Tin House Online

Staff

Dear Readers,

After much consideration, we have decided that Tin House Online will no longer be publishing original work. This is a difficult decision as we have been proud of the writers featured on our site over the past year as we made the transition from our print magazine to digital-only.

In closing Tin House Magazine, we cited a desire to shift resources to our other two divisions: Tin House Books and the Tin House Workshop. That same reasoning applies to this decision, and we could not be more excited about starting the decade with a new Workshop Residential Program and a 2020 list that will see us publishing a record number of titles.

We want to thank online editors Alana Csaposs and Camille T Dungy for their passion for championing new voices and for bringing some of our dearest friends back to Tin House.

And to all those who submitted, read, and helped amplify the work, thank you! We hope to share space with you again as we continue to strive to find new ways to engage and support our community.

Onward,
Tin House

Behind The Book: Masie Cochran on editing A Girl Is A Body of Water

Tin House Staff

On September 1st 2020, we are so excited to be launching A Girl Is A Body of Water, the sweeping feminist coming-of-age story by international superstar Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. How does such a special book find its way into the world? We sat down with Tin House editorial director, Masie Cochran, to discuss her process and perspective on this remarkable novel.

Cover art of A Girl Is A Body of Water, designed by Diane Chonette

Before you read the book, what was it that made you curious about it or drew you to it?

Veronica Goldstein, Jennifer’s agent, sent a superb pitch—when you edit, you start to learn and recognize people’s tastes, and then you perk up when you see their name in your inbox. In Veronica’s pitch she talked about Jennifer’s ideas about origin stories and the feminist lens. Even before starting to read the book, then, I was inclined toward its subject matter because it was new for me, and exciting. It’s so appealing to find something that feels modern but traces back to origin stories. I read Let’s Tell This Story Properly around the same time as acquisition and I just continued to be blown away by Jennifer’s storytelling prowess. She asks big questions, and then follows them through with big story.

What was the moment when you really fell for this book and knew you had to have it? Were there any individual lines that really clinched it for you?

I usually try not to fall in love on page one, but after the first page I knew. The line “A mosquito came zwinging” did it; when a writer invents a word that should’ve been a word forever—mosquitoes zwing, that’s what they do!—and that is now a word in my mind, that’s incredible. I live in the rural American South and mosquitoes are a constant, and I grew up listening to that noise my whole life. Now, because of Jennifer, I have a word for it. Also, the way that Jennifer is able to begin an epic origin story with another epic origin story, as Kirabo takes on the role of storyteller, was so masterfully done. I could tell from the start I was in skillful hands.

What about working on this book surprised you the most?

It was a book I wanted to be careful with, I think, because the book is so woven, so detailed, so meticulous—you can’t cut a thread without affecting something later. I was surprised because I initially thought “Oh, I might cut this peripheral character” but no, this character plays an integral role later on! There can be an urge as an editor to cut, to get to the action. There are many characters introduced early on, and lots of folklore, and a mix of English and Luganda—words that might be unfamiliar to some readers. But that is okay, even necessary, because American readers are the visitors in this story; the characters are not visiting American readers.

I reckoned with some editorial instincts—the urge to explain, italicize, offer another word where there isn’t always an English equivalent, etc. But I think it’s okay to ask readers to step outside that comfort zone, to look things up they might not recognize. It’s worth keeping the complexity in the prose rather than pushing it to make it more digestible, to make it somehow easier. It was a big learning experience, and I followed Jennifer’s lead. For example, Jennifer mentioned that the English taught in Uganda is British English, so we didn’t change the British spellings as we sometimes do. We decided that if we set unfamiliar words or phrases off—always using italics—for readers, we would have been prioritizing the American reading experience or implying that the reader’s clarity is the most important thing, but for the characters exchanging the dialogue, it’s their words, of course deeply familiar, and to set them off as different or unfamiliar or to change the spelling would not make sense in the context of their exchange on the page.

What do you want readers to take away from it?

For a variety of reasons I’ve discussed with Jennifer, a lot of American readers don’t seem to expect a happy childhood story set in an African country; it’s yet another potential layer of distance between readers and these characters. But—despite Kirabo’s central questions about her mother—she has all this love and all this support around her, and she is surrounded by people who are willing to do hard work to make her life better. There is so much care in this story, and so much joy, and I hope that readers feel the joy of reading this book, the musicality of its language, its daring structure, the sweeping journey Kirabo goes on, and the many female relationships in this book that captured my heart. Its ending might be one of my favorite endings ever.

One of the great things editors do is envision how a work sits in the larger literary context; what other titles, current or otherwise, do you see this book in conversation with?

I thought of a lot of great books when I first read A Girl Is a Body of Water. I thought of The Water Cure, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, Stay With Me, What We Lose, Freshwater, and more. But I can’t do better than Namwali Serpell who compared Jennifer’s novel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet.

What makes me most excited about A Girl is a Body of Water is how singular it feels, even in this company. What makes it so different for me is how it makes origin stories, our oldest narratives, folklore, and foundational myths feel so modern. How do you take the first words that have defined characters for centuries and turn them into something contemporary, something that resonates with modern readers? It’s powerful and rare to find a story that is both so timely and also deeply immersed in and knit into the oldest stories we have.

Quedarse: A Writer in Mexico During COVID Gets Stuck in Her Own Novel

Courtney Maum

At the gate of the Careyes community, a guard in a surgical mask aims an infrared thermometer into our rental car: the red dot hits my husband’s forehead, our six year-old’s, then mine. “36°, 34°, 34°,” the guard calls out in Celsius, before giving us a slip of paper that proves we’re allowed in. My husband and I keep quiet about these impossible results: at 36° you’re hypothermic, at 34° you’re dead. I fold the piece of paper into my wallet and the gate is lifted for us. We are told not to come out.

Credit: Diego Ongaro

It is March 13th and we have already been in Mexico a week: we’ve come here as a family to do promotion for my third novel, Costalegre, which takes place in a fictionalized version of the very community we’ve just been granted entrance to. It is a place on the western coast of Mexico where my French husband’s father’s first wife has a house, a place that we have been visiting repeatedly since 2007, a landscape that inspires a great deal of what I write. This visit represents the last leg of my press tour. I have 40 copies of my book and an art tube full of posters with me for a party we were going to throw at a bar called Casa de Nada. That party is cancelled. The Mexican press I did for the book has solidified into transcripts that won’t be published, radio interviews that won’t be broadcast. I am not alone in this: I am one of thousands of authors watching as years of work is “cancelled,” but I am one of maybe not so many authors who is now living in her book.

Costalegre is a piece of history reimagined: it revisits the exodus of surrealist artists and novelists out of World War II Europe from the epistolary point of view of a young Pegeen Vail, whose mother, Peggy Guggenheim, helped numerous intellectuals escape certain death in Europe. In reality, Peggy’s favorite artists were shepherded to New York City. In my novel, they come to a coastal resort called “Costalegre,” an assortment of abandoned ocean castles and empty stables in the jungled area where I find myself, today. In the book eight artists (plus Pegeen and her mother) are sheltering in place for an undetermined amount of time as they wait out the coming war, driven to rascality by fear and boredom. Bumping up the dirt road to our host’s house on a hill, it was early enough in everything that I felt it as a thrill, the question of how we ourselves would navigate the directive to stay quiet. Quedarse. Permanancer. To rest in place, stay still.

On the Closing of Tin House Magazine

Tin House Staff

From Tin House publisher and editor-in-chief, Win McCormack:

Tin House’s 20th Anniversary Issue, to be published in June 2019, will be the publication’s last. I’m grateful to Rob Spillman, Elissa Schappell, Holly MacArthur, and the entire magazine staff, current, and past, for their part in creating a vital, versatile outlet and hosting important literary and cultural conversations over the past twenty years. It has been a remarkable run.

Given the current costs of producing a literary magazine, I have decided to shift resources to Tin House’s other two divisions: Tin House Books and the Tin House Workshop. This will allow the workshop to create more scholarship opportunities for its participants and expand the scope of what types of classes it offers, while our book division will look to publish more titles in the coming years. We will continue to publish original fiction, nonfiction, and poetry online at tinhouse.com, with a focus on new voices, a cause the magazine championed throughout its twenty-year history.

From our authors to our readers, I’m honored to have had the support of a remarkable literary community and look forward to continuing those relationships in the years to come. To those writers who have submitted to us over the years, thank you for tirelessly tackling the difficult, important work of making art. It’s been our honor and pleasure to read your writing. To all the members of the community to whom the magazine spoke, know that the spirit and ethos of that enterprise will continue to live on in the remaining divisions.

From Tin House editor Rob Spillman:

As a co-founding editor, with Elissa Schappell, I am proud of the magazine’s dedication to promoting new voices and lifting up overlooked ones, for leading the way in gender balance among literary magazines, and for expanding the ethos of inclusivity and genre-bending to our book division and summer workshop. It has been an honor to work with such smart, dedicated colleagues, and to publish the most exciting, vital voices of our time. Twenty years feels like the right time to be stepping away and moving on to new adventures. I look forward to focusing on other opportunities at the intersection of art and activism.

 

 

 

On Likability

Lacy M. Johnson

This essay was originally given as a talk during the 2018 Summer Workshop. 

My daughter comes home from school at least once a week and announces to me that no one likes her. She has done something that is too weird, or bold, or has said a thing with which others disagree. She has had to sit alone during lunch or play alone during recess. She even sat on the buddy bench, she tells me, and no one came. At the moment she says or does the weird bold thing, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks or whether they agree or disagree. It’s only afterward, after she has felt shunned, ostracized, and completely alone with her decision that she begins to question it.

She is eleven and a half. When I was eleven and a half, I liked to play the Commodore 64 and read Choose Your Own Adventure Novels and I liked making tapes of my favorite songs that I recorded off the little radio my parents let me have in my room. I liked New Kids on the Block — I liked them so much I called it LOVE — and I liked sitting next to my friend on the long bus ride home when we could talk for hours about who we liked better, Joey or Donny. I liked Joey. She liked Donny. (Wrong.) I liked to climb the row of mulberry trees that grew beside the long driveway to our farm. I liked to wander into the woods and eat blackberries straight off the vine. I liked being alone sometimes, but not always, and I liked how my arm hair glowed in the sun.

When I was fourteen, two and a half years older than my daughter is now, I liked a boy who was a few years older than me. He played on the basketball team, was over six feet tall, had chest hair, and on his upper lip grew what was, in retrospect, a very sad excuse for a mustache. I liked that he wore Drakkar Noir, stood with his hands in his pockets, drove a fast car. I wanted him to like me back, so I agreed to sneak out of my friend house, where I was supposed to be spending the night, and I agreed to meet him down the road, and when he picked me up in his fast car and drove to a liquor store that mostly disregarded the state’s liquor laws, I agreed to drink from the bottle he handed me. I liked how it tasted, how giddy and free being drunk made me feel. I agreed to sneak him back into my friend’s house, to the basement. I didn’t like what he did to me. I didn’t like how he kept kissing me after I told him to stop, or how he overpowered me, held me down, put a pillow over my face so no one in the house would hear me crying for help.

I agreed to doing things I didn’t really want to do that night because I had been taught somewhere along the way that it was a blessing to be liked by a man, that I should be flattered by the attention: from the grown men who called to me on the street while I was walking home, from the one who kept calling even after I asked him to leave me alone, from the drum major who wanted me to suck his dick in the backseat of his car. I learned, soon enough, that being liked meant favor, meant preferential treatment, meant I was safe but only in certain ways. I was supposed to be flattered that my Spanish professor liked me enough to invite me to his apartment while I was still his student, to his bed, that he invited me to live with him. He was the one who taught me that it actually didn’t matter how likable I was, there was always the threat of violence or punishment for saying or doing something he didn’t like. We could be at the market choosing fish and fresh tomatoes for dinner and his hand would be resting on the small of my back and the next moment it would be raised to strike me. I tried diminishing myself in such a way that I wouldn’t provoke him, wouldn’t anger him, tried to bend myself according to his pleasure so that he would like everything I did and said and thought. It didn’t matter, because no matter what I did, it was never enough. I kept at it anyway, until there was almost nothing left of me, of the person I had been. And that person I became, who was barely a person of her own, is the version of me he liked best.

