Sunday, March 22, 2020

"An honest portrayal of people's lives in clear, poetic prose": A Person in Montreal Reads, then Reviews Hezada

"The writing is graceful, elegant, inviting and absorbing. Pringle’s writing style invites you into the book and keeps you there, even as it tears your soul to shreds. At some point towards the end I was scared that the novel would leave me emotionally devastated, but I was left instead with a peaceful sense of closure. It’s like I went through grief but I emerged out of it feeling strong and peaceful. It’s a bizarre feeling. It’s a beautiful feeling." 
-- GoodReads Review by LiteratureSloth 


The other day, Phoebe from Awst texted me a new review of Hezada!, which someone left as a hiker might hide a beautiful rock on a grassy, tree-lined trail for someone else to find. And as the one who discovers it, I have turned this rock over and over in my hands until it's become quite polished by my mind. I thought I might leave it here now, for you. 


Link to GoodReads review

[Should your screen reader not work with the above image, please see the text from the image, below]

Hezada! I Miss You
by Erin Pringle (Goodreads Author)
LiteratureSloth's reviewMar 17, 2020
it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, lgbt-queer

I read this book in 4 days. I’ve thought of nothing but this book for 4 days. I’m still thinking about this book. I wish I could forget it right away so that I can reread it and experience everything I did while reading it again.

This novel is unique in many ways. I’ve read many fiction and non-fiction books about suicide, and this book treats the topic like no other. It’s rare to find the perspective of suicide survivors in a novel, when most others talk about the suicide victims.

The writing is graceful, elegant, inviting and absorbing. Pringle’s writing style invites you into the book and keeps you there, even as it tears your soul to shreds. At some point towards the end I was scared that the novel would leave me emotionally devastated, but I was left instead with a peaceful sense of closure. It’s like I went through grief but I emerged out of it feeling strong and peaceful. It’s a bizarre feeling. It’s a beautiful feeling.

I’ve read other novels about small-town America, but this portrayal of the Midwest was so nuanced, so honest. It depicted the terrible things people do to each other, while reminding the readers of why they do them — because of how difficult and devastating their life is. Not excusing them. Not judging anyone. Just an honest portrayal of people’s lives in clear, poetic prose.

This book will stay with me for a long time. It is so rare to have this experience while reading. Thank you to Erin Pringle for writing it, and to Awst Press for publishing it. I’m glad I came across it and I would recommend it to everyone.


If your library is closed due to community health concerns, please consider purchasing Hezada! I Miss You from the following locations (these locations ship books to your home and need even more support during this time):

Sunday, March 15, 2020

"It's haunting. It's lovely." The Austin Chronicle Reviews Hezada! I Miss You

"It's haunting. It's lovely. It's an utterly painful and beautiful look at how life passes. Exploring the consequences of a suicide from those intimately involved to those on the sidelines, Pringle's unflinching view sets a summer circus as a backdrop for everything lost when life is gone."
Cat McCarrey on Hezada! I Miss You, The Austin Chronicle



Saturday, March 14, 2020

Delaying Home: Book Reading Changes due to Corona Virus

I've delayed my trip to Illinois until August in order to support community health. I'll now be at the Casey Township Library on August 29th. I hope to see you there. The sunshine will be nice, too. 

🥰 Please see other calendar changes at
🥰 To read Hezada! I Miss You before I get there, purchase from publisher website:

Casey Library

Thursday, March 5, 2020

"Erin Pringle will leave you dazzled": Noyes on Hezada! I Miss You, and Why We Called Him Noyes

"With the cool-minded skill of a funambulist, the foolhardy courage of a human cannonball, and the secretive, poignant wisdom of a melancholy clown, Erin Pringle will leave you dazzled and bleary-eyed with Hezada! I Miss You. Your lesser half will want to keep this book to yourself. Your better half will want to share its wonders with the world." 
—Tom Noyes, author of Come by Here: A Novella and Stories
Tom Noyes

We Called Him Noyes

I've known Noyes as long as I've been working on Hezada! A little longer. I only know this because the last time I saw him in person, about six years ago with a baby strapped to my chest, I told him I was working on a circus novel. He said, Erin, you've been working on the circus novel since Indiana State University. 

