00 PM
Washington Cracker Building
304 W. Pacific, Spokane

We've gone from a year until the launch of Hezada! I Miss You to only a month. So, here we are, and I'm feeling like a vacuum salesman who really believes in her vacuums, and really has a good vacuum, but doesn't want to inconvenience anyone by telling them about it. In sum, not a very good vacuum salesman, if the number of sales make the man, or at least allows him to eat while selling vacuums.

In second grade, I was big into making and selling friendship bracelets. I carried a Tupperware around with square compartments inside where I organized my embroidery floss; I'd work out of the box on bus rides to and from school, at recess, and probably during downtime in class. On the front lid, I'd taped a handwritten sign with my prices; prices were dependent on how many strands a person wanted. The lowest price was a penny, mid-range a nickel, and the highest was twenty-five cents. But it took me a while to make even the penny kind. My business went pretty well, as far as I remember, until a third grader who was a reliable customer broke her bracelet arm.

The doctor had to cut the bracelets off to set her arm and put the cast on. She hoped that I'd understand and replace all the bracelets at no cost. I mean, it made total sense to me. I think I tried. I might even have succeeded. Maybe she even brought a dollar or two to pay for the replacement, but that would have been a huge order--at the most 100, 200 bracelets. A wonderful order had I known anything about business and contracting other children into making the bracelets with me. Had I known anything about contracts, phrases like no replacements or no warranty. I remember the quandary of the situation. It's not like she broke her arm on purpose. It's not as though the doctor cut the bracelets with any anger.

I'm not sure how much longer I sold bracelets. I don't remember whether I fulfilled the order. I still feel the hardness of the situation, the heaviness of what I was asked to do but didn't have the capacity to do. I remember the feeling of being punched when imagining all those beautiful bracelets being cut off her arm. Some had been 10-strand bracelets, bracelets thicker than my thumb. Two-day, all-night bracelets.

So, here I am, thirty years later in what feels like a similar predicament. I have written a book, a novel. I don't know how long it took me to write. Years. In actuality, my whole life since I agree with whoever said that a piece of art is the accumulation of an artist's life--and I don't see how any of my life and perspective could be divorced from my writing.

By capitalist terms, were I to calculate hours by cost, the novel would be the same price as a medieval illustrated manuscript--which means a book-release party would basically be a party between me and the wealthiest person in fairy-tale miles. Which doesn't sound like a party at all.

Were this a cooking blog, I feel like now would be a good time to tell you the ingredients, how long to stir, whether to grease the pan. Cookbooks are the number one seller among books. Novels that center on a rural village, a circus that has run its course for a century, and a woman who dies by suicide--well, I don't think those kinds of books are the number two seller.

A well-meaning person might say, Well, Erin, it's not about how many books you sell.
A well-meaning person might say, Erin, you didn't write it because you wanted to be famous.
A well-meaning person might say, Erin, it will be fine.

I do not trust well-meaning people.

This is the time in a book's life, one month before publication, where the author, in this case me, needs to be promoting the hell out of her book.

But it seems some sorts of books lend themselves better to marketing.

My publisher is likely shaking her head as she reads this.

What is my reticence to hawking my book in the town square? Why do I think that this novel is deeply worthwhile, a beautiful book, a truthfully rendered story but at the same time I feel it would be impolite to say so? I feel it would be impolite to ask you directly to buy the book. I feel it would be more polite to explain that, yes, my sister wrote books, a whole series of books, and yes, she did make money on her books--enough to live on, in fact (had she kept living). I do not write the sort of books she did.

What makes someone buy a book?

It would be easier for me to talk you out of buying the book. Here, I'll just do that.

All the reasons you should not buy Hezada! I Miss You 
1. You could just read the copy from the library (as long as you ask your librarian to order a copy for the library).
2. It's not like the twenty-dollar bill you exchange for the book magically appears in the author's hand. There are many hands that went toward creating the book--though I imagine the printer's hand takes the most (How does she not even know how the price breaks down? What kind of writer doesn't know?)
3. Books are just so expensive these days.
4. You probably have a lot of books already.
5. Of those books you have, you probably still have a stack that you've been meaning to read.
6. You could wait and buy it used, which would probably be better for the environment.
7. Lots of things would be better for the environment.

