Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Book Signing: Hezada! I Miss You at Auntie's Bookstore

For the first time since The Floating Order, I'll be doing a book-signing event. That is, an event at which I will not read aloud but will sit alone at a table with my books in order to greet book-reading strangers who accidentally stumble upon me in their bookstore. Usually, the people are unsure what to do with me, a book-writing stranger in their space: a quiet but inviting bookstore. Or, rather, I'm unsure what to do with them because I fear they didn't expect me to appear on their way to another aisle.

I think that a book-signing event, when you're Erin Pringle, and not Stephen King, is closer in genre to encountering the person offering samples of cheese, crackers, little smokies in the grocery store. 

Photo by glindsay65
(used under CC license)
There you were, pushing your cart alone, trying to remember to return to produce to get bananas when all of a sudden there's a polite person at a folding table. 

If you're like me, were raised like me, the best thing to do is avoid eye contact and hurry by. Because what if you take a sample?

Well, then you have to buy the whole box, don't you? 

And then where does it end? 

Will you be adding this to your grocery list for the rest of your life? How will this change your kitchen, your family's expectations, your understanding of food?

Better to push on by, and if you happen to make eye contact, a quick smile and no thank you is better than the slippery-slope of taking free samples and then ending the relationship by not then taking the offered coupon, the recipe, the product. 

Similarly, there you were, driving/bicycling/walking to the bookstore, your weekend sanctuary. A place where writers usually stay inside their author photos, have no feelings, do not mind if you set them back down on the shelf. You might stay the whole morning, the whole afternoon, moving through the sections. Maybe you'll find yourself in Poetry. In War History. You don't know, but it won't upset you to find yourself opening a book on Northwest Birds or Impressionists. Maybe you'll even sit in a corner, disappear into a book until no one sees you. You know, that Heaven. And this is what you're expecting, this is what you woke to looking forward to, this is why you won't be meeting your friends or having a pedicure. Because you. are. going. to. the. bookstore. 

You push open the lovely, old wooden doors of Auntie's Bookstore, closer to meditation than you've been all day, in months, maybe years.

Auntie's Bookstore Entrance
(photo from here)
And there I am.
Sitting at a folding table.
With nary a sample of cheese.

Worse, I am sitting with a stack of a book I wrote.
You don't know me.
You don't know this book.
You don't even read books like mine, whatever my book is. 

Or maybe the book signing is a cross between grocery sampling and art fairs. If you go into the artist's tent--if you talk to the artist--Jesus, if you dare compliment the work aloud . . . well, you're going home with a garden sculpture or handmade leather wallet. 

Perhaps this doesn't bother you. Perhaps you're fine with the terms. Perhaps you can walk out without a sculpture and without any feeling of impropriety for doing so. Maybe you even take samples at grocery stores with an adventurous spirit--perhaps excited that you might have stumbled into an opportunity to expand your palette.

Surely there are people who think like this. A sample's a sample. An artist talks about her paintings in a tent in the middle of the park--of course. A bookstore may hold a writer signing her name in books that she herself wrote.

I mean, sure. Maybe.

But when you grow up with little money like I did. You were warned all of your childhood: 
If you touch the comic book, you have to buy it, and we're not buying one today. 
If you break it, you buy it, and we can't afford to buy it.

Or maybe had conversations like these:
Mom, why is your underwear so thin?
Because, daughter, there are more important things to buy than underwear.

Or maybe you watched your mother at the counter after your pediatrician's visit:
Secretary: Do you have insurance?
Mother: Yes, but it's not good, so I'll be paying in full. 

Or maybe you heard the story of your father, how when he was a boy he fell through a floor and into glass--how the glass stuck into his back--how he shuffled to the roadside--how someone finally picked him up and drove him back to the village--and when he finally got home, got to the doctor, his mother (your grandmother) would not pay for anesthetic. You've always imagined her standing with the doctor, holding her purse with both hands as she stares down at her child on the table--his bare, bloody back. How much would it cost? she says. The doctor gives her the number. Not today, she says. Jimmy, you're a tough bird. Maybe she pats his foot before leaving the room so the doctor can tweeze each shard of glass from the boy's back--your father's back who holds all the scars and you will examine as a child as he sits on the edge of his bed playing clarinet. Maybe it was the lack of money, but then again, maybe it was something darker, worse that even as an adult, you haven't had the stomach to dwell on.