 

I wrote a memoir about that, about how that happened, about how a man convinced me to give away all of my power and authority and to reject everything in the world that brings me joy without even realizing I was doing it. It wasn’t easy to write that book, and I knew that if he ever read it, he wouldn’t like what I had said. The first time I read from The Other Side, it was here, in the amphitheater at Tin House. I am not exaggerating when I say I thought he might show up to shoot me with a gun. But what actually happened is that my story found an audience instead.

After its release, a criticism waged against my memoir was that my “narrator” (which, spoilers, is me) isn’t likable, that I write things that make my readers uncomfortable and that I make choices with which my readers disagree. As if my most important job in finding language for a story that had none were to please. As if by labeling me unlikable, they don’t have to listen to the story I needed to tell. Raped women are unlikable, apparently. So are strong women. Women who survive. Ambitious women are unlikable, women who are good at their jobs, women who tell the truth. Women who don’t take shit are unlikable, women who burn bridges, women who know what they are worth.

Why shouldn’t women know their worth? Just because we’re not supposed to? Just because people don’t like it when we do? I know that I am good at lots of things — I am not good at singing (you’ll hear what I mean at karaoke tonight) but I know I write like a bad motherfucker. I am very funny in person. Also, I just ran a marathon. It wasn’t pretty or fast but I persisted and it is from small confidences like these that I draw courage to tell the truth, without regard for my likability.

As a woman, I have been raised to be nurturing, to care for others feelings’ and wellbeing often at the expense of my own. I have been taught that to be liked is to be good. But I have noticed that certain men are allowed to be any way they want. They get to be nuanced and complex. Adventurous and reclusive. They can say anything, do anything, disregard rules and social norms, break laws, commit treason, rob us blind, and nothing is held against them. A white man, in particular, can be an abuser, a rapist, a pedophile, a kidnapper of children, can commit genocide or do nothing notable or interesting at all and we are expected to hang on his every word as if it is a gift to the world. Likability doesn’t even enter the conversation. His writing doesn’t even have to be very good.

I am still talking about writing, though there is an uncanny resemblance to current events in the wider world. Let us consider, for example, our most recent presidential election. On the one hand, we had such a man as this: an unapologetically racist, sexist, homophobic, serial sexual assailant — a grifter, a con man — and on the other hand we had a woman many people didn’t like. That election cycle reminded us of all the words for an unlikable woman: she was a bitch, a cunt, a hag, a harpy, a twat, a criminal — she was unbearable, unelectable, unlikable.

 

Unlikable to whom? I’m saying women are told we are unlikable, but let’s be honest, this pressure isn’t exclusive to women, especially not just to white women. The world tells black women they are unlikable when they are angry, even though they have the most reason to be angry. I find it unlikable that more of us aren’t angry alongside them. The world tells black men they are unlikable when they are too confident, too intelligent, when they behave like kings, when they are not men but children who reach into their pockets or stand together on corners. People who have immigrated to this country are told they are unlikable when they “take American jobs”; they are just as unlikable when they do not work. They are unlikable when they cross the border in the desert under the cover of night and when they come through a checkpoint in the middle of the day. We put their stories in cages.

This is not a metaphor.

There is no end to the reasons people are labeled unlikable — because of the way they look, or the configuration of their bodies, or the choices they have made about how to live their lives, what kind of family to build, how to love, how to worship God, or not, or the language they speak, or the country where they were born, or because someone does not like the things they have to say. At some point, we must acknowledge that the question of likability is not one about craft, but about sexism, racism, homophobia — it’s about bigotry.

 

The pressure to remain likable exerts power over us and the stories we feel it is safe enough to tell. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion famously writes in “The White Album.” Stories are how we know ourselves, how we understand our relation to others; stories are the lenses that allow us to look at the chaos of the world and see with clarity and wisdom. We remember our past through the stories we tell about our mistakes and successes, and through these stories, we teach our children lessons for the future. We resolve conflict through stories, especially those of us inclined toward a tidy narrative arc. Stories keep us sane; they give us meaning. As a writer of nonfiction, I understand that if some of us tell stories in order to live, others must tell our stories in order to survive.

In my own life the stories I have told have created paths for me that did not previously exist, have helped me to escape from prisons of my own making or another’s, have become the form through which I have made the case for my own humanity, or another’s. What I have found to be most powerful about these kinds of stories is that they are almost impossible to deny. This is not to say that people haven’t tried to negate, or degrade, or defame the stories I have told — they have, which is my point — but my point is also that when I tell a story that is mine and true they cannot simply say no because the truth is not a request, is not a question, requires neither permission nor forgiveness.

If you come to the page to ask for forgiveness you have come to the wrong place. Forgiveness asks everything from the forgiver, asks her to give her pain away, to act as if the harm never happened. It’s the wrong question to ask. I’m not interested in letting go of my pain, but in transforming it into strength instead.

I have made so many mistakes. And I experience those mistakes I have made as a burning shame. But I can tell a story that transforms that too, not by taking your pain away — because it isn’t mine to take — but rather through understanding the harm I have done, the pain I have caused in you. This is what I mean by “a reckoning”: it means I take responsibility for that pain I have caused. It means that I feel that pain in myself and that I also feel it in you. This is, to me, the first step toward reconciliation. Forgiveness comes only after.

 

The pressure to be likable keeps us from doing this hard work, keeps us from telling the truth. Not just on the page, but in the lived experience of our bodily lives. Every day we go to great lengths to be likable. Some of us spend hours altering our bodies so that we can be better liked: we starve ourselves to be thinner, we bind, we constrict, we take up less space. We make ourselves paler or darker. We cover up or show more skin. We tell lies to survive and to fit in.

We feel pressure to disfigure ourselves on the page in these same ways — we constrict our stories because we are told they do not deserve to occupy space in the world, we tidy up our histories to make them more presentable to others, we carve up lifetimes of mistakes and wrong choices until the story we tell is only a shell of the truth, which isn’t really any kind of truth at all.

The truth is: sometimes I am afraid of what I write. You should be a little afraid of the story you are telling, too. And if you’re not afraid that someone won’t like it you’re still not telling the truth.

 

Think of all the emotional labor that requires: planning each of your actions and weighing them against the emotional consequences they might have on every person, and bending yourself in anticipation of what others might feel — always scaling back your own desires and rejecting your own needs. It requires a constant negotiation of what you can say and do in the world, constantly diminishing yourself because of the effect it might have on other people — which you cannot actually control or predict.

Think for a moment how much time you have spent in your life replaying conversations where maybe you said the wrong thing, or how you were maybe too curt with that person in the checkout line, or too forward with that dude you met on Tinder; how maybe you speak too much in meetings or make your views too known. How much time you have wasted fretting about whether other people like you? Just do a quick calculation: how much of your life, do you think, you have spent this way? An hour? A whole day? A week? Maybe entire years? What masterpieces could you have made by now if you directed your energy toward writing like a bad motherfucker instead?

 

There will always be some people who won’t like what you have to say. I recently spoke on a panel at a conference in Iceland and I told the attendees (a room full of mostly women, and a handful of men), that I don’t actually care whether men like my writing. There are specific men whose opinion matters to me — my husband, several friends, the men running this conference, the men in this room — but as a demographic, no, I don’t actually care at all whether men like my work. After the talk, two of the men who were in that room approached me (one of whom was the conference organizer) because they wanted to tell me they didn’t like what I said.

Imagine, for a moment, the luxurious freedom of being so appalling unselfaware!

Maybe now those men call me “that bitch” (which is fine, I’ll put it on a tote bag), maybe they call me a cunt, a hack, a whore. I don’t have to answer. That’s not my name. I know my name. I know my purpose. I know my place, and it is rising.

 

I think, perhaps, one reason — maybe the primary reason — that the world tries so hard to pressure us to be likable (and to punish us when we aren’t) is because they are afraid we will realize that if we don’t need anyone to like us we can be any way we want. We can tell any story. We can tell the truth.

We can be wrong sometimes. We can make mistakes. Sometimes really big ones. We can be crude and vulgar. We can change our minds. We can say something wrong — or better yet we can say something that is unpopular but right. We can admit that we have sometimes loved the wrong person or gave away too much of ourselves in exchange for fame, or favor, or fortune. We can tell the stories of our addictions, our falls from glory, our kink, our abuse. We can tell the hard truth we learned at rock bottom, and we can admit that it is precisely by climbing back from that lowest place that we have drawn power and strength. We can let ourselves be vulnerable enough to admit our most unforgivable errors, to find our way back from the brink of oblivion, and even if no one likes the story we have to tell, there is no story — none at all — that makes any of us unworthy of love.

I want to tell you this: There is a truth that lives inside you and no one can give you permission to tell it except yourself. You can tell the whole thing, the full truth — and you deserve to. You deserve to tell the story of your anger and heartbreak and regret, your foolishness and apostasy and your unquenchable thirst for revenge. You deserve to admit that sometimes you behave in ways you later regret, that sometimes you hold back when someone needs you to give, that sometimes you take more than you need. You deserve to name the harm that has been done to you by others, and you have a responsibility to name the harm you have done. What I am asking is that we make space for these stories of our failures, our ugliness, our unlikability, and greet them with love when they appear.

 

I’m almost forty now. These days, I still like being alone sometimes, but not always. I like running. I like the feeling of my legs moving and my feet on the ground. I like how working my muscles makes them feel tired and sore. I like learning how to swim. I like setting small goals and achieving them. I like singing to pop music with my children in the car — especially when it is very loud and very bad. I like it when my daughter talks back to me, even though it also makes me mad, and I like it that she is so bold and so weird. I hope she stays bold and weird forever. And I like it when a piece of writing comes across my desk that is brave and vulnerable enough to tell the hard story that is underneath the easy story people like, that shows me the ugly truth that has been wearing a beautiful mask. I like it when a writer confronts my assumptions and biases and I realize I have been wrong. I like to change my mind. This is the work that stories do in the world and stories are how we will save it. I like feeling so ready for your stories to arrive in my mailbox and on my desk. I will love reading them.

Lacy M. Johnson is a Houston-based professor, curator, activist, and is the author of  THE RECKONINGS(Scribner, 2018) and  THE OTHER SIDE (Tin House, 2014).

About the Cover, Issue 76:
Luisa Rivera’s The Secrets of the Night

Jakob Vala

The Summer Reading 2018 edition is out now wherever literary magazines are sold! The issue is full of new works by the likes of Ursula K. Le Guin, Yusef Komunyakaa, Catherine Lacey, Lia Purpura, and Shane McCrae, but the first thing you’ll see is the cover, featuring this painting by Luisa Rivera.

This issue’s cover artist, Luisa Rivera, sees a creation myth in her painting The Secrets of the Night. Though the women depicted are decidedly modern—Rivera says they remind her of “themed synchronized swimmers”—they speak to the ancient tradition of storytelling. The secrets they share generate “something strange that allows the earth to be shaped around them.” They manifest ideas of mythology and folklore.

Nature and the female figure have always been instinctual subjects for Rivera. Now she approaches those themes with more intention and other topics have emerged for her, such as spirituality, mythology, and environmental issues. In addition to her figurative work, she has a number of pieces that play with patterns of flora and fauna, inspired by the designs of William Morris.

Rivera enjoys studying gestures, often using multiple photo references for one piece. She combines images, “like a collage: the hand from one, the nose from the other.” She primarily works by hand with watercolor and gouache and makes final adjustments digitally. Rivera finds the layering of water-based paints meditative, a process in which she can trust her intuition.

Rivera’s palette has a vintage quality. The composition in The Secrets of the Night is almost baroque in its use of diagonal shapes and movement. Her aesthetic has been called surrealist, but she identifies more with magical realism, “which creates uncanny or strange atmospheres in daily scenarios.” Her lush flora and narrative style made her the perfect artist for the illustrated edition of a classic of magical realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. You can see more of Rivera’s art at www.luisarivera.cl.