So, it's only because of Noyes that I have a timeline for the book. 

I call him Noyes because he was my creative writing professor. Well, I never took a workshop with him because, at the time, I had another creative writing professor named Howard, and Howard's feelings were hurt if any of his students took workshops with the new professor. So, I respected that, but then Noyes brought with him a short fiction class--one that was maybe required for the Creative Writing Minor. My best friend Alexa and I took it.

Yes, that Alexa. That best friend. The one who is always dead in the stories I tell of her, but this is a story of when she was alive and we were students and ran up and down the hallways of the English Department saying hello to professors in their offices, stopping to chat with the secretaries for long hours, and scooping up the free books that sometimes appeared in boxes outside an office--these wonderful breadcrumbs left for us to follow the best we could into the literature world our teachers were already deep inside.

If Alexa was sick then, nobody but her body knew it. 

It's Noyes's short fiction class where I read contemporary writers for really the first time, outside of what would appear at my hometown library.

The books we read were Best American Short Stories and Best American Poetry. Here I read George Saunders for the first tie, a tragic story of drowning. I encountered Ian MacMillan's story about a barn, two children, a rural strange place that felt stunningly familiar. It was the edition of BAP in which Anne Carson's town poems appeared in. The poem by Daniel Halpern that I can only find now after multiple google searches, about how his wife, in never arguing, now has a hole in her heart. Lines that are sealed into me the number of times I've read over them. 

- Noyes is the one who told me to read Susan Steinberg.
- Noyes is the one who read my story "Remember Ella" and said to submit it to Quarter After Eight.
- Noyes is the one who had a child, age three, named Josie, who said things like this at a faculty picnic, "Oh, no thank you, Pete," upon being asked if she would care for more cottage cheese.

When Alexa, a handful of years later, would have twin daughters, she would name one of them Josie. 
We thought Noyes's Josie was a fascinating person. We would take turns baby-sitting for her. I spent a good time on the floor beside Josie, staring at the ceiling and imagining what clouds were drifting above us. 

Noyes would calmly and with amused expression sit at his desk, setting down his pen as Alexa and I once more interrupted him, and I would go on impassioned soliloques about the trouble with traditional fiction, masculinity, patterns of story that were, in my view, getting in my way. Alexa would nod, laugh, roll her eyes, Oh, Erin. Oh, Erin, you're such a toad, she'd say, when I was lost again in my indignance.

His office, you see, was well positioned by an intersection of hallways. Just by the Writing Center where I worked. Just across from Nell's office--Nell who lived in Paris, Illinois and was not amused by anything unless you looked closely at her eyes and worked hard to make them glimmer. Alexa and I would sit between Nell's office and Noyes's office, in our too-large plaid trousers we'd brought home from Goodwill. 

Have I delayed sharing with you Noyes's blurb because he is so intricately tied to my love for my best friend Alexa? I miss her, friends. I miss her so much. I miss that time, before she was sick, or at least, before we knew it. Before I moved too far away, to follow the writer's path to an MFA program, to Texas. Before I knew I was queer, but she did, somehow, in the way we sense people we love but have no language to tell them how deeply we can see them. 

It's because of Alexa that I thought all English departments were like the one at Indiana State. I thought all professors set down their pens to listen to two best friends, two English majors, practice tirades about the lack of women in the canon, about the few women we were given, about all the things that the professors themselves were showing us to care about.

Of course, at that time, Howard was failing. He was past retirement but his life was teaching and his dogs, and he could not leave his office. His dogs were old. He'd buried one, but the rain kept unearthing it, and he kept having to bury it deeper. He was having small strokes, but we didn't know it. He would have one when he came to Chicago probably, when he was trying to tie his shoe but could not feel his feet and fell into the bathtub--telling me what happened when my boyfriend and I woke up later. 

Rumor was people had tried to tell Howard in the gentlest of ways that he was not well. And, of course, Howard had likely told them to go to hell. 

Howard's office was two doors down from Noyes's. So Alexa and I always made sure to visit Howard, or make sure he wasn't in his office, before we talked to Noyes. Because Howard knew what everyone knew, but he had only his office, had the sudden laughter that his students would bring him, had his method of teaching creative writing that he'd learned in the 1960s when he was a kid from Kansas attending the Iowa Writer's Workshop, when Vonnegut was his teacher. 