And so you brake hard when money is on the line.
And when you see people trying to encourage you to spend money, you've basically encountered the wolf of fairy tales. That sweet-talking wolf. And you know that not every version ends with someone cutting you out of its belly. Not every version ends with the wolf filled with stones and running nowhere but to its death.

Oh, Erin. A book signing should not be so complicated.
I know, I know.


Oh, Erin. Is this your way of encouraging people to go to your book signing? Really, Erin?

I know, I know.

But here's my plan, and you can tell me if it's a good idea: over the course of writing Hezada! I acquired two circus posters, very large. Also, a book of circus photos. Glossy pamphlets sold by the circus at performances. And the last time I was in my hometown, I took many pictures. So, I thought, I'd have all these at the table. In this way, I could talk to people about those things. Should they ask what my book is about, I can point to what I learned. I can point to the picture of the road I walked most every day of my childhood to age 18 and then on visits, even though they've been few and far between. In this way, I can just be a regular person who somehow landed in the bookstore at a folding table. And everyone else can be regular people, too.

If you know any regular people in Spokane, send them my way this Saturday, February 15. I'd love to talk to them about the rural Midwest, the spectacle of poverty and the circus, of loss by suicide, and this strange society we're caught inside--all the while pretending we aren't caught because that's part of it, too.

Also, I can sign Hezada! I Miss You, since it will be there, too, with me. And while it's no sample of grape jelly on a cracker unlike any cracker you've ever tasted, I think it's pretty good.

Erin Pringle signing Hezada! I Miss You
(photo by Kayle Larkin)

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Hezada! I Miss You: The Playlist, over at Largehearted Boy

Largehearted boy: a site for readers, writers, and music-lovers

Like every child of the '80s, I made countless mixtapes--happily spending hours and hours dubbing off 8-tracks, records, and the radio to create the perfect soundtrack (and another and another) for . . . living in the 1980s in a rural town?

I was taken back to such an enterprise when I created a mixtape/playlist to accompany Hezada! I Miss You. As usual, my playlist is very long--my stack of records far too tall for what-should-have-been a small task.


Since creating the playlist, I have listened to it while training for the marathon I plan to run in May. So, I can attest that it's a good playlist for the easy runs. It's not fast, so not good for intervals. It's not bright and full of pep, so it won't keep you going for a long run because a sad mood is not useful for twelve miles or more. But, if you're going for three miles, five miles, maybe six miles, and you like to run in the dark and you use your runs to dwell as much as you can, then this is a pretty good playlist.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Tales from a Book Tour: Hezada! Book Release Party

February 9, 2020
Overbluff Cellars/Cracker Building
Spokane, WA


Neil Elwell running sound-check.


Erin Pringle, Hezada! Book Release,
photo by Meredith Lombardi
(photo by Kayle Larkin)
(photo Kayle Larkin)
AnnElise and me
(when we don't know we're in a camera)
AnnElise and me
(my tennis boss and dear friend)

Teresa and me

When one of us is prepared for the picture
(Jan and me)
My co-workers. I love them.
(Teresa, Jan, Heather, me, Hannah, Meredith)

Erin Pringle signing books at release party,
photo by Kayle Larkin

Sweet home.


It was a very nice time.
Thanks to everyone who spent their afternoon with me.  
Let's do it again sometime.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

"People as stories performing like poems": Poet Julia Drescher Reviews Hezada! I Miss You

Julia Drescher

Words by Julia Drescher on Hezada! I Miss You
Here are just a few of the various nostalgias that we live with & work through that Hezada! I Miss You asks us to attend to: the frequently brutal nostalgias for a past we believe to be better than the present ; the nostalgias for what we are supposed to desire ; & the hopeful nostalgias (that break the heart too often) for a future where we are loved (& so accepted) for who we are.