Okay, I can't continue that list because it makes me feel bad.

Here's the situation. I love this book. I wrote it for you. I wrote it for the ghost of myself. I wrote it for every kid who has grown up rural, whether they are like the characters in the book or have simply lived alongside the characters in this book. I wrote this because I was in deep mourning for my sister. I mean, I'd been working on a circus book for a decade before my sister died, but it was in deep mourning when the book came together, found its engine, I guess.

I don't know that I'll ever not be in deep mourning for my sister. I'm less prone to crying on what would seem like a whim to everyone around me. I'm less prone to saying anything that would lead to my crying. I'm less prone to the nightmares featuring her resurrection, of not knowing how she'll appear this time, as a red bird with terrible claws coming out of the sky, or as a woman who doesn't know yet that she's going to kill herself, or as a woman who has already done it but is back, regardless. Once, I dreamed she was walking through her house looking for her grave among others. The graves rose out of the floor. It was a kind of tourist shop.

Friends, I'm haunted.
I live a haunted life.
And it's hard for me to tell you about this novel because it is part of the haunting. It is my full attempt to exorcise the haunting. To explain it, to understand it, to cut it open and dig and dig through the wet organs and memories and sunsets of a sister I loved, and a place I loved but had to leave because my life didn't fit among the lives that live there. I miss my home. I miss my town. I miss my sister (and dad and best friend and all the people who have and will die because that's what we do).

And because this novel is connected to all of this, and because I am trying my best to cope, I don't know how to talk about the book without utterly losing my cool--myself--my balance--my necessary compartmentalizing that allows me to train for a marathon and teach art to preschoolers and go ice-skating with my son.

I don't think that any of this will be your experience, though, in reading the book. I've tried to create an experience, but not this one. So, you need not worry in that way.

An anecdote. My friend Melissa came to Spokane to read from her memoir, Driven, which centers on her brother's death by suicide. During the question-answer period, I asked her if she'd write the book again.

She paused. I paused.

In hindsight, it probably isn't a real question. I mean, it's like asking what a person's biggest regret is or which regret they'd change if they could live their life again.

I don't remember her answer. I don't know my own answer to the question. It makes me sick to imagine doing it all over again.

But shouldn't I know the answer to sell this book?

What's your book about?
Oh, it's sad.

Listen, friend, I'm trying to tell you a secret. I have written a beautiful book that I care deeply about. It is not about my sister. But I had to think so deeply about my sister and my life while writing the book that it unbuckles me to think about the book.

It makes me feel like an asshole for even trying to sell the book. For even writing a book like this.

Were I a shoemaker, everyone would think I was crazy for spending so much time working on such beautiful, terrible shoes, and then how ridiculous it would be for the shoemaker to hold a party to sell these shoes.

And what do we think of the shoemaker wandering the streets of her town, holding out the shoes to everyone who can hear, telling everyone, ... but my life--these shoes--please, I know you will never walk the same once you try these on. I know that these shoes, you've never known how much your body has felt like these shoes will make you feel . . . it's an awareness as much as it is the walking. These shoes, I promise, are not the red shoes that will dance you to your death, but these shoes are the most honest shoes I've ever made.

Oh, friend.

In conclusion, I'd like you to come to the book-release party. My friend Neil Elwell will be playing his guitar and singing the perfectly sad songs and raw songs and right blues songs for the afternoon. I'll read from the book. My friend Barbara will say words about it. There will be copies of the book for sale. The party is an old building that has been made into something new, but it carries the stories of itself in the walls, the ceiling, the floors. That's why I wanted it there instead of somewhere with painted walls and smooth floors. The windows are large and drafty. There will be wine, though you'll have to buy your own glass.

You're invited.
I'd love to read to you.

Hezada! I Miss You Book Release Party
Sunday, February 9th
2:00 PM
Washington Cracker Building
304 W. Pacific, Spokane
Unable to attend? Preorder book here:https://awst-press.com/shop/hezada 


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Hezada! I Miss You, The Book Tour

My new book, Hezada! I Miss You will be launched officially on February 9th, and then I'll be launched from city to city for the first quarter of the year. I hope to see you soon in a nearby city and to read you a bit of this story.