To tell you the story of Noyes and our friendship is to tell you of Alexa. Of Howard. 

Howard gone now, too. I would inherit his pocket watch, a dozen of the TV guides he'd had articles in, polaroids of him with friends in the faded yellows of that era of photography. 

It was Howard who would be alive and who I would meet in my first creative writing workshop a few months after my father died. I was 17. It was Howard who would underline places in my stories and write, GOOD IMAGE!

To tell you about Noyes is to tell you about Howard, about my father, about the era they shared of men born in 1935 who grew up to become young men who bet on horses, who chased women and were endeared for it, who would in the middle of silence burst out cursing. 

GODDAMMIT! Howard would yell from his office because somebody in admissions was trying to fuck over one of his advisees. Some asshole in admissions who didn't know a goddamn thing about credits was trying to say that Howard's advisee could not transfer course credits from there to here. And now, goddammit, Howard McMillen was going to have to call up that asshole or walk himself over there in the same gray jogging pants he wore yesterday and his purple K-state sweatshirt, and tell them why they would not fuck over one of his advisees, you better believe it. 

Because maybe Viking fucked him over with his book The Many Mansions of Sam Peeples in 1972, but he would not let anyone fuck over the filing cabinet of undergrads whose course of studies he helped ensure would lead to graduation.

It was Howard who saw creative writing as a team sport, who saw himself as the coach and manager of the ISU program. Howard was a recruiter. He grew the program, he said. He had proof. He'd found former students in bars and enrolled them the next day. He found this one and that one. He ran into Sarah in an aisle of Wal-Mart and they'd gotten to talking and NOW she was a minor in creative writing. (Sarah who, after Howard died, would send me a photograph of Howard that she'd taken.)

Howard with his monthly poetry reading at Pizza City. Howard and his friend Steve Cash who was working on a novel. 

But Howard can be a different story I'll tell you later. 

Noyes wrote one of the recommendation letters that would go to all the MFA programs I applied to. I applied only to programs in the South. Where it would not be like where I'd grown up. Where it would be like the place I'd visited with boyfriend Mark, like the place I'd visited with Alexa in the shadows of New Orleans. 

It was Noyes who, when I had my first workshop in graduate school, sent me an assuring email, one attempting to boost my confidence.

- And when Alexa became sick, I told Noyes.
- And when Alexa died, I called Noyes from Texas, where I'd gotten the call about her death, and I stood barefoot on the sidewalk outside my house where the tree in the front yard was perpetually dying.
- He didn't know what to say. 
- But what does one say?
- While I'd moved to Texas, Alexa had stayed in Terre Haute, moving into the masters program in English literature. She'd gotten married, had children, been diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension, moved home to Indianapolis as her body began fighting with the air, to take in enough, to stay steady.

Of course he'd lost track of her. He'd returned to the East with his family, settled into a new job in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Of course I'd not lost track of either of them, with my small-town ways, my tendency to keep everyone I meet in my address book for annual Christmas cards, just as my mother still does--crossing off old addresses and writing the new ones in the margins.

I can't remember whether Noyes read my first book when I defended it in graduate school, but he would later write a blurb for it when it was published. The stories in Erin Pringle’s first collection possess the charm of fairy tales, the wisdom of poems, the hope of prayers, the weight of eulogies, and the intimacy of letters home. 

He'd write a blurb for my second book. Erin Pringle’s stories leave you no choice. They sing so gorgeously, break your heart so perfectly, that you’re forced to revise your understanding of loss, luck, and love.

All the while, he would hear from me suddenly and then not, continue to write recommendation letters required of fellowships I'd apply for and only once win.

He'd publish more books, win prizes, now and then post pictures of Josie as a young teenager, now older, now with blue hair, now with a guitar. And a new child with a face reminiscent of the Josie I once knew.  

And now, here we are, I've asked him again, and he said okay, and even when the press was late getting the book to him and it was the chaotic beginning of a semester, he read the book, and he sent in the blurb--that one you see, above.

But under the blurb, he added a note that means more than anything. It's a wonderful novel, Erin. I'm proud and more than a little jealous of its brilliance.