Written by Tin House designer Jakob Vala, based on an interview with the artist.

How Do We Write Now?

Patricia Lockwood

The following essay was originally given as a lecture at the Sylvia Beach Hotel as part of our 2018 Poetry Winter Workshop. 

The alternate title of this, of course, is how the fuck do we write now.

Just as the customary greeting of hello has been replaced with what the fuck is going on, and you grab your friend’s arm almost against your will and shake her a little bit and say no seriously, what the fuck is happening.

Ursula’s Canon: A Vindication of Literary Women

Tin House Staff

Have you heard of C.J. Cherryh? Did your literature professor tell you that reading Grace Paley was of critical importance? Does Gabriela Mistral ever make your TBR list?

Ursula K. Le Guin spent a lifetime advocating for these and countless other women writers who are too often relegated to the periphery of history. Even in one of the last projects she worked on, Conversations on Writing with David Naimon, she set out to expose the “denigration, omission, and exception during a writer’s lifetime [that] are preparations for her disappearance after her death.”

In recent years, women writers have set the internet ablaze—just look at the sheer number of articles, listicles, and reviews focusing on books by women. We seem to be at a turning point in the book world and beyond, but will these books be read in five, ten, twenty years? Will they be remembered for their importance in a socio-political movement? Will they make it into the canon?

 As Le Guin said, “Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art—the art of words.” So in her spirit, here are five women writers whom she wanted us to remember and whom we refuse to forget.

“I suggest that people read books like Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse to see what she does by moving mind to mind . . . That’s mastery of craft.” — Ursula K. Le Guin, Conversations on Writing, p. 36

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf was a central figure in London literary society, a pioneer in stream-of-consciousness writing. Despite suffering from depression (which we can only assume was exacerbated by the men in her life who suggested she shut up and garden), Woolf was a central figure in the Bloomsbury Group and founder of the Hogarth Press. In Conversations on Writing, Le Guin notes that although Woolf is included in the literary canon, her work is “very frequently discussed with reference to her gender.” Le Guin doesn’t see this as a celebration of Woolf’s womanhood. Instead, she argues that even when included in the canon, “the woman is the exception to the norm, from which it is excluded.”

 

“Why hasn’t [C.J. Cherryh] been reprinted? Why isn’t she talked about? There’s something slightly mysterious about this. What is misogyny? A male need to establish a male world?” — Ursula K. Le Guin, Conversations on Writing, p. 31

Carolyn Janice Cherry has written more than seventy speculative fiction novels and won three Hugo Awards. Born in 1942, Cherry started writing at the age of ten and never stopped. Her breakthrough came in 1975 with the publication of Gate of Ivrel. Her name appears as C.J. Cherryh because her editor said male science fiction critics wouldn’t take notice if they knew she was a woman. Le Guin wasn’t the only one vexed by Cherryh’s exclusion from the canon. In Conversations on Writing, David Naimon recalls an interview with science fiction writer Jo Walton, who pointed out that while Cherryh was just as successful as Neuromancer author William Gibson, he “is in the canon and there are a lot of people who have never even heard of C.J. Cherryh.”

 

“Mary Foote was a novelist and short story writer…She wrote a very fine autobiography which was not published during her lifetime. [Wallace Stegner] took it and built his novel Angle of Repose on it, on her book, her life story…I cannot forgive Wallace Stegner, who was very well known…who easily could afford to give credit where credit was due. And he didn’t. I do not forgive.” — Ursula K. Le Guin, Conversations on Writing, p. 123

Mary Hallock Foote, born in 1947, was one of New York’s most popular illustrators during her lifetime. She traveled the west, illustrating and writing about her travels and the mines where her husband worked. Her memoir, A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West, was published posthumously, and although she was a socialite in her own time, she fell into obscurity after her death.

 

“I never read anything like Mistral. There isn’t anybody like Mistral, she’s very individual, and it’s an awful shame that Neruda—who is the other Chilean that got the Nobel—gets all the attention. But you know men tend to get the attention and you sort of struggle to keep the women in the eye of the men.” — Ursula K. Le Guin, Conversations on Writing, p. 77

Gabriela Mistral, born in 1889 in Chile, was the first Latin American author to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. Her poetry turned an unflinching eye on suffering, poverty and Latin American politics. She was a fierce advocate for women’s rights and participated in the Sandinista movement.

 

“I fear for Grace Paley’s reputation, because it happens so often that a woman writer, very much admired but not bestseller famous, however admired by many critics, just slides out of sight after her death…and the place is filled by a man. Well, no man could possibly fill Grace Paley’s place.” — Ursula K. Le Guin, Conversations on Writing, p. 30

Grace Paley was an activist, writer, teacher, and mother. In a 1976 interview with The Boston Review she said the key to managing so much was “good hard greed.” She won numerous awards for her short stories, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Edith Wharton Award and the Fitzgerald Award for Achievement in American Literature.

We are painfully aware that this list is not an exhaustive one. There are countless women who have published profound, enduring literature and are still on the margins. Ursula K. Le Guin has tasked us with reading these women, and in so doing, resisting. Who are the women YOU want everyone to read?

 

This blog post contributed by Natalie Church, Publicity & Marketing Intern at Tin House Books.

2018 Winter Scholars

Lance Cleland

We recently concluded our fifth year of hosting winter workshops out on the Oregon Coast and fitting for an anniversary associated with wood our 2018 Winter Scholars are building towards an impressive collection of stories, novels, memoirs, and poems. As such, it was an honor for us to be the scaffolding as these five writers spent their time in Newport working towards what is sure to be vital and well-regarded work in the years to come (if not already).

We cannot wait to see where their words take them (and us).

Jabari Jawan Allen is a poet from the South Side of Chicago, IL. A Tin House Scholar, Jabari has received fellowships, grants and support from the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA), Poets House and The Home School. Jabari’s poems either appear or are forthcoming in Four Chambers, The Shade Journal, Vinyl Poetry & Prose, among others. Jabari currently lives in Phoenix, AZ where he is working on his first full-length manuscript of poetry tentatively titled Bridegroom.

Ginger Gaffney received her MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico earning top honor in Creative Non-fiction. Five chapters of her new book; Half-Broke have been published in Tin House, The Utner Reader, Witness Magazine, Quarterly West, and Animal Literary Magazine. She has received writing fellowships from Tin House, Writers at Work, and Corporeal Writing, as well as a writer’s residency from Writing X Writers. Poetry, the landscape of New Mexico, and her relationships with people and animals have the most influence over Ginger’s writing. She has lived and worked as a horse trainer in northern New Mexico for over twenty years. She is currently working on a collection of short stories based on her work as farm manager at a recovery center.

Nancy Huang grew up in America and China. She is a winner of the 2016 Write Bloody Poetry contest, an Andrew Julius Gutow Academy of American Poets Prize, a James F. Parker Award in Poetry, a 2015 YoungArts Award, and more. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Vinyl, Bodega Magazine, TRACK//FOUR, Winter Tangerine Review, The Shade Journal, and others. She is an alum of Voices/VONA and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop summer graduate session. Her debut poetry collection, Favorite Daughter, is out by Write Bloody Publishing. You can find her here.

Tsering Lama is a New York-based Tibetan writer who was born in Nepal and grew up in Canada. Her fiction, plays, and poetry have been published in journals and magazines such as The Malahat Review, Grain, Vela, LaLit, Dolma and Himal SouthAsian, as well as the anthologies Old Demons, New Deities: Twenty-Two Short Stories from Tibet, House of Snow, and Brave New Play Rites. She is a 2018 Hedgebrook Resident, and in the past has been supported by grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, as well as residencies at the Lillian E. Smith Center, Omi Writers International, Catwalk Institute, WildAcres, and Playa Summerlake. Tsering earned an MFA in writing from Columbia University as a TOMS Fellow, a Writing Fellow, and a University Writing Teaching Fellow. She works as a Storytelling Advisor for Greenpeace International. 

Maegan Poland is a Black Mountain Institute Ph.D. Fellow at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and she holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Mississippi. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Pleiades, Juked, Notre Dame Review, Day One, and LitHub. One of her stories was awarded a Pushcart Prize Special Mention. She has served as Fiction Editor for Witness magazine, and as a Managing Editor for Yalobusha Review.

On Joyce Carol Oates

Abby Norwood

“You know how it is, basking in the glow of a sudden recognition, his eyes, your eyes, an ease like slipping into warm water, there’s the flawlessly beautiful woman who lies languorously sprawled as in a bed, long wavy red hair rippling out sensuously about her, perfect skin, heartbreak skin, lovely red mouth and a gown of some sumptuous gold lamé material clinging to breasts, belly, pubic area subtly defined by shimmering folds in the cloth, and The Lover stands erect and poised above her gazing down upon her his handsome darkish face not fully in focus, as the woman gazes up at him not required to smile in invitation, for she herself is the invitation, naked beneath the gold lamé gown, naked lifting her slender hips so subtly toward him, just the hint of it really, just the dream-suggestion of it really, otherwise the advertisement would be vulgar really, the perfume in its glittering bottle is OPIUM the perfume is OPIUM is OPIUM the parfum is OPIUM it will drive you mad it will drive him mad it will make addicts of you it is for sale in these stores . . .” —Joyce Carol Oates, Black Water 1992

This is not a book that concerns itself with conventions. The narrative is decidedly nonlinear. We open on the Fourth of July in the car of a New England politician and his young mistress, and within the first pages the drunken Senator is careening off the road in a rented Toyota, smashing through a guardrail and into the “black rushing water” of the marsh, the young woman at his side. We then jump around, now in the past, now the present, now the future. We’re in the car, overturned in the water. Then at the party that preceded the crash. We move forward and back, governed by no apparent rules, much like this sentence.

We begin with a very simple base clause, “You know how it is,” that really doesn’t say anything at all, and so it’s explained—what you, the reader (although we soon find out that it isn’t the reader who’s the “you,” but rather Kelly Kelleher, the Senator’s mistress), are presumed to know is that familiar feeling of “basking in the glow of a sudden recognition,” basking acting in apposition to the base clause’s it. That’s all simple enough, a fairly straightforward way to begin a sentence, and then Oates begins to play around, breaking away from conventions. We get “his eyes, your eyes,” a clue that our second person here is Kelly, even though the point of view up to this point has been third, as seen in the previous sentence (“They were new acquaintances, virtual strangers.”) and the one that follows (“[T]he beat beat beat of the surf like a pulsing in the loins, how assured his fingers gripping her bare shoulders.”). There’s just one last appositive that modifies the base clause—“it” becomes “basking in the glow” becomes “an ease like slipping into water.” It’s all reasonably orderly at this point. And then we begin to lose control.

Now Oates departs from her characters, from the Senator and his young mistress, and slips into an imagined scene, one that never happened to these characters. They intended to sleep together—that much is clear. But we already know that this will never happen. They left the Fourth of July party together in the rented Toyota, but before they could make it to bed, they were swallowed by black water. We will not see a love scene between them, so we see instead this commercial, this nameless redheaded woman lying “as in” a bed—even that’s an uncertainty—and the sex is there, it’s heavy in the air, but then Oates reminds us that it’s only in our minds, it’s just a hint, because “otherwise the advertisement would be vulgar, really,” and yes, now we know that’s what it is, an advertisement, nothing more, not a love scene between our characters but an imagined ad for perfume, a perfume called OPIUM, a perfume we’ve heard nothing about in the eight preceding chapters, and then it’s flashed to us again and again, OPIUM, OPIUM, OPIUM, and don’t worry, it’s “for sale in these stores.”

In the first part of the sentence, the verbs come in the form of gerunds—basking, slipping—which serve to suggest to the reader nothing more than imagined action. The gerunds work to set up the scene, modifying the “it” in the base clause. Yes, we know what it’s like, “basking in the glow of a sudden recognition,” this “ease like slipping into warm water.” The verbs in these first twenty-four words are mostly coming in the form of appositives, presenting ideas instead of action, forming a state of being in our imaginations instead of a concrete scene that we’re meant to envision. We’re not thrown into the action yet, but we’re set up for it. We can’t be thrown into the action because the action didn’t happen for the characters—they sank into the water before they could get to the bed.

