“The Reader Is the Protagonist” has been selected for inclusion in Best American Essays 2017, edited by Leslie Jamison. The anthology will be available for sale October 2017.
There’s a nice review of the VQR essay in Vela magazine’s regular feature “Women We Read This Week.” (“Dark, bizarre, and lyrical”: That works for me.) Vela’s stated mandate is to “help close the byline gender gap by publishing exceptional nonfiction written by women, and by drawing attention to outstanding work by women writers at other online publications, print magazines, and publishing houses.” They also offer an excellent compilation of long- and short-form nonfiction — The Unlisted List — intended for future list-makers and anthologists.
“The Reader is the Protagonist,” an excerpt from the memoir, is in the Spring 2016 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review. You can read it here. (Illustration by Thomas Allen.)
The summer of 1989, shortly after my second husband and I married, we buckled my two daughters, who were seven and three, into the rear seat of a used car purchased for cash. We’d already sold most of our belongings and walked away from the rest, and packed the car’s trunk with what remained: clothing and toys, pillows and blankets, four place settings, one pot, one pan. We told no one where we were going. We meant to disappear. Driving east out of California, we decided on our new names. If we hadn’t been so shell-shocked, it might have been fun, the idea of starting over, starting fresh, in a place where we were unknown. But this was do-it-yourself witness protection. Hidden under the driver’s seat was a book on how to create new identities, but it couldn’t tell us who we’d be ,,,
Ross McMeekin talks about “The Matchmaker” on the Ploughshares’ blog, for their regular feature “The Best Short Story I Read in a Lit Mag This Week.”
Read it at The Rumpus: “All Those Stars”
She awakened one night from the malevolent company of whispering birds to discover herself in the middle of an earthquake. Like any sensible Californian, she got up at once and moved into a doorway to wait it out. The walls flexed around her; the floor rolled unnervingly. When it was over, she put on a bathrobe and went out into the street. She expected to see her neighbors coming out of their homes as well, everyone gathered on the sidewalk to compare notes. Instead, she was met by silence. Up and down the block all lights were out. She strolled for a while but no one emerged. She couldn’t understand it. What had happened here?
Read it at The James Franco Review.
The girl’s hair was silver. It fell rushing and weeping down her long back and clung in sections to her white shift; it twined like a hangman’s rope around her shoulders. The white sun sliced through the pane and sparked her hair into fire. And before I knew what I was doing, I crossed the length of the room. To touch her, only to touch her . . .
It can be useful to have images for fictional characters. Here’s one of Vero Baca, the protagonist of a novel I’ve been working on. In the story she’s 36ish, but this is how I see her as a child. I found this photo in The Modern Maya by Macduff Everton, which might be the best book I’ve read in the last decade. The picture was taken in 1971 by Everton—the child’s real name is Ursina.
I’ll be teaching again this year at Lighthouse Writers’ wonderful retreat in Grand Lake, Colorado, July 12–17. Craft classes are offered in the morning, book talks after lunch, and there’s plenty of time for writing, reading, or hiking. (Plus, the food is delicious.) More information can be found here, including (at the bottom of the page) a link to a downloadable brochure.