Here is a book that gives in novel form—people as stories performing like poems (“Where did your death come from?”) Where language is velocity & mass whereby the turn of phrase is the continually changing way people fall into or out of collective speech, demonstrating how our vulnerabilities to each other can transform into our feeling with others.
Here, as readers, we are asked to attend to the cruelties (banal or otherwise) that we perform when we insist on reading people or towns or countries or times as contained, as only one thing. Which is to say the meanings we make to make ourselves feel like we have “a place in this world.” Too, the profound grief when making these meanings will no longer do—when what we think it means to have a place in this world might be the very thing that undoes us, that guts us.
Here is the circus as the representation of this crisis & the attempt to perform that crisis’ relief (if only for human beings).
Here is a story reminding us of what we forgot we knew: that the wonderful, the devastating, often walk this world wearing the same shoes.
Here in this book in your hands right now.

This is the story of how Julia Drescher came to read Hezada!
Or, how I came to befriend her
(by Erin)

Though I've not been a smoker for six years, some of my best friendships came from that aspect of my life. 

Julia Drescher and I used to smoke cigarettes between teaching classes at Flowers Hall on the Texas State University campus. We were adjuncts, knew it, and met in our rain boots and confusion as to how we came to be at this point of our lives. 

During one smoke break, she brought me examples of the journal she and her husband Chris had put together and she had stitched on her sewing machine. 

On another smoke break, she brought a glossy proof of the volume she'd put together with Chris, this time of deletion poems. I'd never seen a deletion poem before. I'd never met anyone like Julia before.

Another smoke break, she carried a handful of thesis statements.

Her ideas about whales.

News about moving to a different apartment.

Advice for her sister, but that I took to heart, about walking at night with 9-1-1 dialed into your phone so that all you have to do is push a button.

News that people were stealing political signs out of her parents' front yard.

Texas, she'd sigh. Then roll her eyes, which she can do without doing it. That's how wry yet calm her face can be.

She imparted wisdom about poetry readings. Have you ever gone to a house poetry reading? she wanted to know. I hadn't. She nodded. They look at your books, she said. It's a thing poets do. They wander around looking at your bookshelves. They expect to see their books there, too. She nodded as wise people do, as though to punctuate and assure at the same time. Ever since then, I wander my own house, wondering what poets would think of my books--if my selections would offend, irritate, bore.

In retrospect, I couldn't have stopped smoking in those years because it was the only way I knew how to keep seeing Julia Drescher. I'd drop by her office. She'd appear in mine. 
You ready? she'd say. 
Want one? I'd say.
Our offices flanked the entrance, hidden away by beautiful blue tile. The tiles were beautiful, so much so. But it's hard to tell the truth about anything around such tile.

So there we'd be, meeting on the low brick wall that runs outside by the stairs. 

We watched Lyndon B. Johnson appear, after many curious stages of his creation, from a pedestal to orange cones, and then, him, reaching out.

We were there when a group of students kicking hacky-sack appeared every day at the same time for a full semester.

We were there and there and there, trying to figure out where else we could be. We'd gone through the MFA program at the same time, but she was in poetry, and I was in fiction, and so we might as well have been on opposite sides of the country as far as shared events or shared classes went. The only class I had with her was the one to prepare us to teach 101. She taught me (the class) not to erase the chalkboard side to side. She demonstrated by erasing with one hand, pointing at her bottom with the other, then pointing at the invisible students who watched, amused or horrified. 
Erase vertically, she said. 
We laughed.
She smiled.
But I erased as she said, and would for the next thirteen years of my teaching career, from Texas State to Spokane Falls Community College.

Now she's in Colorado. I'm in Washington. Sometimes, a package will suddenly appear in my mailbox from her. A bookmark she's made. A collage-painting. A chapbook.

Now and then we'll exchange an email.

She wrote for the Summer Library Series (here); she wrote for the Book Your Stocking (here and here); I interviewed her about her newest book, Open Epic (here).

I asked if she'd review Hezada! I Miss You
She said she'd give it a go.

When she sent me the email with her words in it, I cried. 

Poets know your mind better than you think anyone will.
That is the danger and importance of poets.
That is Julia Drescher. 

And this is why I wanted to share her thoughts on Hezada! on this day, the day Awst Press officially releases into the world.


(P.S. If you are reading this on February 9, 2020, I hope to see you at the celebration of Hezada! today at 2 PM at Washington Cracker Building, 304 W. Pacific, Spokane.)

Friday, February 7, 2020

"Ms. Erin is a fine wordsmith and a helluva gal": Neil Elwell on your Sunday Plans

"Ms. Erin is a fine wordsmith and a helluva gal... You probably ought to go."

