I grew up in a town of about 1,300 people in Aroostook, the northernmost county in Maine. The economy relied on lumber and farming, and the culture revolved around hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling, as well as a fair amount of gossiping about your neighbors over cups of black coffee (or perhaps something stronger). The town was surrounded by thick forests and rolling potato fields, cradled in a valley where the sky was so close and clear you could often see the Northern Lights. It was a beautiful, far-removed, insular place, and I never quite fit in. Like so many outsiders and burgeoning writers, I found solace and escape through books. I was especially drawn to series such as The Babysitter's Club and The Boxcar Children , stories with recurring characters, themes, and landscapes I could easily recognize and feel connected with. As a teenager, I began in earnest to write my own stories, many of which were set in an isolated, Northern Maine town I named Dalton. Characters from one story would show up in others, and plotlines revolved around the same landmarks: the water tower, the Aroostook River, the Store ‘N More. Though Dalton adopted the same landscape of my hometown (literally: I created my author's map by tracing over my town's real one and renaming the streets), my characters took on their own identities, vaguely reminiscent of but independent from the family, friends, neighbors, and teachers I knew. In college, I fell in love with short stories, a love that continues to this day. I adore the possibility encapsulated in such a distilled work. Short fiction is a grueling craft, demanding ruthless revision and an eye for detail that matters, characters who come alive in just a few pages, and big ideas that can be comprehended in a small amount of time. I wanted to be one of the writers who could pull off such a feat. And so, throughout my twenties, I focused almost solely on working within the short form. When I began to write my MFA thesis the year I turned thirty, however, I […]
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