Hear from three acclaimed authors as they discuss the positives and negatives of publishing short story and essay collections with small presses.
*Please note: this event will take place on Crowdcast. Register here to attend live or watch the replay.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (West Virginia University Press)
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church’s double standards and their own needs and passions. There is fourteen-year-old Jael, who has a crush on the preacher’s wife.
At forty-two, Lyra realizes that her discomfort with her own body stands between her and a new love. As Y2K looms, Caroletta’s “same time next year” arrangement with her childhood best friend is tenuous. A serial mistress lays down the ground rules for her married lovers. In the dark shadows of a hospice parking lot, grieving strangers find comfort in each other.
With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.
Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies focuses on Black women, sex, and the Black church. Deesha is also the co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, written in collaboration with her ex-husband. Her work has been listed as Notable in the Best American Essays series, and her writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney's, The Rumpus, Brevity, Dead Housekeeping, Apogee Journal, Catapult, Harvard Review, ESPN's The Undefeated, The Baltimore Review, Tuenight, Ebony and Bitch magazines, and various anthologies. Deesha is a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and a past Pushcart Prize nominee for essay writing in Full Grown People.
Once Removed (University of Georgia Press)
The women in the linked short story collection Once Removed carry the burdens imposed in the name of intimacy-the secrets kept, the lies told, the disputes initiated-as well as the joy that can still manage to triumph. A singer with a damaged voice and an assumed identity befriends a silent, troubled child; an infertile law professor covets a tenant's daughterly affection; a new mother tries to shield her infant from her estranged mother's surprise Easter visit; an aging shopkeeper hides her husband's decline and a decades-old lie to keep her best friends from moving away.
With depth and an acute sense of the fragility of intimate connection, Colette Sartor creates stories of women that resonate with emotional complexity. Some of these women possess the fierce natures and long, vengeful memories of expert grudge holders. Others avoid conflict at every turn, or so they tell themselves. For all of them, grief lies at the core of love.
Colette Sartor’s debut linked short story collection, Once Removed, won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the NYC Big Book Award for Short Story Collections. Her work has appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Slice, Carve, The Rumpus, Harvard Review, Prairie Schooner, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. Her other awards include a Writers@Work Fiction Prize, a Glenna Luschei Award, a Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award, and a Truman Capote fellowship from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she completed her MFA. She has taught writing for almost 20 years and is the Executive Director of The CineStory Foundation, a nonprofit mentoring organization for emerging TV writers and screenwriters.
This Is One Way to Dance (University of Georgia Press)
In the linked essays that make up her debut collection, This Is One Way to Dance, Sejal Shah explores identity, culture, family, and place. Throughout the book, Shah reflects on what it means to make oneself visible and legible through writing in a country that struggles with race and maps herself as an American, writer of color, and feminist. She draws upon her ongoing interests in ethnicity and place: the geographic and cultural distances between people, both real and imagined. Her essays emerge as she wrestles with her experiences growing up and living in western New York, an area of stark racial and socioeconomic segregation, as the daughter of Gujarati immigrants from India and Kenya.
This Is One Way to Dance introduces a vital new voice to the conversation about race and belonging in America.
Sejal Shah is the author of the debut essay collection, This Is One Way to Dance (University of Georgia Press, 2020). Her stories and essays have appeared in The Guardian, Brevity, Conjunctions, Guernica, Kenyon Review Online, Literary Hub, Longreads, and The Rumpus. The recipient of a 2018 NYFA fellowship in fiction, Sejal recently completed a story collection and is at work on a memoir about mental health. She teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University and lives in Rochester, New York.