—Neil Elwell on why you should attend the party for Hezada! I Miss You

Neil Elwell
(photo by Erika Jones)


Story about how I met the blues, and twenty years later, Neil Elwell

I don't remember the first time I heard the blues. If anyone would have shared the sound, it would have been my father, but he listened mainly to jazz on the cassette tapes he'd plug into his van's stereo while driving country roads in search of something to photograph, or just something. He never found it.

But I do remember when I started a relationship with the blues. I was both in love with a musician and taking a class at Indiana State University on the history of blues/jazz/rock. He and I decided to drive to the birthplace of the blues. He'd been there before, years ago. He knew the map. He'd gone when he was in college, also during learning about the blues; he and some friends decided to skip class and drive to Mississippi, a mere seven-hour drive. His story went that upon their return, the professor asked why they'd skipped--where have you been?

We wanted to learn where the blues started, they said.
And the professor couldn't be too angry about that, could he?

It was a late October when we drove South. It was my first time past the north boundary of Kentucky. I saw how the sides of the roads turned red. How the land flattened out. How villages appeared and disappeared, and had disappeared inside themselves, remnants. How the old wood had gone gray-blue like the roads I'd grown up on. 

I remember the ache in my throat from seeing, finally, what I'd read in Faulkner, Lee, Williams, O'Connor, Morrison. 

Seems like we arrived in Clarksdale, Mississippi on a Sunday. It's where the blues is said to be born. It was deserted enough to look for signs of living. I took a picture of the water tower that I still have and run across when sorting memories for the thrift store. I keep it every time, if only because who else would? 

There were signs of a future museum for the blues; this was twenty years ago. It was either closed because Sunday, or nearly close to opening. We walked its porch, peered through the windows. It was a long, rectangular building in my memory. 

Later, we would drive back toward Indiana and stop in Memphis. We'd walk Beale Street by day, by night. I remember the thrumming of such a street. What it does to a body, its circuitry. In a few hours, I'd fall in love with more than one street musician in that kind of immediate brightness that the world sometimes punches into your stomach, showing you what life you might live if you lived here in the dream you allow of yourself.

It was that trip that would send me with my best friend down the train tracks to New Orleans for a non-traditional Spring Break where we stayed in a hostel, daily wrote in our notebooks while seated in the shadow of St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. It was because of that trip that I sent all of my graduate writing applications south. I nearly made it South, but ended up a little west, in Texas. But even in Texas I found the blues. At the time Austin had its own bar dedicated to the blues. No searching required.

All of this is to say that twenty years after that autumn trip, I walked up the steep stairs of Spokane's community radio station, KYRS; this time for an annual fundraising drive. I expected to talk about our radio tower--the amount of electricity required to power us--how for only $3 a month you can be a supporting member to your community radio station--how if you call in the next hour, a stranger will double your donation.

All true, but this is what I didn't expect when I sat down across from Jukebox Jennie during her show, Workin' Woman Blues: I would meet Neil Elwell. I didn't know who Neil Elwell was. He sat down beside me. He had a guitar. He'd come on as a favor to Jennie to help raise money for the station by playing live.

Jesus, how he played.

I think this is a story of how everything you've learned about parts of the world wind up returning in the people you meet. How often I seem to think that objects hold my memories, but forget that people can carry memories, too, even when they weren't part of them.

Since Clarksdale, my blues had only deepened. Aside from my family history of having the blues (depression), the course of life had brought more. The musician had driven away in his red car. My best friend who went with me to New Orleans had died. My sister was dead. I was further west in a northerly manner. My marriage was over. I was in love again, but more love doesn't fade out old love, disappeared love, misjudged love. My dad was still dead, of course, because death does that, and sometimes it seems only the blues remembers that. Sometimes, it's only the blues that remembers there's people who walk country roads alone, or drive them, searching, or live in houses where the wood isn't stained and nature starts taking the wood back, because it can.

So when Neil started playing the blues. Dark, right blues. Deep sounding blues. You understand what I'm saying blues, you can see why I had to make this person my friend.

Neil and Henry
And we have done that.

He would play for an artist fundraiser for my friend Breanna amidst the big shows he plays with his well-known band, Laffin' Bones.

