I am a fiction writer from Louisiana who writes mainly about Louisiana -- as a place emblematic of global environmental change and decay, of the ambivalent relationship between the oil industry and the people whose land gives up the oil, of “solastalgia,” a neologism for the psychic ache that comes from living in a home-place that has undergone an irreversible transformation. In my courses, I encourage students to read widely, draw from eclectic sources for research and inspiration, and embrace their own voices, interests, and points of view.
My story collection, Last One Out Shut Off the Lights, will be out with Little, Brown & Co. in July 2020. The characters in this collection face down Southwest Louisiana’s fickle oil economy and their own narrow prospects. A burnout video-game addict tries to drag her obese brother to Mexico for lap-band surgery, hoping this one desperate act will save them both. A reluctant teen mother locks her baby in a closet to steal a night out. A working-class overachiever at a backwoods boarding school discovers the insidious power of the good old boys’ network in the aftermath of a friend’s sexual assault. Elderly Cajuns and asylum-seekers from Sudan slaughter an escaped cow to reclaim a sense of home. Altogether, the stories in Last One Out Shut Off the Lights examine the traps and treacherous escape routes of lives lived in a place always on the brink of economic and environmental collapse.
I’m currently at work on a novel, Terre Bonne, also forthcoming from Little, Brown & Co. Set on the eve of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Terre Bonne follows a family across four centuries from France, to Acadia, to the bayous of Louisiana, where land disputes and environmental catastrophes echo down through the generations. I’m interested in the stories we use to justify our tentative claims on homeplaces and the moral and psychological compromises we make to keep a foothold there. In Terre Bonne, historical fiction, legends, and folktales reveal a mythos that shapes present characters’ relationships with the land and their home, for better or worse.
My work has been supported by fellowships from the Wallace Stegner Fellowship Program at Stanford University, the Camargo Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.
Work with Students
I have worked with students on theses and independent projects primarily in fiction (both short and long forms), but also in nonfiction, visual narrative, and digital literature. These projects have included coming-of-age stories, experimental flash fiction, historical fiction, literary horror, spiritual and lyric essays, and even one narrative video game. I can get excited about almost any topic, especially if the student has an ambitious vision for the project.
- Technical Seminar in Fiction: The Dilemma (Fall 2019)
- Advanced Fiction Workshop: Writing the Uncanny (Winter 2020)
- Intro to Genres: Solastalgia (Winter 2020)
- Beginning Fiction Workshop: Point of View (Spring 2020)
- Last One Out Shut Off the Lights. New York: Little, Brown & Co, 2020.
- “Poke Salad,” Oxford American, Fall 2016.
- “The Ranger Queen of Sulphur,” Ecotone, Spring 2011.
- “Cheniere Caminada,” Glimmer Train, Spring 2011.
- “The Camera Obscura,” Nimrod International Journal, Fall/Winter 2008.
- “So This Is Permanence,” Tin House, Winter 2007.