🕮 2020 🕮

February 9: Spokane, WA

February 20: Missoula, MT
  • Reading and Discussion with Melissa Stephenson and Erin Pringle
  • 7:00 PM
  • Fact and Fiction Books  (220 North Higgins, Missoula, MT)
February 26: Spokane, WA
  • Words with Wendy J. Fox
  • Boots Bakery
  • 8:00 PM
March 3: Austin, TX
  • One-page Salon hosted by Owen Egerton
  • 7 PM - 9ish PM

March 4-7: San Antonio, TX
  • Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Conference
  • Details to be announced closer to date

March 8: Austin, TX
  • Austin Book Launch of Hezada!
  • 5:00 PM
  • Book People (603 N. Lamar Blvd.)

April 9: Champaign, Illinois
  • Reading and Discussion 
  • 6:30-7:30 PM
  • Champaign Public Library (200 W. Green St., Busey Bank Conference Room)

April 11: Casey, Illinois
  • Hometown Book Launch: Reading and Book Signing
  • 2:00 PM
  • Casey Township Library (307 E. Main)
April 13: Tuscola, Illinois

April 16-19: Spokane, WA

April 30: Seattle, WA
  • Tragedy and the Fairy Tale: Donna Miscolta, Wendy Oleson, Melissa Stephenson, and Erin Pringle (Reading and Discussion)
  • Hugo House

For event updates, visit: https://www.facebook.com/erintpringle/

Hezada! I Miss You is published by Awst Press, Austin, TX.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Hezada! I Miss You on Goodreads and LibraryThing

If you use online sites to organize books you love or want to read, you can now add Hezada! I Miss You to your Goodreads or LibraryThing lists.

🕮 Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49238032-hezada-i-miss-you
🕮 LibraryThing: https://www.librarything.com/work/24006893/book/176507749

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Albedo One: Water Under a Different Sky by Erin Pringle, Issue 48

I'm happy to announce that my long story, Water Under a Different Sky, is now available in Issue 48 of Albedo One. According to my partner, it's my best story yet. According to me, it's the closest I've come to fantasy/science-fiction.


Albedo One is based in Dublin, Ireland.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Spokane's Fuse Book Club: 2020 Selections, Discussions, and Dates

You're cordially invited to join the Fuse Book Club. 

About us
We meet monthly to discuss books by, or about, minoritized experiences, histories, and movements. We are connected to the Spokane arm of the progressive non-profit, Fuse Washington. Our group is free and open to the public. Read all the books and join in as many discussions as you can!
📚 Location: Fellini House, 1603 W. Pacific, Spokane (next to Total Trash Records and with free parking)
📚 When? Every second Wednesday of the month
📚 6:30-8:00 PM
📚 Buy local! Participants receive a 15% discount from Auntie's Bookstore.
The odds are always good that our library system has a copy of the book we're reading, so check there. 


📚 The Body Papers by Grace Talusen
Book: https://restlessbooks.org/bookstore/the-body-papers
Event Details: https://www.facebook.com/events/442488313318017/

📚 The Life and Death of Aida Hernandez Aaron Bobrow-Strain
Book: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374191979
Event details: https://www.facebook.com/events/2502547876732519/

📚 On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Book: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/…/on-earth-were-briefly…/
Event details: https://www.facebook.com/events/441469436519054

MAY 13
📚 Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith
Book: https://wwnorton.com/books/Killers-of-the-Dream
Event details: https://www.facebook.com/events/570195963782063/

📚 Black Skin, White Masks by Franz Fanon
Book: https://groveatlantic.com/book/black-skin-white-masks/
Event details: https://www.facebook.com/events/1035387923462051/

📚 Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram Kendi
Book: https://www.ibramxkendi.com/stamped-from-the-beginning
Event details: https://www.facebook.com/events/560519661436343/

📚 Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape
Book: https://www.counterpointpress.com/dd-product/trace/
Event details: https://www.facebook.com/events/585262915631215/

📚 Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for our Movement
Book: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/…/unapologetic-by-charl…/
Event details: https://www.facebook.com/events/574585179991789/

Book to be announced at November meeting

Friday, November 15, 2019

How to Celebrate Indies First in Spokane on November 30

I have learned that there are three burning questions writers are frequently asked. 
  1. How do you sit and write for that long?
  2. What do writers do the day before running the Seattle Half-Marathon?
  3. How do you celebrate Small Business Saturday? 
Today, I will answer questions two and three because one stone can kill both these birds. 