So, the story of my friendship with Noyes is one of finding a person who will fight in your corner. And the corner where people fight for me is a pretty lonely place, I think. Which makes it really important to have him stay in it these past twenty years.

Thanks, Noyes.


Learning links:

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

San Antonio, AWP, and the Night Erin Pringle runs from Web House to The Cove

Texas Presses at the Cove: AWP Offsite Reading,
San Antonio, TX
Right now, there is a huge writers' conference happening in San Antonio. It's the Associated Writing Programs conference, or AWP. It's an annual carnival of writers, books, readings, panels, wine, presses, new books, graduate students, writing professors, and existential crisis set in hotels large enough to have multiple conference rooms and the aura of business meetings that seem at odds with a writer's general aim to take out the knees of capitalism (or, one of my smaller but no-less-pressing aims).

It's mainly attended by university people--writing professors and creative writing students, and literary journals and presses that are also, usually, housed in universities or connected in some way to them. That's the book-fair portion, set in an arena-sized room sprawling with folding tables, free samples, and women in scarves and nose rings, men in beards and plaid, and the newest older generation of professors in jeans and T-shirts who've published many books but seem that they, too, would be happier at a baseball game than here. But here we are, and here they are, and there is where I'll be on Friday.

Awst Press Logo,
Austin, TX
On Friday, I'll stand still for a bit at the Awst Press table. There will be copies of Hezada! I Miss You for sale. I will sign copies for those who might be interested. I will try to interest people. I will swallow despair and the thoughts of death that find me whenever I'm in crowds of people delineated by folding tables.

- If you're already at the conference, stop by between 10 AM and 11 AM
- Awst is at Table #1522 with Deep Vellum.

The best aspect of AWP is after the day's schedule of events are over, and parties are thrown all over the city by presses and magazines. Usually, the press will have their writers share work from the newest book. Magazines will find contributors to past issues to read. Hundreds of invitations are handed out. Then, at coffee shops, bars, and restaurants all over the city-of-the-year, writers stand at microphones or in corners reading their work, drinking beer, or spilling back onto the sidewalk to find the next party-reading they wanted to catch or overheard someone saying that they should see.

On Friday night, I'll be moving between two parties.
  • The first is with Awst at Web House. I'll be reading from Hezada! at 5:15
  • The second is with the Willow Springs portion of a reading shared by them, Bloord Orange Review, and Fugue. I'll run to The Cove in order to read sometime between 6 and 8 PM.
AWP Offsite Reading: San Antonio, TX

What I Remember about San Antonio
Although I lived in San Marcos for seven years, and the drive from there to San Antonio is only fifty minutes or so, I visited enough times to tell you about each one. The first time I went to San Antonio was with my best friend Alexa when we'd driven down to Texas to try to find an apartment for me. We went to the art museum and ate at Earl Abel's. From time to time, I run across the empty matchbook from that diner. It was a dusty place. Old-time touristy but with a feeling of abandonment. We loved it.

Another summer, now living in San Marcos, I would drive two or three times a week to San Antonio to teach piano to children at daycares. Much like the tennis coaching I now do, I would heft a large key-board and bag of music and activities from the car to the playroom and wait for my students to join me. It would be in this job that I'd learn how important it is to say aloud to a teacher that something is hard. A small girl I adored said just this when trying to play one note and then another.

- This is hard, she said.
- I paused. The world glowed with sense.
- Yes, I said. It is hard.
- And hearing that, she nodded, and we tried again. Since then, I've tried to vocalize the difficulty of learning for all of my students, whether they were learning half notes in a preschool or thesis statements in a college classroom.

The other times I went to San Antonio would be with visitors, usually. To take my mother to the Alamo, then up the River Walk, both beautiful and famous. We'd do it again with my friends Ashley and Ryan. I'd buy a ring in a souvenir shop for twenty dollars and tell my future husband that this is the ring I wanted, which I did because it was beautiful and shaped like a flower. It lasted as long as beautiful costume jewelry from souvenir shops last. But I still have it, no matter.

We went to see The Magic Flute at the San Antonio Opera House. Jeremy had a cold, and we'd stuffed our pockets with cough drops.