I'd learned in that same blues/jazz/rock class about the diddley bo, and a few months later I asked Neil if he'd ever made one. I was thinking of art projects to share with the preschoolers. Not only did he know what I was talking about, he'd made one. He invited my son and me over to see the one he'd made with his son. When we arrived, Neil had started the base of one for Henry to make. A surprise. The best kind of surprises. They finished it together that afternoon.

Later, Neil and I would share coffee while he helped me repair a sculpture my father had made. And on and on our friendship goes, which is as good as the blues and born from it.

And on Sunday, I'll be happy to stop reading from Hezada! I Miss You, and listen to Neil Elwell sing the blues. I hope you'll join us.

Sunday, February 9
2 PM
Cracker Building (304 W. Pacific)
words. music. wine. maybe cake.
You're invited.
I mean it.


Thursday, February 6, 2020

Erin Pringle on Northwest Arts Review: Thursday, February 6

I met up with Chris Maccini of Spokane's NPR to talk about my new novel Hezada! I Miss You. The best part was reading from the opening chapter. Otherwise, it was morning, and I'm no good for mornings, which I should have taken into account when scheduling the interview but didn't. So, thank you to Chris and my apologies to Chris.

But, regardless of my anxieties, you can listen to the discussion once or twice today: 

If you found your way here from the interview, that's fantastic, and I thank you greatly. You're invited to the book celebration this Sunday, Feb 9th at 2 PM/Washington Cracker Building/304 W Pacific. It's free and local blues musician Neil Elwell will play music after the reading. The book will also be available to purchase from Auntie's and online retailers.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

"A tale about magic, about longing, about the crushing weight of dreams": Ann Tweedy on Hezada! I Miss You

"Pringle’s writing is lush and poetic.  Her weaving together of her characters’ disparate lives is nothing short of masterful.  In sentences sprinkled with unexpected metaphor, Pringle deftly renders this heartbreaking story of the meager and sometimes desperate lives of the residents of a rural Midwestern town, lives inextricably tied—through imagination, excitement, and, in some cases, blood itself—to the circus that visits every summer.  Readers will empathize and identify with Heza and Abe, the quirky and wise ten-year-old twins at the heart of the story, siblings who, like their single mother Kae, don’t quite fit in here and yet may not be able to escape.  The lives of Pringle’s characters are freighted with tragedy and sorrow and yet what am I most struck by is the love and compassion delivered when the protagonists most need it by unlikely strangers and acquaintances.  This is a tale about magic, about longing, about the sometimes crushing weight of dreams.  About the flashes of excitement that keep us alive." 
— Ann Tweedy, author of The Body's Alphabet 


Ann Tweedy
This is the story of how Ann Tweedy came to read Hezada! I Miss You, which is also the story of how I met her.

The Hugo House had a good idea to have Washington writers read. I was one of them. As I'm from Illinois, and will celebrate only my tenth anniversary of living in Washington, I was excited to learn about who these Washington writers would be and what they were like. Ann was one of them. And as it happens when excellent poets walk up to a microphone and begin to speak, I felt chills. The urge to lean forward. The wish that she would see me listening.

I felt too shy to talk to her, and she seemed enveloped by a similar feeling. My friend Walt had come to the reading, and we were standing near the front door and the rainy sidewalk as Ann left. Walt told her he liked her poetry. Walt's a poet. Walt has no concerns about speaking, or saying lovely words to strangers like, Good poetry. Or I enjoyed your poetry. Whatever it was he said in an easy way. 
Ann said thank you and walked into the rain. 

Like anyone who is better at written words than out-loud words, I messaged her online. Later, she would write a piece for the Book Your Stocking Series (read here). 

I would imagine renovating my backyard into a reading space and having Ann come read under strings of bulb lights, amidst lawn chairs of kind people and warm summer air. I have yet to do that. I still imagine it.

Ann, however, used reality, and organized a reading for us at Last Word Books in Olympia, WA. It was an intimate reading, filled with Ann's friends, and we had a wonderful, thoughtful conversation afterward. One of their group had died suddenly and recently, and we spoke of grief and friendship. It was like a temporary living room had been created among the books, and we sat together in it while the rain went on outside.

And although it is not typical for a novelist to ask a poet to blurb her work, I did. And she said yes.

You can listen to Ann read here:


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Sharma Shields calls Erin Pringle a "Great Ringleader" and the world seems good again

"Mournful, funny, piercing, and profound, Erin Pringle's Hezada! I Miss You is a stirring, vivid novel about a declining circus and its dynamic denizens. Like a great ringleader, Pringle highlights the most exciting, daring, death-defying, and dangerous aspects of the human condition. Hezada! I Miss You is a breathtaking work of art.”

Sharma Shields, author of The Cassandra and The Sasquatch Hunters’ Almanac 


Sharma Shields
(photo by Rajah Bose)
This is the story of how Sharma Shields came to read Hezada! I Miss You. 
    Maybe I'd lived in Spokane a year, though probably less, before I was talking to a librarian who asked if I knew Sharma Shields. I did not. I'd never met anyone in my life named Sharma.

    Oh, she writes stories, too, said the librarian.

    I liked the sound of Sharma. It sounds beautiful enough to be anyone, and fragile enough that one ought not to assume who this person might be.

    A kind of fairy-tale beginning, I think. 

    I would encounter Sharma at a reading at a different library; she read a story from Favorite Monster while I carried my baby from shelf to shelf, trying to keep him more silent than giddy. Or maybe that was another reading, same shelves. Maybe there was no baby yet.

    A few years passed before we would meet. Or maybe it wasn't that long. But in feeling. Years.

    It was in the lobby of The Bing Crosby Theatre before Lilac City Fairy Tales, an annual event Sharma curated. She'd found my email, asked me to participate. Our first in-person conversation went something like this:
    She hugged me, and I thought it was very nice that she should hug me, and that people named Sharma must be very nice. 

    Several years passed before we'd meet again, which seems impossible when most of the writers in Spokane seem to run into each other monthly. Sometimes, I think they actually live together, share laundry, memories, electricity, and only pretend it's funny to find each other outside their shared home. But that might be the way with writers. They're an interesting species.

    One day, Sharma thought aloud on Facebook that she might not make it to an event--an event she seemed to want to attend. She has MS. It takes over her, sometimes. Probably more than sometimes. It reminded me of my best friend Alexa who had similar experiences toward the end of her life, so I immediately wrote to Sharma and said I'd be happy to take her wherever she need go. 

    Luckily, artists are immune to quirky people, so she graciously thanked me for offering to carry her on my back. Me, who'd hugged her once in a lobby.

    Time passed. A year? A June came, and we found each other in Seattle, doing a reading at the Hugo House with  Gary Lilley and Ann Tweedy. I'd read the same story she'd asked me to write for the Lilac City Fairy Tales--now, it was bound in my book of stories.

    After the reading, listen to this: she bought everyone's books right there--her arms full and her face bright. I was so confused. People named Sharma hugged in lobbies, asked for fairy tales, then bought books at readings she was a part of.

    Then, damn if she not only read mine, but also wrote about it in Spokane/C'oeur D'lene Living Magazine

    The rest is either history or bullet points.

    • She wrote a piece for Book Your Stocking (read here)
    • I sent Scablands Press (her press) Hezada!  
    • Then Awst took it. 
    • She congratulated me.
    • Later, I would ask her to read Hezada! I Miss You as a potential blurb-writer. She said she would. She said it with enthusiasm. 
    • Every few months we summon the energy to schedule a walk, a coffee, a casual time, and then after a round or two of our calendars, we give up.
    • Sharma's newest novel The Cassandra came out. 
    The Cassandra seemed written for me--not me Erin, but me as a mind. A woman of my grandmother's era, and told in that era, goes to work at Hanford, where the plutonium for the atomic bomb used on Nagasaki was manufactured. But it's set in the past, so no one knows what's going on. The book winked at me unlike books ever do. Like, it expected me to get inside jokes that women looking back into time and forward from the past would understand. Nobody has ever expected this of me as a reader, or given this to me, or showed me how that was missing from merely all of literature. 