Auntie's Bookstore (their photo)
The day before I run the Seattle Half Marathon is November 30th, 2020. November 30th is Small Business Saturday, and if you are a bookstore, it is known as Indies First. I will be at Auntie's Bookstore in downtown Spokane, Washington in the hour between 10:00 and 11:00 AM. And in that hour, as I have always wanted to work in a bookstore, Auntie's has fulfilled that wish like any self-respecting fairy godmother. 

Not only will Auntie's allow me to help sell books for one hour under the guise of Guest Bookseller, but I will also be given solely the perks of a bookseller's job. That's right, they will not weigh me down with a single drawback, though I am absolutely sure drawbacks exist because I've worked as a waitress, started and quickly quit a retail job, functioned as a barista, and performed other jobs that shine on the surface but end each day with butter on your shirt, the stench of steak in your hair, ninety composition papers waiting to be graded by morning, and a devastatingly clear insight into the human condition and those who expect to be served.
Inside Auntie's
photo here

But Auntie's will allow me the ability to know none of those; such as the panic over a suddenly failing credit card machine, what to do with a spill, or how to bite one's tongue when someone's complete purchase is one pair of socks at a bookstore, even if those socks are patterned with Max from Where The Wild Things Are!! (P.S. I would be that person. I'd wear those socks everywhere.)

The point is that My Fairy Godmother, Auntie's Bookstore, will give me only the fairy-tale version of book-selling. Here are my duties: 
  • Ask strangers if I can help them, and if they ask who I am, I can say Your Resident Guest Bookseller. 
  • Write those recommendation cards for books, the sort you sometimes see on shelves that make you stop. Evidently, we in the bookseller trade refer to those as "shelf-talkers." They even prefer that I type out my "shelf-talkers," so that someone else has to hand-write them. I think this is likely a perk, even though I do love to write by hand.
  • Guest Book-sell with two people I already like quite a lot: Sharma Shields and Ben Cartwright. Arriving at "work" will be like walking into one of my favorite places (a bookstore) and accidentally running into two of my favorite people. And then we, together, will pretend to be booksellers instead of having to spend the whole hour inventing the game ourselves.
  • Request specific books, no less books I love, to be stocked so that I can direct strangers to them. Several were not able to be ordered, but I won't tell you which ones. Maybe you could make that a sort of scavenger hunt when you celebrate Small Business Saturday at Auntie's with me, Sharma Shields, Ben Cartwright, and other book-loving strangers (or strangers who need to gift books to book-loving friends and relatives). 
    •  Feel free to print my list, handwrite it, memorize it, then bring it to Auntie's or Your Local Bookstore (or Local Library if you are far from an Independent Bookstore such as was the case of the first two decades of my life).   
      1. Anything in the children's section by Shaun Tan (esp. Rules of Summer)
      2. Nothing That Meets the Eye: The Uncollected Stories of Patricia Highsmith
      3. Agota Kristof's The Notebook, Proof, Third Lie (usually sold as a full trilogy)
      4. Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
      5. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Machado
      6. Tomorrow or Forever by Jack Kaulfus
      7. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
      8. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
      9. Break Every Rule by Carole Maso
      10. Jenny Saville 
      11. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

So, friends and strangers, I hope that you will mark your calendar to visit Auntie's on November 30th and celebrate Indies First with me inside your very large, very merry, and very independent bookstore. 

Saturday, November 30th
My shift: 10:00-11:00 AM
Fellow author-booksellers: Sharma Shields and Ben Cartwright
Auntie's Bookstore
402 W. Main
Spokane, WA
Full schedule of Guest Author Booksellers here.
Their faces here: