January 22, 2014

A Reading by Claire Vaye Watkins

Claire Vaye Watkins
We don’t have many beaches in Wyoming, and my family didn’t take many vacations, so the concept of a beach read is a bit foreign to me.  Not to mention that fact that I read voraciously all the time and don’t reserve it for vacation.

But I totally get you now!  Every other summer, my husband’s family rents a house on a lake somewhere and we hang out for a week and it’s so great.  This past summer, we went to a lake in Minnesota, and one of the books ~ one of the many, which you understand, because you’re a bookworm too ~ that I took with me was Claire Vaye Watkins's Battleborn.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it was sitting on the beach in a beach chair or lying in bed at night with the sounds of family conversations and the kids playing on the beach next to the campfire.  Then, later, as I was still reading, the sounds of loons and lapping water.

And that’s why I was so stoked that Claire read in Laramie last night!  I love her short story collection ~ they’re the type of stories I try to write. They don’t offer easy answers, they reflect the subtleties and nuances of life, and they don’t skirt around the hard parts.  But they also don’t throw in gratuitous violence or tidy endings.  I love that.  They’re the kind of stories you can go back to again and again. 

And Claire herself is so lovely.  It was so great to meet her in person.  We talked briefly about how being a writer from Nevada or Wyoming gets you labeled as a “regionalist” but that’s a good thing too because wherever you go, you’re often the only writer from Nevada or the only writer from Wyoming. You’re an unusual commodity, and it has a bit of caché.

She read an epistolary story called “The Last Thing We Need.”  It’s so great, after hearing her voice in your head, to hear the story read.  You hear the ticks of accent and you can hear what makes her sad or what amuses her come through in her voice.  The story is about a man who finds some letters and photos and medicine bottles in the desert, and he begins writing to the person who left them there.  It begins with him conjecturing about the person he’s writing too, but then it’s more about himself, of course, and the man he’s become.  Again, a story you can read and reread. 

And above all, I love that fact that these are the kinds of stories that inspire me, that make me think, this is what I want to write.  I want to be this good.  And that’s good reading.
Thank you, Claire, for visiting and for writing such wonderful stories.

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