I’m lucky to know many wonderful people who write fiction—and who write it well. Recently, quite of few of my friends, whose writing I’ve encountered in workshops and writers’ groups, have found success in publishing. Their books are now populating my bedside table either waiting to be read for the first time or encountered again in published form. In each case, I can attest to their skill and creativity as writers, and it pleases me to see their names shuffled in with other great writers.
Rebecca Makkai was a fellow classmate of mine from Bread Loaf School of English. Her novel, The Borrower, came out this summer. It’s about a young children’s librarian who kidnaps a precocious 10-year-old runaway to protect him from an overbearing mother and the anti-gay classes he’s enrolled in. Kirkus Reviews writes, “Makkai takes several risks in her sharp, often witty text, replete with echoes of children’s classics from Goodnight Moon to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as well as more ominous references to Lolita . . . the moving final chapters affirm the power of books to change people’s lives even as they acknowledge the unbreakable bonds of home and family. Smart, literate and refreshingly unsentimental.” I really think teachers would LOVE this one.
My good friend Amy Stolls, who is the literature program officer at the National Endowment for the Arts and has visited my classes at Flint Hill, has a new novel out called The Ninth Wife. It‘s about a woman who, on the verge of giving up on marriage, meets a man and falls in love only to discover that he’s been married eight times before. She goes on a quest to meet all of his eight ex-wives, so that she can decide whether or not she can make the leap of faith to be his ninth. Carolyn Parkhurst, bestselling author of The Dogs of Babel, writes, “The Ninth Wife is a vibrant, nuanced novel about marriage, identity and the moment when we realize that the shimmer of fantasy pales next to the tumultuous reality of ordinary, everyday happiness.” This makes for a great summer read—and the summer’s not over yet!
Matt Norman—a good friend and fellow MFA-er—has just published his first novel, Domestic Violets. I read his very funny novel as a manuscript, so it’s particularly satisfying to see it in its sharp, published form. Booklist writes, “Reminiscent of Richard Russo’s earlier work, Norman’s refreshingly witty style is perfectly suited to articulating the trials of a middle-aged cynic. Wonderfully fast-paced, hilariously genuine, difficult to put down, Domestic Violets is an ideal first novel.” His novel reflects the need for cynical humor in navigating today’s troubled workplace without every being too cynical itself.
My new friend, Allison Moon, who I met while at the Lambda Literary Retreat, is self-publishing her first novel called Lunatic Fringe, which is a lesbian twist on the classic werewolf story. Take that, Twilight! She’s making creative, out-of-the-box choices in her writing and in the way that she’s publishing and promoting her work. I’m really excited to follow her and her career. I can’t wait to get my copy of the novel!
Close friends from my MFA days, Art Taylor and Tara Laskowski (also husband and wife), continue to publish superb short fiction. Art also reviews crime novels for The Washington Post and is the marketing director for George Mason’s Fall for the Book. Tara is the senior editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. Recently Art’s crime novella “Rearview Mirror,” won the 2011 Derringer Award for Best Novelette from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and Tara published her story “The Etiquette of Dementia” in the most recent Mid-American Review (Fall 2010).
It’s a great feeling to see my friends getting published and getting recognition. I hope some of you, out there, will join me in enjoying their work!