We drove again to visit the art museum, to see the Edward Gorey exhibit. (He would illustrate even the envelopes of letters he wrote to his mother, beautifully.)

We walked through a children's museum. My general memories are taxidermy animals in glass exhibits and recorded voices imparting facts. I set part of a story here. Sanctuary, in The Floating Order.

When my college friend Natalie would join the air force, she was stationed in San Antonio, and we met there once. I have a picture from then, of her eating a sandwich at the coffee shop. Surely, we walked the river, too. Talking. She told me she was gay. It would be ten more years before I told myself, then her, the same thing. (Natalie, Alexa, and I took the same class together in undergrad at Indiana State University--for those of you following these stories I tell of my life.)

Another time, it seems we wove the looping interstates to San Antonio and landed again in the center, near the Alamo, but wandered the old hotels that carried pictures of the past on their walls.

It will be good to return, now to show our Henry through this city, and to take Hezada! too, first to Web House, then to The Cove, and then in my bag back to the San Antonio KOA where my family is playing ping-pong or walking about or perhaps sleeps already in the small, familiar KOA cabin that most always mean I have a new book and am far from where I now live.

But, luckily, this time, I'll be close to where I live in my memory because, like every ghost, I once lived in this place and sometimes visit.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Tonight! March 3: One Page Salon with Owen Egerton at The North Door, Austin

🎙 You're invited 📚

  • Doors at 7 PM, Show 7:30
  • This month's readers:
    • Erin Pringle
    • Emily Franklin
    • Tammy Stoner

I've never been (because I live 2,000 miles away), but all my Austin friends say it's a fantastic time, and that they can't wait to come to this one. So, I think that's a pretty good endorsement. Owen will lead, ask questions, say wry things, and as is my way at any Owen event, I'll grab his tie and hold on.

Also, I'll read one page.


Monday, March 2, 2020

Tales from a Book Tour: That time an iron fish didn't eat me at Auntie's Bookstore

You may recall my trepidation at doing a book-signing, having not done those well with my first book and then completely avoiding them with my second. I arrived on time at Auntie's Books in downtown Spokane, and the person at the counter had no idea who I was or why I would be there until I kept saying Claire. Claire knows. And then someone dashed off to find Claire.

The fish
Once I sat at my little table and set up, I looked up to find this metal fish staring at me, which it would do for the next two hours. But! Friends, the threat of being eaten by a sculpture coupled with my general fear of people, perhaps created an atmosphere that only success could thrive in. The actual result was fantastic! In the first 1.5 hours, I signed six books—five of Hezada! and one of The Whole World at Once. Bonus: I had very good conversations with the readers who came by.

  • The first visitor was a child who attends the preschool where I spend my days, with her mother. That did so much to settle me and boost my confidence. Luckily, I had two balloons taped to the table, so I gave my child-friend one of those. She left pleased, and I stayed, pleased.
  • Another visitor was a former Shriner and remembered promoting the circus.
  • One woman was browsing books because her daughter was in the hospital, and we discussed how her daughter didn't like her name, but neither had she liked her own name, and so what's one to do? 
  • A woman walked past several times with more books in her arms every time, before she stopped, we hit it off, and she had a copy signed for her daughter's birthday. She said her daughter didn't like sad books. She asked if my book was sad. I said, It's only the saddest book in the world. And then we laughed because it was true, but here we were, and I hope to hear from her one day.
  • A couple came by because the woman had read about the book in the Spokesman Review, and having lived in a rural town in Nebraska wanted to read the book. Her husband grew up in Champaign, Illinois, so we talked of all the towns they'd been to near where I grew up. In this way, we became fast friends, although her husband was sure to say that she's the one who wanted to read the book, not him. Ha!
  • One man stopped and asked me to convince him to buy my book. For some reason, I tried. Later, I thought about how that wasn't my job and I could just say, You could start reading it. I think I saw him later that night when we were out at dinner, but I wasn't sure. I hope he took my business card so that he could buy the book online. But what is anyone supposed to say to a writer at a table in the middle of a bookstore? 
  • A woman stopped who was taking her granddaughter about looking at books, but then the woman came over near me and felt she didn't have time for a novel, but took the story collection.
  • A man just come into town on the airplane, who'd grown up in rural Pennsylvania, and who said he might start crying if I keep telling him about my book. And then he left to wander and my time was up, so I packed up.
In all, I think I exchanged smiles with at least twenty other people. One woman shouted that she could tell I was happy. Maybe I was. I complimented another woman on her shoes and all the books she was carrying. She paused to smile and exchange pleasant words. My new polka-dot leggings were uncomfortable, but they're polka-dots, so I'll keep them.

