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.
The characters in my recent story collection, Last One Out Shut Off the Lights (2020) released with Little, Brown & Co., 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.
My novel Should the Waters Take Us is also forthcoming from Little, Brown & Co. Set during the summer of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Should the Waters Take Us 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 Should the Waters Take Us, 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.
- Intro to Genres: The River's Running Course
- Technical Seminar: Writers in Conversation
- Beginning Fiction Workshop: Writing Place
- Fiction Thesis Workshop
- Fundamentals in Fiction: Creative Writing Research/The Numinous Particulars
- Technical Seminar in Fiction: The Dilemma
- Advanced Fiction Workshop: Writing the Uncanny
- Intro to Genres: Solastalgia
- Beginning Fiction Workshop: Point of View
- Should the Waters Take Us, novel, Little, Brown & Co., forthcoming 2022
- “I Take Back Everything I Said about Southwest Louisiana,” op-ed, The New York Times, Sept. 11, 2020
- “Haguillory,” short story, Zoetrope: All-Story, Summer 2020
- -reprinted in Best American Short Stories 2021, October 2021
- “Camera Obscura,” short story, LitHub, July 2020
- “Mr. A,” short story, Granta, July 2020
- Last One Out Shut off the Lights, story collection, 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