We’re then presented with a comma splice—anything more definitive than a comma here would disrupt the dreamy nature of this sentence—and another base clause: “[T]here’s the flawlessly beautiful woman who lies languorously sprawled as in a bed.” This new base clause gives us a new subject—it’s not “you” any longer, but an anonymous beautiful woman. Free modifiers build up the details of the scene: “[L]ong wavy red hair rippling out sensuously about her, perfect skin, heartbreak skin, lovely red mouth and a gown of some sumptuous gold lamé,” et cetera.

We are reminded as we go that this is a commercial and not an actual scene from the story we’ve been reading. Further down it is called “the advertisement,” and then we see what’s being advertised: perfume. We are reminded that is “for sale in these stores.” And Opium is, of course, a real perfume, a somewhat storied one, brought to the market by Yves Saint Laurent in 1977, Truman Capote sitting at the helm of a windjammer at the launch party in New York. There was indeed a controversial 1992 David Lynch commercial for this scent that featured a redhead in a gold dress—hard to imagine that Oates didn’t see this ad since Black Water was published that same year, but the ad only featured the woman lying in wait. Oates further develops the image for us, adding in the lover, the tilt of the hips. There is no doubt that what’s being sold here is sex.

This idea that “sex sells,” such a popular advertising strategy, is one that Oates is commenting on here. Like we so often see on television, on billboards, in magazines, commercials like the one described are carefully constructed to appeal to certain aspects of our nature. Ads such as this are meant to catch our attention and touch us in a most primal way. It is romantic, yes—the wavy red hair, the gold lamé—but what we’re picturing are her naked hips beneath the gown, tilting “so subtly” toward him. His face is blurred out. He could be any man. What matters is the girl and the sex that she sells—“she herself is the invitation.” The description of the man is rushed, taking up just a small fraction of the sentence: “The Lover stands erect and poised above her gazing down upon her his handsome darkish face not fully in focus.” He’s there, but we are not supposed to be looking at him. His description is sped along by the omission of commas, a choice that causes us to hardly notice him, to consider him quickly and then move right back to the girl, who is the center of the ad.

Drawn to this sentence by its sexiness, we stay for its wild construction. Oates begins by establishing a context for us—like our characters; the reader must know what it’s like to connect with a stranger on a deep level. And then she paints a hypothetical scene—a nameless young redhead “languorously sprawled” before a lover “erect and poised above her.” She lifts her hips “subtly” so we catch just a hint, a “dream-suggestion,” but it is enough to show us where we’re going.

By this point, the sentence’s grammar has strayed from all convention and instead begins to closely mimic what is happening in the scene. A new base clause is presented: “The Lover stands erect and poised above her,” and then the woman is brought in as his subordinate with subordinate clauses—“as the woman gazes up at him,” and “for she herself is the invitation”—clauses that cannot stand alone but are made to depend upon The Lover’s base clause with the use of the conjunctions “as” and “for.” Modifiers are piled on—“naked lifting her slender hips so subtly toward him, just the hint of it really, just the dream-suggestion of it really,” and then another comma splice as we’re given yet another base clause, “the perfume in its glittering bottle is OPIUM,” and then we begin to really lose control. Repetition is used to sweep us along, to wrap us up in the excitement, the stupor—really, really, really, perfume, perfume, parfum, mad, mad, OPIUM, OPIUM, OPIUM, OPIUM. Again we lose the commas because they would slow us down and reduce that sense of discomposure that is so hot, so invigorating. We end with ellipses, the sentence drifting off, omitting text, Oates allowing us to continue it however we like in our minds, to reach no real conclusion, another reminder that this is all imagined.

Sex here is commodified, packaged up, sold in glittering bottles, an opiate, a numbing agent, something to be capitalized. The Senator and his mistress crashed into the water before they could act on their desires, so we see what was in their heads, what the “it” from the very first base clause was. But the construction of this sentence shows that this idea that they had, this idea of sharing an impassioned moment together in bed, is less about natural biological attraction and more about power, acquisition, submission. When it is “for sale in these stores,” it is nothing but a distraction, an obstacle to overcome, and it is with mastery that Oates bundles this all into a rambling 200-word sentence that tells a story and then loses its senses, asking us to kindly do the same.

Abby Norwood received her MFA in Fiction from Oregon State University in 2015. She writes technical documents in a factory by day and fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by night, and she’s currently adapting one of her short stories for the screen. Her prose can be found in Salon, Sou’wester, and Midwestern Gothic, among others.

On Arriving At This Novel “About” Mental Illness

Mira T. Lee

I’ve often felt awkward when asked what my book is about. I’ll say it’s a messy family drama about two sisters, how their lifelong bond is tested as the younger struggles with a mental illness. Uttered aloud, these last two words may elicit a flinch, I’ve found, as though we’ve been suddenly lifted from the realm of casual cocktail party conversation and thrust into something More Serious.

I didn’t set out to write a story about mental illness. In my earliest drafts, my protagonist, Lucia, landed in a psychiatric ward for one long chapter, but for the rest of the book, her illness miraculously disappeared. Her primary conflict then took the form of an unfulfilling marriage, where she faced the choice between staying and living with her own discontent, or leaving and hurting people she dearly loved. An astute reader, my former biology professor from grad school, said, “You have a dilemma here, yes, but it’s one we’ve seen in fiction a thousand times before. What will make yours stand out is Lucia’s illness.”

He was right. I’ve seen loved ones struggle with mental illness for decades, and I’ve experienced the chaos and discord and painful rifts it can cause. As a writer, I’d let these experiences skirt the edges of my work, but had been too afraid to embrace them fully. I worried that schizophrenia in particular carried too many negative connotations, the very word a stigma, dark and heavy. But I also knew, deep down, that allowing Lucia’s affliction to stay underdeveloped felt cowardly, like the shirking of some tacit responsibility. So I would “go there,” under one condition, I told myself—I would not let Lucia be defined by her illness. Bright, adventurous, full of ideas and dreams, she’d remain a vital, three-dimensional character: a sister, a mother, a daughter, a spouse, a modern woman trying to balance family and career. This would remain a book about her life, not her illness, as well as the lives of the people in the world who love her most. And with this in mind, I gave the illness full rein: to complicate my characters’ relationships, test their morals, expose their flaws, derail their goals. The heart of the story would emerge as they were forced to cope, each in their own imperfect ways.

In recent years, several novels dealing with mental illness have received critical acclaim: Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall, Neal Shusterman’s YA triumph, Challenger Deep, Adam Haslett’s award-winning depiction of depression, Imagine Me Gone, bestselling YA author John Green’s courageous Turtles All The Way Down. It has been incredibly heartening to see people paying attention to these stories. But as I was writing my own, I worried my characters wouldn’t cut it—perhaps the combination of them, on the surface, was too odd, their lives too unlikely: the sisters are Chinese-American, the men include an Israeli shopkeeper, a Swiss urologist, an undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant; a portion of the story takes place in South America. Was my story relatable enough? I wondered if books could be about Asian-American sisters, or undocumented Latino immigrants, or cross-cultural romances, or mental illness—but not all at once.

But as I looked around, what I saw rarely in fiction I saw everywhere in life: Japanese pianists with German programmers, Greek chefs with Colombian economists, people of every race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class, entangled. Immigrants, falling in love. This was reality, one that felt quintessentially American.

Mental illness, too, is colorblind; it strikes every community, and its ripple effects spread far and wide.

 

Dealing with brain illnesses differs from dealing with other physical illnesses in substantive ways. For example, with cancer or heart disease (both of which run in my family), one tries to work with doctors to decide the best course of treatment, with the shared goal of remission and recovery. With psychotic illnesses, which may involve delusions, paranoia, and/or hallucinations—the distortion of reality often renders an individual incapable of recognizing their own deficits. If a loved one’s illness has them convinced they are the Messiah, then telling them they’re sick and in need of psychiatric care is unlikely to be effective, and may even provoke intense conflict. It’s this “lack of insight” (termed anosognosia) that leads to a cruel catch-22: it is excruciatingly difficult to obtain treatment for someone with a mental illness if they refuse to acknowledge they are ill. This means that working within the mental healthcare system too, is an uphill battle, where people often must hit rock bottom (“stage 4”)—by which time they are so incoherent, incapacitated, delusional, or violent that they pose an imminent threat to themselves or others—before treatment can even be sought, much less procured.

There are no easy answers when it comes to the best way to help a loved one who is mentally ill, just as there are no miracle cures for those living with these illnesses. Families muddle through. These are issues not well explored in fiction, and that’s where the character of Miranda, Lucia’s protective sister, comes in: she’ll face a set of intractable dilemmas, and have to tackle them with what grace she can.

Over four years and six drafts, the novel evolved; what seemed arbitrary at first grew to feel integral, tentativeness and doubt gave way to conviction. Maybe I told the only story I could: big and messy, with no simple answers, no flawless heroes, no neat categories. Like life. The characters yearn, they strive, they flounder, they try again. But I have come to love every one of them. In the end, maybe that’s the best a writer can do.

Mira T. Lees work has been published in numerous quarterlies and reviews, including TriQuarterly, The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, and The Gettysburg Review, and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She was awarded an Artist’s Fellowship by the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2012. She is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives with her husband and two young sons in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Everything Here is Beautiful is her debut novel.

 

 

On Eliot

Chaya Bhuvaneswar

They are rattling breakfast plates/ In basement kitchens.- “Morning at the Window”, T. S. Eliot

1.

When I was fourteen and on a visit to my grandparents’ house in India, I read this sentence aloud while sitting alone on a balcony. It was the first line of poetry I memorized on purpose, drawn by the feeling of opposition it contained, between “breakfast”, out in the clean space of morning, and “basement”, dirty and dank, an antagonism I couldn’t yet articulate, of being in the sacred light versus trapped in the dark.

“Rattling.” A word written by T.S. Eliot from some doubtlessly-cleaner room than the one in which I sat, a room of Eliot’s own, granted to him, first indirectly, but eventually as a direct honor, an Order of Merit, by his adopted sovereign, in the capital city of an acquisitive island. His Great Imperial Britain of temperate greens, reasonable roadways and soothing teas, carefully-spiced.

The English poets occupy a place of pride on my grandfather’s shelf, which sits in a decaying house built by the Raj, allotted to him as part of the salary of a government servant, which my grandfather was, a judge, serving enthusiastically and loyally, as proud of his books of English poetry as he was of studying law in England for a few months, of learning a substantial amount of Greek and Latin in college in India, as Eliot did in college too.

Like Pound, Eliot is one of my grandfather’s favorites. As if my anti-fundamentalist, anti-sectarian, atheist grandfather never read the openly anti-Semitic line, “The rats are underneath the piles. / The jew is underneath the lot. / Money in furs,” a line that makes me later, at twenty-two when I discover it, try and retract my admiration for “Morning at the Window” and “Prufrock” without quite succeeding.

My grandfather never got to know my sentiments before he died. When I was fourteen, racism, anti-Semitism (nightmares about Nazis after reading Anne Frank), sectarianism (fanatics throwing babies of the other religion off of balconies, amputating Sikh men’s arms during the post assassination riots that killed 2,000 Sikhs in New Delhi) already filled me with rage. Target of my teenage bravado, colonialism was a red-faced bigot on a corner asking to be punched.

In my neighborhood in Flushing, when I walked home from the Main Street subway station after commuting from my magnet high school in the city, there were indeed such people, on corners, ranging in age from twelve to late sixties, shouting with vigor, “Fucking Hindoo.”

In India, when I sat reading Eliot’s poetry, as I heard his words in my head, I saw myself from the outside, as if I were sitting in a room with that Colonial Enemy and daring to sip tea from his own cup. I was a brown girl the erudite Eliot might have looked at in passing, maybe with a moment’s curiosity, but never stopped to talk with about Shantih, shantih, shantih, though just a few short years later, I would be studying Sanskrit at Yale (just as Eliot studied Sanskrit at Harvard).

In my first week at Yale, three years after the summer I first memorized Eliot’s line about breakfast plates, I bought a gold-leaf copy of The Four Quartets. By then I was seventeen, old enough to be certain my life would be different from my grandparents’, but not yet able to see how.

Eliot, long-dead by then, had written (to me) in that golden, costly book, “communication/ Of the dead is tongued with a fire beyond the language of the living.” I yearned for Eliot to notice me, to include me somehow, the way he never could Grandfather.

That autumn in New Haven, spending more dollars than I could afford to buy that book, it excited me, rather than giving me peace, to copy out Eliot’s line, Shantih, shantih, shantih in Devanagari, a native script whose brush-strokes Eliot had taken pains to memorize, persevering thru his academic probation at Harvard, before he went on to win renown and scholarships).

But years before, in India at fourteen, I already knew that to Eliot, I would probably have been part of the “brown waves of fog” that appear in “Morning at the Window” ‘s second verse. (His friend, Pound, was an anti-Semite, after all).

2.

My straight-backed, carved wood chair was set down in a very dusty room, in my grandfather’s house in India, upstairs, on the verandah of a balcony that afforded a view of the garden and the street and its children and beggars and animals, and doubtless settled my nerves, affording me time to be alone and uncrowded.

While reciting Eliot’s line about dirty plates, I could hear, from where I sat, the rattling, the clattering, of metal plates downstairs in a quite-dirty-seeming kitchen that was actually swept out and washed nearly five times a day.

The impression of dirtiness came from the kitchen being traditional and Indian. That is to say, floor drains were used to dispense water, dirt, and human secretions (hair, blood, and crumbs) that had accumulated on the rough concrete floor. Buckets of water were poured, to mix with whatever refuse was still there after the first two sweeps; then the brownish solution was swept into the floor drains.

“Basement kitchens”, hidden away in shame. Always at a remove from the proud life of a colonial Indian house like my grandfather’s, exemplary, thereby exempt from the rulers’ scorn, an example of “fully dominated”, properly-educated Indians’ disgust from the way that other Indians lived – Macaulay’s directive, realized.

I remember: the visceral discomfort for anyone crossing the kitchen floors in their bare feet (the majority of laborers, servants, cooks, who couldn’t afford shoes). The sound, starting at dawn, extending late into the night, of sweeping with muddied birch brooms, loud with the efforts made by women bending and swinging, harvesting dirty water, hidden, vigorous, singing songs and emanating what my father referred to in Tamil as “the smell of whores”, while the cheap bangles at their wrists clicked, shimmied, perhaps rattled, as they moved.

To my mind, at fourteen, the dirtiness was inherent to an Indian kitchen, and not because I wasn’t cleaning it. I’d literally never stoop to wash that kitchen since I was not only a woman but a visiting American, granddaughter of a judge from the colonial era and therefore a memsaahb too.

But this fact was noble to me then. Not cruel. I would be independent, a writer. I would never lower myself to do housework. I’d live in a way that changed the meaning of “woman.” My smiles would be triumphant, showy, visible – never ineffectual or “vanishing” like those of the women Eliot pitied.

The phrase “They are rattling” was critical to why I fell in love, indeed fell into, sentences, and with writing in general. For, if one (to lean on Virginia Woolf) is sitting in a former library with dust thick from books that haven’t been unearthed in decades, with some books unread within the current century (in stacks inherited by my grandfather from his grandfather, who could read in Sanskrit but who didn’t read in English) – if one is sitting and reading, perhaps indistinguishable, at that moment, from an Englishman reading – then one is not serving a master. One is not doing anything with dishes – an unseen they is bothering with them. Without saying so, by focusing her attention on the quality of the meal served, to a writer, at a rich college versus a poor one, Virginia Woolf intends us to take it for granted that we the women writers are digesting and dreaming, not rattling, not silenced by domestic expectations.

Eliot must want me out of the kitchen. Without saying so, he is suggesting I might be muffled by those rattles in the kitchen, unless I watch out. Without knowing and indeed without ever having consented to it, T.S. Eliot is showing me sedition, thrilling me. Without ever inviting me into his soothingly-pristine bed (which I suspected he might have thought would become dirty, for my brown skin being naked in it), he has seduced and liberated my chubby fourteen-year-old reading self.

3.

No dishes or dirty floors for me ever, I think. Reading and writing (for I have a blank notebook here with me in this upstairs room next to my grandfather’s library) will occupy the time for breathing, for seeing, for moving and thinking.

Already there is talk of how I won’t know how to cook when I’m married, how I “study too much” to be married. Yet this poem, Eliot’s line, reminds me that domestic noises, “rattling” that resonates with people being gathered, watched, fed, around a table first wiped down by someone’s wife – these noises could be like the rattling of a kettle being brought to boil, before it blows.

Whoa, bleak! Mutters my fourteen-year-0ld self. But how can it be otherwise, for women whose souls, if they don’t explode into fire, will eventually turn into Eliot’s “damp souls”, of the second verse of the poem, and whose smiles will only be smiles of resignation, and never have any effect upon anyone, becoming smiles that are “aimless”? Eliot’s pity, veering toward contempt, is palpable for the women (those aimless women busy with meaningless errands). This is the female equivalent of “measuring out (one’s) life in coffee spoons”, as the Eliot of “Prufrock” writes.

4.

And yet – and yet – somebody has to clean dirty dishes. In a hotel, a restaurant, a house. They do pile up. And children generate errands, some of which prove aimless, even when enjoyable.

5.

Everything I was afraid of came to pass. When my children make damp, sticky disasters in a re-finished basement, I bend down to clean up after them, aware of the morning light visible through the large windows of a drawing room upstairs I’d hoped would be the holy place I wrote in undisturbed.

I do the dishes as often as we must. I clatter them, scraping off debris, sweeping my own kitchen of dirt. Even as I write this, a mess of wadded-up towels awaits me in our basement, thanks to a toddler.

Even worse, I’m stuck with the thoughts in English I’ll pass onto my children. I cannot speak or write this language – no one can – in a way that doesn’t reference Eliot’s cadence, a Modernist’s cadence.

Try as I might to push him out, I find that Eliot’s abiding contempt – for the domestic, for brown skin, and thereby for the substance of my life, my “soul’s sap” as a woman in a life with mess and stink– is not repulsive in a simple way. His stone-cold glare through those oddly-effeminate eye-glasses isn’t enough to turn me away.

Even now I can summon up the image of him at the chalkboard in Encyclopedia Britannica, in the edition my parents bought for me as a child from a traveling salesman who promised them that buying these books would make me successful in America. How painful it is to contemplate that the same person who could grasp the pain of being poor, unknown, of being consigned to domestic obscurity, the same poet who could write, in true humility, about how in mid-life he found himself still “Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt /Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure” – this person is the same one who wrote “Inventions of the March Hare” in his twenties, when he was the same age that my grandfather was when studying with such awe in England. “March Hare” contains poems, as Michiko Kakutani pointed out in a 1997 review, like Eliot’s blithe meditation on Bolo, a king who presided over brown subjects the poet refers to as ”a wild and hardy set”—calling all foreign, dark people ”an innocent and playful lot/But most disgusting dirty.”

The idea that “the first cut is the deepest” (itself inflected with description of Jesus Christ as “the wounded surgeon” who “plies the steel) – this image, this idea that has become part of my thinking, our thinking, must be why Eliot’s hatred of the domestic, of brown lives, of entire nations of people, hurts me so more than the hatred expressed by other Modernists.

Stevens, with his “pale Ramon,” “not intended to be anyone at all”, but actually the name of a Nazi collaborator and Marxist critic who replaced a Jewish professor sent to the camps in Vichy France. Marianne Moore, perhaps my favorite poet in college, for what I read as her resistance, her ‘feminism’, sister of Virginia Woolf in her irreverence and independence – Moore had her anonymous “Negro” pointing to the Washington monument and, in the background of her art, the ‘re-education’ school for Indian children where Moore passionately supported the racist “educator” Pratt, committed to cultural genocide. Pound isn’t worth talking about – his poetry too artificial to grab me enough to care that he could write, and dare to broadcast, lines like, “The big Jew has rotted EVERY nation he has wormed into.” Woolf had already broken my heart too, when we were assigned to read her diary in high school and I’d found her pitying statement about a “nigger gentleman” and the “degradation stamped on him” because of his hand “black as a monkey’s on the outside…tinged with flesh color within” and cried, putting down her book and staring at my own similarly dorsal-dark, palmar-light hands, because of how much I had loved To The Lighthouse.

But Eliot introduced me not just to poetry but to productive melancholia in general, with that one line, “They are rattling breakfast plates/ In basement kitchens.” Even now, he provokes a double-shame – my shame at still remembering his words, and the shame I share with both the servants in my grandfather’s regal house and with my grandparents themselves, that none of us are more like Eliot, in his clean, burnished, hallowed place. All the brown millions of us being from the side that was dirty, a race deemed by his chosen people, the British, to forever be lacking the capacity for an adequate scrub.

By inviting me, seducing me, to think in his language, to see my own face the way my grandfather saw his – not as a face to represent ‘faces’ – Eliot re-educated me, though when I first read him in my grandfather’s house, I was on my summer vacation, out of school.

Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a practicing physician and writer whose story collection is forthcoming in University Press of Kentucky’s Contemporary Poetry and Prose series, and whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Awl, Narrative Magazine, Michigan Quarterly Review, Asian American Literary Review, Compose, Redux, r.k.v.r.y., Bangalore Review, Notre Dame Review, aaduna, jellyfish review and elsewhere. Her fiction has received Squaw Valley and Grub Street scholarships, as well as a Henfield award, and she is at work on a novel. 

 

Works Cited

T.S. Eliot. Collected Poems. Harcourt Brace (1971).
T.S. Eliot. Inventions of the March Hare. Mariner Books; First edition (April 1, 1998)
Virginia Woolf. A Room of One’s Own. Albatross Publishers (September 24, 2015)
Michiko Kakutani. “Bigotry in Motion.” March 16, 1997. Accessed at http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/16/magazine/bigotry-in-motion.html
Marianne Moore. “The Hero.” In Complete Poems, Penguin Books, 1981.
Wallace Stevens. “The Idea of Order at Key West.” In Vintage; Reissue edition (February 19, 1990)
Virginia Woolf, edited by Anne Olivier Bell (1981): The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol 3: 1925-1930, Harvest/ HBJ Books, 1981.

2018 Winter Workshops

Tin House Staff

We are now accepting applications for our 2018 Winter Workshops. Held in Newport, Oregon, these workshops combine the rugged beauty of the Oregon Coast with a weekend immersed in all things literary. The program consists of morning classes, one-on-one meetings with faculty, afternoon craft discussions, and generative exercises. Evenings are reserved for coastal revelry (aka oysters and karaoke).

The scholarship deadline is October 22nd, while general applications are due by November 15th.

More information (including application links) can be found here.

Announcing the Fall Tin House Craft Intensives

Tin House Staff

Hauser. Almond. Sparks. Shepard. Come study with the fab four in our Craft Intensives in Brooklyn this fall. Obsess over obsession, cultivate interruptions, raise the stakes, or rethink form with four master classes that will give you a jolt of inspiration (and help you get some writing done!). Find details and apply now through September 20th here.

2017 Summer Workshop Scholars

Tin House Staff

Now that the dust (and karaoke) has settled, one last dispatch from our summer writing camp….

We are thrilled to announce the recipients of our 2017 Summer Workshop Scholarships. It was an honor to host them at Reed College and get to know their work through the application process and workshop.  These sixteen Tin House Scholars not only represent our best and brightest, but carry the torch of being good literary citizens as well.

It is a true privilege to have them be a part of the Tin House family. As such, we hope they write home now and again. 

 

Emma Copley Eisenberg is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. She writes about queerness, Appalachia, ambivalence, having a body, and being alive. Her essays, and reportage have appeared/will appear shortly in VICE, Catapult, Splinter (Fusion), The New Republic, Salon, Slate, The Marshall Project, Hyperallergic, The Rumpus, 100 Days in Appalachia, The Daily Yonder, Autostraddle, The Philadelphia Inquirer and others; her fiction in Granta, American Short Fiction, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Gulf Coast. She lives in West Philadelphia.

Ethan Feuer is a writer and designer living in Virginia. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Indiana Review, Electric Literature, Tin House Open Bar, DIAGRAM, Smokelong Quarterly, and elsewhere. He received his MFA from the University of Virginia, where he was runner-up for the 2017 Henfield Prize. Design work (at Architecture Research Office) includes project for Brookly Bridge Park, Tulane University, and Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He is at work on a novel about plague and acculturation in a fictional city.

Aidan Forster studies creative writing at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, South Carolina. He reads poetry for The Adroit Journal and The Blueshift Journal. His work appears in BOAAT, Indiana Review, Pleiades, Sixth Finch, Thrush Poetry Journal, and Verse, among others. He was a finalist for the 2017 Vinyl 45s Chapbook Contest, and his debut chapbook, Exit Pastoral, is forthcoming from YesYes Books in 2018.

Sarah Fuchs taught high school and middle school for nineteen years in Lomé, Accra, Kampala, Dar es Salaam and Oakland, CA, where she co-founded the School for Social Justice and Community Development. A graduate of the NYU Writers Workshop in Paris, she is the 2016-17 Carl Djerassi Fiction Fellow at UW Madison, and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Tin House, Aspen Summer Words and Writing by Writers Tamales Bay. She is working on her first novel.

Caoilinn Hughes’ debut novel, Orchid & the Wasp, will be published in 2018 by Hogarth (U.S.), Oneworld (U.K.) and Les Éditions Bourgois (France). Her poetry collection, Gathering Evidence (Carcanet 2014), won the Irish Times Shine/Strong Award, the Patrick Kavanagh Award and was a finalist for four other prizes. She has received fellowships from the James Merrill Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation, the Centre Culturel Irlandais, and scholarships from the Tin House Summer Workshop 2017 and the Arts Council of Ireland. Her work has appeared in POETRY, Tin House, Best British Poetry, Best NZ Poems, Poetry Ireland, BBC Radio 3 and elsewhere. She is represented by Bill Clegg.

Taylor Johnson is proud of being from Washington, DC. They’ve received fellowships and scholarships from Callaloo, Cave Canem, Lambda Literary foundation, VONA, the Fine Arts Work Center, the Vermont Studio Center, and Bread Loaf Orion Environmental Writers Conference. Their work appears in, or is forthcoming from, CALLALOO, the minnesota review, Vinyl Poetry, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Winter Tangerine, Third Coast, the shade journal, and elsewhere.

Hannah Perrin King grew up on a dirt road in rural California and now lives in Brooklyn, NY. When people ask her, “What do you write about?” she cringes and mumbles something about god and horses. As a one-time pre-med escapee, King is primarily interested in blending genres and disciplines in a way that speaks to the human condition but still helps poetry’s bad rep. She is currently a MFA candidate in Poetry at The New School, and recently received honorable mention in The Cincinnati Review‘s Robert and Adele Schiff Awards in Poetry and Prose.

While Ben Kingsley is best known for his Academy Award winning role as Mahatma Gandhi, this Ben is a touch less famous (having not acted since a third-grade debut as the undertaker in Music Man). He is the 22nd Tickner Writing Fellow, recipient of a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center fellowship, scholarships from Kundiman, Sewanee, VONA, & belongs to the Onondaga Nation of Indigenous Americans in New York. In 2017 his work will be featured in Apex, the Iowa Review, NarrativeNinth LetterPANKPEN America, the Poetry ReviewPrairie SchoonerSugar House, & Water-Stone Review, among others.

Joyce Li is an MFA candidate in fiction at Brooklyn College. In addition to Tin House, she has received fellowships and awards from the Norton Island Residency Program and the New York State Writers Institute. A Jersey girl at heart, she now lives in New York, where she works at a non-profit organization for immigrants in the arts and sciences and enjoys copious amounts of dim sum. She is working on her first novel, set in the Kowloon Walled City.

Regina Porter is a graduate of the MFA fiction program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow. She is the recipient of a 2017-2018 Rae Armour West Postgraduate Scholarship. Her fiction has been published in the Harvard Review. An award-winning writer with a background in playwriting, Regina has worked with Playwrights Horizons, The Joseph Papp Theater, New York Stage & Film, The Women’s Project, Woolly Mammoth Theater, and Horizons Theater Company. She has been anthologized in Plays from Woolly Mammoth by Broadway Play Services, and Heinemann’s Scenes For Women by Women. Regina lives in Brooklyn.

Charlie Schneider completed an MFA in fiction at the University of Oregon. His work explores the ways people construct clever edifices of denial in order to rationalize their own wrongdoing. Of late, this has taken the form of stories about the perpetrators of lynchings. He has received a fellowship from the Tin House Summer Workshop and a Work-Study Scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. This fall, he will spend a month at the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, where he will hunt ghosts.

Rajat Singh is an essayist living in New York. His work appears in The Gay & Lesbian Review, in two anthologies, Moving Truth(s) and Kajal, and on Catapult, LitHub, and Papercuts, among others. This summer, in addition to Tin House, he is attending the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat. He is working on a collection of essays on queer melancholy.

Brandon Taylor is the assistant editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Lit Hub. This fall he will begin an MFA in fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He currently lives in Madison, WI where he is a PhD candidate in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Cab Tran was born in Vietnam and raised in rural Oregon.  He received his BA from the University of Montana and his MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. A former David T. K. Wong Fellow, he has also been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and the Writers’ and Translators’ Center of Rhodes in Rhodes, Greece.  His work has appeared in Black Warrior ReviewVagabond: Bulgaria’s English Monthly, and elsewhere. In 2011 he was longlisted for the inaugural Paris Literary Prize. He lives in Missoula, Montana.

Dawnie Walton is a fiction writer and journalist whose work explores identity, place, and the influence of pop culture. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony (2015) and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she is currently working on her first novel. Her fiction was most recently featured in audio form as part of Let’s Play, a gallery exhibition of AfroSurreal artists in Oakland, California. Before following literary muses, she was an editor for Time Inc. titles including Essence, Entertainment Weekly, and LIFE.

Hannah Withers is a writer and joke-teller living in Portland, OR. She received her MFA from the University of Montana, was a 2016 Fiction Fellow at the Idyllwild Arts Writers Week, has had work published with The Kenyon ReviewMcSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Believer LoggerThe Santa Clara Review, and elsewhere, and was a finalist for the 2016 Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction. She’s currently working on a novel that she’s calling a “western,” which is both accurate and misleading. She can be found online @hbwithers, and can be found in the world next to the chips and guac.

Tin House Scholars

Tin House Staff

Aidan Forster studies creative writing at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, South Carolina. He reads poetry for The Adroit Journal and The Blueshift Journal. His work appears in BOAAT, Indiana Review, Pleiades, Sixth Finch, Thrush Poetry Journal, and Verse, among others. He was a finalist for the 2017 Vinyl 45s Chapbook Contest, and his debut chapbook, Exit Pastoral, is forthcoming from YesYes Books in 2018.

Allie Rowbottom was an East Coast based writer, splitting her time between the City lights and her equine companion at his barn. In 2008 she received her bachelor’s degree from NYU’s Gallatin for writing and women’s studies; in 2009 she relocated to the West to attend the California Institute of the Arts to continue nurturing these pursuits. She now lives in Houston pursuing her Phd.

Allison Hutchcraft is a poet and teacher living in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her poems have appeared in the Kenyon ReviewCrazyhorseThe Cincinnati ReviewBarrow Street, theBeloit Poetry JournalAmerican Letters & CommentaryWest Branch, and other journals. The recipient of an Artist Fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council and a Regional Artist Project Grant from the Arts & Science Council for the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, she has been awarded scholarships from the Tin HouseWriters Workshop, the Key West Literary Seminars, and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She holds an MFA from Purdue University and teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. A 2017 fellow at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences, she will be a resident at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology on the Oregon coast in spring of 2018.

Ana Owusu-Tyo has a master’s degree in eighteenth-century literature from Indiana University. She is Spanish and Ghanaian and currently lives far away from her native Brooklyn on ten acres in rural North Carolina where she raises her three children and chickens.  She is finishing a memoir about losing a daughter and beginning a novel inspired by the spirits on the former plantation she lives on. An excerpt of her memoir, Footnotes, has recently appeared in the anthology Stories that Need to be Told. She is also semi insta-famous for her crochet and recently learned to do a headstand in the middle of the room.

Born in Iloilo City, Philippines, Angela Peñaredondo is a Pilipinx/Pin@y poet and artist (on other days, she identifies as a usual ghost, comet or part-time animal) . Peñaredondo is the author of All Things Lose Thousands of Times (Inlandia Institute, 2016), winner of the Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize and the chapbook,Maroon (Jamii Publications). Her work has appeared in Asian American Writers’ Workshop: The Margins, Drunken Boat, Four Way Review, Cream City Review, Southern Humanities Review and elsewhere. She/Siya is a VONA/Voices of our Nations Art fello, a recipient of a University of California Institute for Research in the Arts Grant, Gluck Program of the Arts Fellowship, Naropa University’s Zora Neal Hurston Award, Squaw Valley Writers Fellowship and Fishtrap Fellowship. She/Siya has received scholarships from Tin House, Split This Rock, Dzanc Books International Literary Program and others. Angela resides in Southern California, drifiting between deserts, beaches, lowly cities and socially engineered suburbs.

A Pushcart-nominated writer, Aurvi Sharma has been awarded the Gulf Coast Nonfiction Prize, the Prairie Schooner Essay Prize, the Wasafiri New Writing Prize and the AWP Emerging Writer Prize. Sharma’s work has also appeared inFourth Genre and Essay Daily. She recently received the MacDowell Colony Fellowship.

While Ben Kingsley is best known for his Academy Award winning role as Mahatma Gandhi, this Ben is a touch less famous (having not acted since a third-grade debut as the undertaker in Music Man). He is the 22nd Tickner Writing Fellow, recipient of a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center fellowship, scholarships from Kundiman, Sewanee, VONA, & belongs to the Onondaga Nation of Indigenous Americans in New York. In 2017 his work will be featured in Apex, the Iowa Review, NarrativeNinth LetterPANKPEN America, the Poetry ReviewPrairie SchoonerSugar House, & Water-Stone Review, among others.

Ben Shattuck is a graduate and former Teaching-Writing Fellow of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has taught fiction writing courses at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington, the University of Iowa, and on Cuttyhunk Island. He has written for The Paris Review Daily, Salon.com, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Five Chapters, The Morning News, and the Millions, among other publications.  He exhibits paintings (benshattuck.com) and is currently working on his first novel. Ben is also a contra dancer, banjo player, and avid birdwatcher.

Brandon Taylor is the assistant editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Lit Hub. This fall he will begin an MFA in fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He currently lives in Madison, WI where he is a PhD candidate in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Bryan Hurt is the author of Everyone Wants to Be Ambassador to France (winner of the Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction) and editor of Watchlist: 32 Stories by Persons of Interest. His fiction and essays have appeared in The American ReaderGuernica, the Kenyon Review, the Los Angeles Review of BooksTin HouseTriQuarterly, and many other publications. He’s been awarded fellowships from Tin House and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and holds a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. He is an assistant professor of English at Capital University in Columbus, OH.

C Pam Zhang’s fiction is in or coming to Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, The Missouri ReviewThe OffingTin House Open Bar, and elsewhere. An Aspen Words Emerging Writer Fellow and a Hambidge Center Distinguished Fellow, she was recently a runner up in The Missouri Review Editors’ Prize and an honorable mention in the Zoetrope Short Fiction Contest. She’s not quite sure where home is, but lives online @cpamzhang.

Cab Tran was born in Vietnam and raised in rural Oregon.  He received his BA from the University of Montana and his MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. A former David T. K. Wong Fellow, he has also been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and the Writers’ and Translators’ Center of Rhodes in Rhodes, Greece.  His work has appeared in Black Warrior ReviewVagabond: Bulgaria’s English Monthly, and elsewhere. In 2011 he was longlisted for the inaugural Paris Literary Prize. He lives in Missoula, Montana.

Cam Terwilliger’s fiction and narrative journalism can be found online in American Short Fiction, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, and Narrative, where he was named one of Narrative’s “15 Under 30.” In print, his writing appears in West Branch, Post Road, and Gettysburg Review, among others. His work has been supported by fellowships and scholarships from the Fulbright Program, the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts.

Caoilinn Hughes’ debut novel, Orchid & the Wasp, will be published in 2018 by Hogarth (U.S.), Oneworld (U.K.) and Les Éditions Bourgois (France). Her poetry collection, Gathering Evidence (Carcanet 2014), won the Irish Times Shine/Strong Award, the Patrick Kavanagh Award and was a finalist for four other prizes. She has received fellowships from the James Merrill Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation, the Centre Culturel Irlandais, and scholarships from the Tin House Summer Workshop 2017 and the Arts Council of Ireland. Her work has appeared in POETRY, Tin House, Best British Poetry, Best NZ Poems, Poetry Ireland, BBC Radio 3 and elsewhere. She is represented by Bill Clegg.

Caroline O’Connor Thomas is a poet living in Oakland, California. She received her MFA from St. Mary’s College of California, where she was awarded the Russell and Yvonne Lannan Prize. Her work has appeared in Foothill Journal and Quiet Lightning. She is the curator of the Living Room reading series.

Carson Beker is a writer, playwright, storyteller, and actor with an MFA and MA from SFSU. She is the co-founder of The Escapery, an SF Bay Writing Unschool and has also taught creative writing at San Francisco State University. She is the former Fiction Editor of Fourteen Hills. Her work has appeared in Gigantic Sequins, Sparkle + Blink, Transfer Magazine, and Bourbon Penn, her plays have been at the San Francisco Olympians Festival and at Z Space. She’ll be a 2016 Lamdba Literary Resident in Fiction.

Casey Fleming is a writer and teacher in Houston, Texas where she cofounded the Poison Pen Reading Series.  Her work–fiction and nonfiction–has appeared in the Houston ChronicleSojourners Magazine, Fourth GenreGulf CoastSugar & Rice, and Literary Mama, among other print and online publications.  Her writing has been a finalist for the Iowa Review Prize in Nonfiction, the Willis Barnstone Translating Poetry Award, and a runner-up for the Tobias Wolff Award in Creative Nonfiction.  She teaches memoir writing at the Hines Center for Spirituality and Prayer and critical theory and literature at The Kinkaid School.

Charlie Schneider completed an MFA in fiction at the University of Oregon. His work explores the ways people construct clever edifices of denial in order to rationalize their own wrongdoing. Of late, this has taken the form of stories about the perpetrators of lynchings. He has received a fellowship from the Tin House Summer Workshop and a Work-Study Scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. This fall, he will spend a month at the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, where he will hunt ghosts.

Christie VanLaningham writes fiction inspired by failed places, heirlooms, witchy women, abandoned children, lumberjacks, lovable demagogues, every kind of fairy tale, and what it means to be home. Her short stories have appeared in several North American literary journals, and she is currently working on a novel, from which her reading has been excerpted.

Cody Carvel was raised in Oklahoma and West Texas. He received a BA in English and African-American Studies from Harvard University and an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco. His work has appeared in Mirage #4 Period(ical), Userlands (ed. Dennis Cooper), Tin House MagazineYellow Medicine Review, Elderly, and the Harvard Advocate. In 2012 he was a fellow at the Millay Colony. He is married to the famous playwright and director Julia Jarcho. He lives in New York City where he skips around town looking for landmarks related to modernist poetry and art.

Danielle Bainbridge graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 with a B.A. in English and Theatre Arts, Cum Laude. Danielle’s past research has included comparative work on African American and Caribbean theatre. She is currently pursuing a joint degree at Yale University in African-American Studies and American Studies and the certificate in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her creative non-fiction has been published in Moko Magazine and Killens Review of Arts & Letters.

David Bersell is the author of the essay collections The Way I’ve Seen Her Ever Since (Lettered Streets Press) and Nashville Notebook (Ursus Americanus Press). David studied writing at the University of New Hampshire, University of Maine Farmington, the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, and the Tin House Summer Workshop, which he attended as a nonfiction scholar. He lives in Brooklyn.

David James Poissant’s stories and essays have appeared inThe Atlantic, The Chicago Tribune, Glimmer Train, The New York Times, One Story, Playboy, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, and in the New Stories from the South and Best New American Voices anthologies. His writing has been awarded the Matt Clark Prize, the George Garrett Fiction Award, the RopeWalk Fiction Chapbook Prize, the GLCA New Writers Award, and the Alice White Reeves Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts & Letters, as well as awards from The Chicago Tribune and The Atlantic Monthly and Playboy magazines. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Florida and lives in Orlando with his wife and daughters. His debut short story collection, The Heaven of Animals, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2014. He is currently at work on a novel, which is also forthcoming from Simon & Schuster.

Dawnie Walton is a fiction writer and journalist whose work explores identity, place, and the influence of pop culture. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony (2015) and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she is currently working on her first novel. Her fiction was most recently featured in audio form as part of Let’s Play, a gallery exhibition of AfroSurreal artists in Oakland, California. Before following literary muses, she was an editor for Time Inc. titles including Essence, Entertainment Weekly, and LIFE.

Dennis Norris II is a graduate of Haverford College and holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. His writing has appeared in Bound Off: An Online Literary Audio Magazine and Madcap Review. In 2015 he was named a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and has previously won awards and fellowships from the Hurston/Wright Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, VONA, and the NYS Summer Writers Institute. He lives in Harlem and is hard at work on a novel.

Diana Khoi Nguyen is currently a PhD candidate in creative writing at the University of Denver. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Poetry, American Poetry Review,PEN America, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere.

Drew Johnson was raised in Mississippi and lives in Massachusetts. His fiction has appeared in Harper’s, VQR, Cosmonauts Avenue, and as a single-issue chapbook from The Cupboard. His nonfiction has appeared at Literary Hub, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Paris Review Daily. These pieces and others may be found at walkswithmoose.com.

Emma Copley Eisenberg is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. She writes about queerness, Appalachia, ambivalence, having a body, and being alive. Her essays, and reportage have appeared/will appear shortly in VICE, Catapult, Splinter (Fusion), The New Republic, Salon, Slate, The Marshall Project, Hyperallergic, The Rumpus, 100 Days in Appalachia, The Daily Yonder, Autostraddle, The Philadelphia Inquirer and others; her fiction in Granta, American Short Fiction, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Gulf Coast. She lives in West Philadelphia.

Ethan Feuer is a writer and designer living in Virginia. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Indiana Review, Electric Literature, Tin House Open Bar, DIAGRAM, Smokelong Quarterly, and elsewhere. He received his MFA from the University of Virginia, where he was runner-up for the 2017 Henfield Prize. Design work (at Architecture Research Office) includes project for Brookly Bridge Park, Tulane University, and Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He is at work on a novel about plague and acculturation in a fictional city.

Gabriel Houck is originally from New Orleans, where his family still lives. He holds MFAs in writing from California Institute of the Arts and from the University of Iowa, and is currently a PhD candidate and Maude Hammond Fling Fellow at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s creative writing program. His story, “When the Time Came,” was selected as a distinguished story in the 2015 edition of The Best American Short Stories, edited by T.C. Boyle, and his writing appears in journals such as Mid American Review, Western Humanities Review, Grist, PANK, Moon City Review, The Adirondack Review, Fourteen Hills, Lunch Ticket, and The Pinch. His fiction has also won Mid American Review’s 2014 Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize, and has earned finalist honors in StoryQuarterly’s 2014 Fiction Prize, among others.

Gabriel Tallent grew up in Mendocino, California, thrashing through the underbrush in search of anything awesome. He attended the Mendocino Community High School and spent a lot of time backpacking, re-reading Greek tragedies, and trying to figure out Moby Dick. Tallent received his BA from Willamette University and wrote his thesis on the discursive construction of pleasure in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, which is more interesting than it sounds. He has worked as a crew leader for Northwest Youth Corps, as an extremely bored and distracted checker at Target, as dining room staff at the Alta Lodge, and as a food runner and server at The Copper Onion. He lives in Salt Lake City, where he can be found climbing or futilely trying to identify plants in Little Cottonwood Canyon. His stories have been published in Narrative and in the St Petersburg Review. His debut novel, My Absolute Darling, was published in August 2017 by Riverhead Books.

Hannah Perrin King grew up on a dirt road in rural California and now lives in Brooklyn, NY. When people ask her, “What do you write about?” she cringes and mumbles something about god and horses. As a one-time pre-med escapee, King is primarily interested in blending genres and disciplines in a way that speaks to the human condition but still helps poetry’s bad rep. She is currently a MFA candidate in Poetry at The New School, and recently received honorable mention in The Cincinnati Review‘s Robert and Adele Schiff Awards in Poetry and Prose.

Hannah Withers is a writer and joke-teller living in Portland, OR. She received her MFA from the University of Montana, was a 2016 Fiction Fellow at the Idyllwild Arts Writers Week, has had work published with The Kenyon ReviewMcSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Believer LoggerThe Santa Clara Review, and elsewhere, and was a finalist for the 2016 Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction. She’s currently working on a novel that she’s calling a “western,” which is both accurate and misleading. She can be found online @hbwithers, and can be found in the world next to the chips and guac.

Jae Choi’s poems have appeared in Tin HouseThe Iowa ReviewPloughsharesWeekdayLVNGPoor Claudia, and Flying Object’s It’s My Decision series. The chapbook Woman Carrying Thing was published last year by The Song Cave. She divides her time, discriminately, along the West Coast, but currently lives in Joshua Tree, CA.

Jamel Brinkley is a Kimbilio Fellow, a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the 2015-16 Provost’s Visiting Writer in Fiction at the University of Iowa. He has been awarded scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, as well as the diFilipis-Rosselli scholarship from the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. He is at work on a collection and a novel, and his short stories have appeared in A Public Space.

James Scott earned his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and his MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. He has received awards from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the New York State Summer Writers Institute, the Millay Colony, the Saint Botolph Club, the Tin House Summer Writer’s Conference, Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. His work has been short listed for the Pushcart Prize and nominated for the Best New American Voices.

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami Beach, Jaquira Díaz is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship, the Carl Djerassi Fiction Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and an NEA Fellowship to the Hambidge Center for the Arts. She’s been awarded fellowships or scholarships from The MacDowell Colony, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Summer Literary Seminars, the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Best American Essays 2016Rolling StonePushcart Prize XXXVII: Best of the Small PressesThe GuardianThe FADERPloughsharesKenyon ReviewThe SunThe Southern ReviewSalonBrevityNinth LetterSliceTriQuarterly, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among other publications.

Jenn Shapland is a nonfiction writer. Her essays appear in Tin HouseThe Lifted BrowElectric Literature, and elsewhere. She’s currently writing a book of nonfiction called The Autobiography of Carson McCullers.

Jennifer Croft is the recipient of Fulbright, PEN, and National Endowment for the Arts grants, as well as the Michael Henry Heim Prize, and her translations from Polish, Spanish, and Ukrainian have appeared in The New York Times, n+1, Electric Literature, BOMB, Guernica, The New Republic and elsewhere. She holds a PhD from Northwestern University and an MFA from the University of Iowa. She is a Founding Editor of The Buenos Aires Review. Read illustrated chapters of her novel—in a wide range of languages—at homesickbook.space.

Jesse Donaldson was born and raised in Kentucky, educated in Texas, and now lives in Oregon. He is the author of The More They Disappear and On Homesickness.

Jessica Guzman Alderman is a Cuban-American writer from southwest Florida. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Sycamore Review, The Normal School, BOAAT, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from West Virginia University and currently studies as a doctoral student at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. She reads for Memorious.

Jon Lewis-Katz has taught in the New York City public school system and at Cornell University where he completed his M.F.A. in Creative Writing. He has received the Charles Pick Fellowship at the University of East Anglia and the Alonzo Davis Fellowship at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. At present, he teaches writing at Bronx Community College and is finishing a collection of linked short stories about West Indians and West Indian-Americans in New York City.