At the end, I signed the remaining books for Auntie's to sell. 

So. In all, I'd say it went pretty well. And, it was so useful to have the circus book and my photo album there to refer to, which helped me think while I talked. I never found my circus posters, though. I wonder where they are.

The book-signing table


Learning Links:

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Tales from a Book Tour: Because who doesn't like Carol Shields?

On Wednesday night, I was scheduled to read with Wendy J. Fox at Boots Bakery, which is one of the main vegan coffee shops in Spokane (that also has a full bar and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner). It's also one of my favorite places, not only because of the architecture and how it reminds me of my hometown KZ diner, but also because it's one of the first coffee shops Jeremy and I would go to when we first moved to Spokane, although it was under different ownership and name then.  

I swam for an hour before the event because I was anxious. I'd never met Wendy. I'd never read at Boots. I rattled off a circular list of worries.

As agreed, I read from Hezada! and Wendy J. Fox read next. But she from her next book, a story collection out in 2021. I thought she'd read from her novel If the Ice Had Held, but I was wrong.

Then we stood together, taking questions or tossing them to each other like frisbees.
Narrative structure with multiple narrators. 
Rural versus urban living.
The composing process.
My fear of curated communities within cities.
Her surprise a condo-culture and snow-shoveling.

In the dwindling sounds that mean the event's ending, Wendy thanked people for coming, but then I suddenly remembered I wanted to ask her if she liked Carol Shields' writing. But instead of saving the question for a few minutes or decades later, I let the question fly while grabbing the microphone. 
- Her eyes confused. Yes, she said.
- Carol Shields, I repeated. 
- Yes, she said. Or, maybe she said, Yes, I like Carol Shields.
As though, of course. Because who doesn't like Carol Shields? 
- I knew it! I exclaimed, forgetting that I was at an author event and not the last scene of a detective show.

Should anyone allow me to revise this part of life, I would have said, with calmed composure and a steady breath--You know, Wendy J. Fox, while I read your novel, I kept thinking of Carol Shields. I really appreciate her work and the way she maneuvers through the lives and interiors of her stories. You seem similarly focused.

And then, because of the sophisticated elegance in which I said this, though it wasn't a question, she would naturally respond. Influences. Stories versus novels. Canadian writers. How much a story can say without saying.

But, nope. The event ended.People stood. People kept sitting. People left. People ordered another drink.  I hurried away from the microphone. Then wondered if I should go back. 

So, I remain unsure whether she does like Carol Shields or she agreed to like Carol Shields as a momentary safety precaution because I'd sounded as though I were accusing her of something. DO YOU LIKE CAROL SHIELDS?!

Other than that, the event went well, I think. Actually, I don't, but my friend Hannah said it went well, and she's trustworthy. 

Here's the only picture I took at the event: my cupcake and wine. 

My dinner at Boots Bakery
 Both were delicious.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

"The inability of humans to escape the deprivations of our upbringings": Polly Buckingham on Hezada! I Miss You

"The circus comes again and again and again. Children fantasize it staying permanently. Masterfully told in tiny bites of consciousness from major and minor characters alike, Hezada! I Miss You explores sadness and grief and the inability of humans to escape the deprivations of our upbringings. Over and over we’re told the tale of the elephant who died from standing on her trunk. Hezada! is a stunning first novel—quiet and devastating, an elliptical tale of loss and the limitations and failures of a small town. The circus is always on the verge of arrival, and there is something deeply sinister in that." 
— Polly Buckingham, author of Expense of a View
Polly Buckingham, Missoula, MT 2019
(photo by Erin Pringle)

How I Met Polly Buckingham

The Expense of a View 
by Polly Buckingham
I never knew I'd tell this story so many times. Or write it out. But it must be a sign of something good to tell people how you know this person who keeps appearing nicely into your life. I'd seen Polly around for a while before I spoke to her. We read at the same Lilac City Fairy Tales event where I hugged Sharma for the first time. Polly read. I read. I left. I have no idea what Polly did afterward or for the next several years. Then, I went to the Montana Book Festival in 2017, and they'd scheduled Polly and me to read together.