    But aside from all of this, I think it comes down to Shirley Jackson. Sharma loves her. I love her. So, were this a fairy tale, this is how I would have met Sharma: There she'd be, holding The Lottery in her hands, and I'd wait until she looked up so as not to interrupt.
    I'd tell her it was a sunny day.
    She'd say it was a longtime ritual.
    Then we'd sit together before the story, heads bowed, until the child picked up a stone.
    We'd shake our heads as though to say, But isn't that the truth? 

    Monday, February 3, 2020

    "It's a tender novel": Rajia Hassib on Hezada! I Miss You

    Set against the fascinating backdrop of a traveling circus, Hezada! I Miss You is a meditation on sorrow—how people deal with it, how they attempt to escape from it, and how, for some, it’s inescapable. It’s a tender novel that should be read slowly, each line given the careful consideration it deserves for the beautiful, heartbreaking insights it holds.”

    Rajia Hassib, author of In the Language of Miracles and A Pure Heart 


    Rajia Hassib
    Rajia Hassib and I have yet to meet. When I meet her, I'll first make sure she accepts hugs, and then I'll hug her so tightly. It will be one of those, stop-hugging-hold-shoulders-admire-the-hugged-then-hug-again hugs. A double hug. Triple hug. 

    The first time I met her words was in a recommendation from my friend Michael Noll when he was running Books are not a Luxury. I bought In the Language of Miracles and fell in love with it. 

    I fell hard. 

    Then I sent her a note to thank her for the book. Because when you read a book so deeply considered in its rendering, so full in how it grows around you, you must thank the author. 

    She responded. 
    I felt wowed. 
    (I've yet to achieve desensitization when encountering the walking gods I imagine writers to be.) 

    Later, I gathered up my gumption and asked if she'd share an essay about her childhood library for the Summer Library Series. She said yes. And then commenced to write about her library: the world's most famous, if not first, library (read here). 

    So. Wow.

    Later, she wrote a piece for the Book Your Stocking series. And, again, she wrote it with the same seriousness that I'm learning marks all her work (read here).

    In this way, the word appreciate--even when mining the depths of that word--does not begin to describe how I think about her. 

    This is probably where I should have stopped asking her to write things. In a fairy tale, I would have known better. What has she asked of me? Nothing. Geez, Louise. 

    I didn't know better, or I buy too hard the old "you-won't-know-if-you-don't-ask" wisdom, so I asked--I asked if she'd read Hezada! I Miss You. I just thought, the author of In the Language of Miracles would understand what I'm trying to do. 

    Politeness says that you should not ask people you admire to do things. 
    Then again, when you find a working writer whose work you admire to the moon, and she keeps writing back, don't you help hope by asking? 

    Although, when recounting all of this to you, I clearly should have asked her where to send armfuls of gifts instead of yet another thing. I should have just sent her the book when it came out. 

    But she did read it. And she saw it! She saw it the way I hoped when I used hope to get me through the hardest parts of the book. And as I have a very tense relationship with the novel, I think I need her words about it as much, if not more than, any reader. Perhaps it was my heart that asked her and elbowed my brain aside.

    So, this is my plan: at the end of the Hezada! book tour, I'm disappearing for a while and taking A Pure Heart, Rajia's newest novel with me, which seems the better way to recover.

    Sunday, February 2, 2020

    Hezada! at the Washington Cracker Building, Spokane

    Washington Cracker Building
    (photo from this Inlander article)
    We are a week from the official launch of Hezada! I Miss You. I arranged to celebrate the book at the Washington Cracker Building because it seems of the era the novel reaches back into. Though Hezada! is told in the present-day, it's set in a village whose heartbeat was steadier a century ago, and whose stories of that time persist into the abandoned-now. The Washington Cracker Building is the same, and the first time I saw it, I felt Casey, Illinois--from the building's red brick to its faded, painted signage.

    The building sat empty for a long while before it was acquired and put back together into the thriving space it is today, which has served for two-story art shows, private and public events, a permanent art gallery, bar, and work-spaces. The Cracker Building is basically what the villagers in my novel dream their village could be again in some utopian future. And so, the Cracker Building seems perfect to celebrate the novel--both my completion of it and its public introduction.

    If you haven't read up on the history of the Cracker Building, here are several useful articles regarding its past:
    You and everyone you know is invited to come to the celebration.

    Sunday, February 9
    2 PM
    Washington Cracker Building
    304 W. Pacific Ave.

    I mean it. You're invited.