Joyce Li is an MFA candidate in fiction at Brooklyn College. In addition to Tin House, she has received fellowships and awards from the Norton Island Residency Program and the New York State Writers Institute. A Jersey girl at heart, she now lives in New York, where she works at a non-profit organization for immigrants in the arts and sciences and enjoys copious amounts of dim sum. She is working on her first novel, set in the Kowloon Walled City.

Kate Milliken’s stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Fiction, New Orleans Review, and Santa Monica Review, among others. A graduate of the Bennington College Writing Seminars, the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop, and several Pushcart Prize nominations, Kate has also written for television and commercial advertising. Kate’s debut collection of stories, If I’d Known You Were Coming, published by the University of Iowa Press, was chosen for the 2013 John Simmons Short Fiction Award by author Julie Orringer.

Kate Petersen is from Arizona. Her work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Zyzzyva, New England Review, Epoch, Paris Review Daily, The Collagist and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Stegner Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize, and currently teaches at Stanford as a Jones lecturer.

Kathryn Scanlan’s work has appeared in NOON, Fence, Caketrain, DIAGRAM, Two Serious Ladies, Pastelegram, and The Collagist, among other places. She has received fellowships from the Tin House Writer’s Workshop and the Vermont Studio Center, and her story “The Old Mill” was selected for the 2010 Iowa Review Fiction Prize.

Kelly Luce is the author of Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail (A Strange Object, 2013), which won Foreword Review’s Editor’s Choice Prize for Fiction, and the novel Pull Me Under, out November 1, 2016 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She grew up in Brookfield, Illinois. After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in cognitive science, she moved to Japan, where she lived and worked for three years. Her work has been recognized by fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Ucross Foundation, Sozopol Fiction Seminars, Ragdale Foundation, the Kerouac Project, and Jentel Arts, and has appeared in New York MagazineChicago Tribune, Salon, O, the Oprah Magazine, The Southern Review, and other publications. She received an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin in 2015 and lives in Charlestown, MA. She is a Contributing Editor for Electric Literature and a 2016-17 fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, where she is working on her next novel.

Kawai Strong Washburn was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawai’i. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016, McSweeney’s, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, and Mid-American Review, among others. He also received a 2015 scholarship to the Bread Loaf writer’s conference. You can find out more about him at www.kawaistrongwashburn.com.

Laura Maylene Walter is the recipient of the 2010 G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction and the Ohioana Library Association’s 2011 Walter Rumsey Marvin grant. Her short story collection, Living Arrangements (BkMk Press 2011), won a national gold IPPY award and a silver Foreword Book of the Year award. Laura’s writing has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Poets & WritersThe SunThe Writer, Ninth Letter, Michigan Quarterly Review, Chicago Tribune‘s Printers Row, Notre Dame Review, Washington Square Review, Puerto del Sol, Tampa Review, Portland Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, South Carolina Review, Fourteen Hills, SmokeLong Quarterly, Green Mountains Review Online, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, American Literary ReviewOhioana Quarterly, Flyway, Crab Creek ReviewSouth Dakota ReviewRust Belt Chic: The Cleveland AnthologyEquus, Cat Fancy (yes, Cat Fancy) and elsewhere. She has attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Writers Omi at Ledig House residency, the Writers in the Heartland writing residency, and was a 2013 Tin House Writers’ Workshop Fiction Scholar.

Leila Chatti is Tunisian-American dual citizen, who has lived in the United States, Tunisia, and Southern France. She received her M.F.A. in poetry from North Carolina State University, where she was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize. Her work appears in Best New Poets 2015, Boston Review, North American Review, Narrative, Missouri Review, Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, and other journals and anthologies, and she serves on the poetry staff at The Adroit Journal. She currently lives with her partner Henrik and their cat in West Bloomfield, Michigan, and will be heading to the Fine Arts Work Center as a writing fellow this fall.

Lyz Pfister is a freelance writer and translator based in Berlin. Her work has been featured in S T I L LNo Man’s Land, and The Bastille, among others. She is the poetry editor of SAND, Berlin’s English-language literary journal, and the author of the food and culture blog Eat Me. Drink Me.

Mai Nardone’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in American Short Fiction, Indiana Review, The Iowa Review, Kenyon Review OnlineSlice, and the Tin House Open Bar. He has received also received a scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a fellowship from the MacDowell Colony. He lives in Bangkok.

Maria Lioutai was born in Moscow four years before the Soviet Union collapsed. Her childhood consisted of wearing giant bows in her hair, eating borscht, and visiting Lenin in the Red Square mausoleum on school field trips. She now writes short stories in Toronto, Canada. She was on the longlist for both the 2015 and the 2016 CBC short story prize.

Mo McFeely is a poet living in Portland.

Nick Greer is from the San Francisco Bay Area. He is an editor of Territory, a literary project about maps and other strange objects. Recent work can be found in Salt HillPhantomWitch Craft Magazine, and the Pacifica Literary Review.

Olaniyi Omiwale was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He shares his birthday with Fela Kuti, the late Afrobeat pioneer. His favorite writers include Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe— both of whom he cursorily read in his childhood but rediscovered with renewed interest in his youth. Olaniyi was also a participating writer at the 2015 Yale Writers’ Conference.

Olivia Clare is the author of a short story collection, Disasters in the First World, and a novel, both forthcoming from Grove Atlantic. She is also the author of a book of poems, The 26-Hour Day (New Issues, 2015). In fiction, she is a recipient of a 2014 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and a 2014 O. Henry Prize.

Rajat Singh is an essayist living in New York. His work appears in The Gay & Lesbian Review, in two anthologies, Moving Truth(s) and Kajal, and on Catapult, LitHub, and Papercuts, among others. This summer, in addition to Tin House, he is attending the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat. He is working on a collection of essays on queer melancholy.

Randall Tyrone has an MFA in poetry from the University of Wyoming and is an Editor for Essay Press. He’s been published in Okey-Panky/Electric Literature & Oversound Poetry.

Regina Porter is a graduate of the MFA fiction program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow. She is the recipient of a 2017-2018 Rae Armour West Postgraduate Scholarship. Her fiction has been published in the Harvard Review. An award-winning writer with a background in playwriting, Regina has worked with Playwrights Horizons, The Joseph Papp Theater, New York Stage & Film, The Women’s Project, Woolly Mammoth Theater, and Horizons Theater Company. She has been anthologized in Plays from Woolly Mammoth by Broadway Play Services, and Heinemann’s Scenes For Women by Women. Regina lives in Brooklyn.

Rosalie Moffett’s work has been published or is forthcoming in AGNIGulf CoastThe Journal,FIELD, and Tin House, among others.

Ruth Madievsky is the author of a poetry collection, “Emergency Brake,” which was named Tavern Books’ 2015 Wrolstad Contemporary Poetry Series selection and was published in February 2016. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Iowa Review, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere. She is originally from Moldova and lives in Los Angeles, where she is a doctoral student at USC’s School of Pharmacy. You can find her at ruthmadievsky.com.

Sarah Fuchs taught high school and middle school for nineteen years in Lomé, Accra, Kampala, Dar es Salaam and Oakland, CA, where she co-founded the School for Social Justice and Community Development. A graduate of the NYU Writers Workshop in Paris, she is the 2016-17 Carl Djerassi Fiction Fellow at UW Madison, and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Tin House, Aspen Summer Words and Writing by Writers Tamales Bay. She is working on her first novel.

Sarah Gerard is the author of the novel Binary Star (Two Dollar Radio), the forthcoming essay collection Sunshine State (Harper Perennial), and two chapbooks, most recently BFF (Guillotine). Her short stories, essays, interviews, and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, Granta, New York Magazine‘s “The Cut”, The Paris Review Daily, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Bookforum, Joyland, Vice, BOMB Magazine, and other journals, as well as anthologies for Joyland and The Saturday Evening Post. She’s been supported by fellowships and residencies from Yaddo and PlatteForum. She writes a monthly column on artists’ notebooks for Hazlitt and teaches writing in New York City.

Shelly Oria’s fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s and The Paris Review among many other places, and has won a number of awards, including the Indiana Review Fiction Prize. Her short story collection, New York 1, Tel Aviv 0 (FSG & Random House Canada, 2014) earned nominations for a Lambda Literary Award, a Goldie Award, and the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction. The book was recently translated into Hebrew and published in Israel by Keter Publishing. www.shellyoria.com

Will Mackin lives and writes in New Mexico. His work has been published in The New Yorker, GQ, Tin House, Rhapsody, and The New York Times Magazine. His short story “Kattekoppen” was included in The Best American Short Stories 2014. 

Taylor Johnson is proud of being from Washington, DC. They’ve received fellowships and scholarships from Callaloo, Cave Canem, Lambda Literary foundation, VONA, the Fine Arts Work Center, the Vermont Studio Center, and Bread Loaf Orion Environmental Writers Conference. Their work appears in, or is forthcoming from, CALLALOO, the minnesota review, Vinyl Poetry, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Winter Tangerine, Third Coast, the shade journal, and elsewhere.

Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint graduated from Brown University in 2011 with a B.A. in Literary Arts and International Relations. Her short stories have appeared in Caketrain, The Kenyon Review Online, The Bicycle Review, Adj Noun Magazine, and various Brown-RISD literary journals. She spent April 2012 as an artist-in-residence at Hedgebook on Whidbey Island, Washington

Tommy “Teebs” Pico is author of the chapbook app absentMINDR (VERBALVISUAL, 2014), the books IRL (Birds, LLC, 2016), Nature Poem (forthcoming 2017 from Tin House Books), and the zine series Hey, Teebs. He was the founder and editor in chief of birdsong, an antiracist/queer-positive collective, small press, and zine that published art and writing from 2008-2013. He was a Queer/Art/Mentors inaugural fellow, 2013 Lambda Literary fellow in poetry, 2016 Tin House summer poetry scholar, was longlisted for Cosmonauts Avenue’s inaugural poetry prize (judged by Claudia Rankine), and has poems in BOMB, Guernica, the Offing, and elsewhere. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now lives in Brooklyn.

Tracey Knapp is a poet living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works in IT communications and graphic design. Knapp’s first full-length collection of poems, Mouth, won the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award and was published in 2015. Tracey was a Tin House Writers’ Workshop Fellow, and a recipient of the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize. Her work has been anthologized in Best New Poets 2008 and 2010, The Cento: A Collection of Collage Poems, and has appeared in Poetry Daily, Five Points, The National Poetry Review, Red Wheelbarrow Review, The New Ohio Review, The Minnesota Review and elsewhere. ​

Val Brelinski was born and raised in Nampa, Idaho, the daughter of devout evangelical Christians. From 2003 to 2005, she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, where she was also a Jones Lecturer in fiction writing. She received an MFA from the University of Virginia, and her recent writing has been featured in VogueMORESalonVQR and The Rumpus. She received prizes for her fiction from the San Francisco ChronicleThe Charlottesville Weekly, and The Boise Weekly, and was also a finalist for the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Val lives in Northern California and teaches creative writing in Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program. Her debut novel, The Girl Who Slept with God, is now available in paperback.

Vishwas R. Gaitonde is a writer whose work has been published or is forthcoming in The Iowa Review, Mid-American Review, Hawaii Review, Verbatim – The Language Quarterly, Santa Monica Review, Gargoyle, and Bellevue Literary Review, among other publications. One of his short stories was cited as a “Distinguished Story” in the notable stories list in Best American Short Stories 2016. In 2017, he was awarded a Hawthornden literary fellowship from Scotland.

Zack Strait is pursuing his PhD at Florida State University and serving as Poetry Editor for BOAAT (boaatpress.com). Recent work can be found in Pleiades.

Zana Previti was born and raised in New England. She earned her MFA in fiction from the University of California, Irvine, and her MFA in poetry from the University of Idaho. Her work has been published in The New England Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, RHINO Poetry, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. She was recently named the recipient of Poetry International’s 2014 C.P. Cavafy Prize for Poetry and the Fall 2016 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State Altoona.