So, it took a seven-hour roundtrip drive to a festival I'd never attended to meet Polly, who lives about twenty minutes away.

But, of course. That's how life works and it's only shocking if I don't think about all the people living on the same street who I'll never meet, regardless of how many times I run by/drive past/have coffee at a table away.

I read Buckingham's book of stories Expense of a View in Bernice's Bakery in Missoula during the festival, finishing it in time, or nearly in time, to meet her. And I was so so so pleased that I would get to meet her. Because her stories. Oh, I like her stories so well. Tinged with sadness like stars necessary to night, her stories ache and arrive in the strange angles that I recognize as true, real, part of my life experience.

Then we read together in Dana Gallery. But she was sick. She had a new dog, adopted, mistreated previously, confused and wondering why he was in Missoula. She stayed mostly at the hotel, sneezing.

But our friendship had begun.

Eventually, we met in Spokane and hiked together. In summer. Again in winter. Another winter. This winter.

View from a winter run with Polly, near Cheney, WA (Dec. 2019)
Last summer, we began training for the swimming portion of the triathlons we would do together. She has done many, many triathlons. This would be my summer to be a strong swimmer, much less participate in my first and second triathlons. During one swim in the lake by her house, we pulled a man--stranded in a boat with a broken motor and no paddles--to shore, one end of the rope around the front of his boat, the other around our hands, swimming exactly like two women do when they're training for triathlons but will save a man before starting their mile swim.

Now, we're running together. I'm training for my first marathon; she's training for her first half-marathon; we'll do them both at Priest Lake this May (yes, the same one Melissa Stephenson will do).

Even though I grew up rural and now live in the city, and Polly grew up in the suburbs and now lives rural, we've found each other in the crossing between our lives and the losses. Last night, at Boots Bakery, I was doing a reading, and before it began, I watched someone compliment Polly's ring. She said her stepfather had been wearing it when her mother met him, and when he was dying, he gave it to her mother. Then when her mother was dying, she gave it to Polly. It was a story I usually tell, answering that this tattoo I got after my best friend died. This tattoo is a mourning band for my sister. Here is why I just used past tense for a father, a sister. Here's a story about photography and my father, now dead. But I hadn't seen the story told before--the story of loss to an unassuming stranger. The shock on the listener's face to hear of so much death, the concern at having asked, what to do with this knowledge of a woman she just met. But Polly was smiling and her tender eyes. Because she'd just told a love story and how she became a part of it, beloved, loved, still here, though left. I've always loved this ring, she said.

These portals we wear to our past, or hang on the walls, or set on high shelves thinking one day we'll know what to do with them.

That's why I will continue swimming and running and walking alongside Polly Buckingham. Because she and I carry lives recognizable to each other and similarly reach for words and paper to soothe, salve, burn up the sky when the stars need to sleep on the darkest nights.

Learning Links:

Friday, February 28, 2020

From the One Page Salon to AWP: Erin Pringle takes Hezada! to Texas Hill Country

I'm about to celebrate my ten-year anniversary living in Spokane. It's long enough for people not to know where I came before. It's short enough that I don't think to say it. That I grew up in Illinois but spent my twenties in Texas is somehow a confusion for most people. It's not a straight timeline or topography. 

But I came to Spokane from Texas, having moved from Illinois to San Marcos for graduate school, and then staying for seven years to live, to teach, to start a marriage, lead three dogs into middle-age, celebrate my first book's publication, and know what time Dirk would come by the coffee shop with his newspaper, when Michelle would be working in her garden, and what newest questions Jonathan had about human nature after a long night of thinking.

Now, in a few days, I'll be back in Texas, with friends who knew those years of me, and I them, and the chance to puzzle ourselves back together the best we can.

Below you'll find my Texas schedule. Let's find each other.

Tuesday, March 3: Austin, TX

Friday, March 6: San Antonio, TX

Sunday, March 8: Austin, TX
My friend Owen.
And me.

See you soon, Texas.