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Last Thursday I gave a reading at Grand Valley State University, where I was hosted by the super-awesome Austin Bunn, and after driving through farms, fields, and farm-fields-turned-suburban-street-pockets, I was impressed by GVSU’s size, and even more by its ART. Everywhere. Amazing collages and paintings and posters, many of which were made by recent graduates. And a great culture of literary arts – lots of enthusiastic students writing creepy cool flash fiction and getting into impressive graduate programs.

I kinda wish I’d taken pics of the visual art on the walls of the Writing Department. (NOT the English Department, mind you: the writers seceded from the union a decade ago. INteresting.)

I’ve been known to take pictures of art at other schools. Here’s a painting I liked at Taylor University:

That’s a bad picture. It was cool in person.

I was also fairly charmed by these snowcreatures, also near Taylor University:

So, why I didn’t take pictures of the cool art at GVSU is beyond me. My only other lament is that I didn’t get more time with Caitlin Horrocks, who caught my reading between classes, and who makes GVSU even greater.

Even though I didn’t take pictures like I should have, I received an amazing parting gift, which I have already framed and photographed: a broadside of my story, “Mermaids”:

And staff writer Rebekah Young published a lovely article about my visit in the Grand Valley Lanthorn. (Thanks, Rebekah!) Here’s how it ends:

“I love the act of creating — of generating material, shaping phrases, arranging segments and creating something meaningful,” Parker said. “After a long night of writing, I sometimes look at my hands expecting to see something like dried paint or clay residue. After all that hard work, there should be some physical evidence.”

Read the rest here.

 

An excerpt of Rebecca Gibson’s review of For Sale By Owner in the  IUSB Preface:

In her book of short fiction, “For Sale By Owner,” Dr. Kelcey Parker, Director of Creative Writing, uses the rules of language and writing like advanced calculus.  She puts dimensions where there should be none, finding spaces folded out of seemingly flat planes, spaces that are always empty or wanting to be empty or wanting to retain the luxury of emptiness while being filled.

Geez, what an amazing review. I’d like to review that review: Five stars. (The rest is here. And there’s an interview with me here.) The funny thing is: I loved calculus. In college I gauged my relative tipsiness on whether I could still solve a derivative equation. (Did I just admit that?)

This week is all about South Bend and the home field advantage. I’ve got two readings in town – one at IUSB’s Schurz Library Tuesday at 7:00, and at Fiddler’s Hearth for the Hearthside Readers and Writers Series on Sunday at 2:00. Special thanks to Nancy Botkin, Clayton Michaels, and Anne Richmond for all their good work in making tomorrow’s reading happen. And I’m excited to be introduced by one of my favorite students, Mitch Robinson.

Kelcey Parker reads from her new book, For Sale By Owner
Tuesday, March 8
7:00 p.m.
Schurz Library – 5th Floor Atrium
IU South Bend campus

Reading followed by light reception and book signing
Free and open to the public

My experience at Miami University was far more than I expected. I gave a reading on Tuesday night, and I spoke to two delightful classes the next day before heading back to South Bend. That I expected. I even expected to have a great time seeing my dear friend Jody Bates (a.k.a., Joseph Bates, the Nighttime Novelist). And I did.

What I didn’t expect was to have such a nice conversation over Seitan Marsala with Eric Goodman, or to have a full house at Leonard Theater, or to have my two girlfriends from Cincinnati drive up for it, or to have my other girlfriend and her son drive up for brunch the next day, or to get quite so caught up in my memories of the one year I spent at Miami University lo these many years ago.

I attended Miami University for my freshman year of college (and transferred to Xavier U. to play soccer for the next four years). So Miami has always been this anomaly year in my life. I’m not in touch with any of my friends from that time, except the ones I already knew from high school, so it’s easy sometimes to forget that year ever happened.

Except for the fact that Miami University is the setting of my origin story.

Which goes a little something like this:

I was living in Dorsey Hall, sleeping through Chemistry class, crushing on my teacher in Geography class, and playing Ultimate Frisbee in, well, Ultimate Frisbee class. I tested into the fourth semester of Spanish and went on to take a Spanish Literature class (which may explain why the Radio Gods blessed me and my roommate with a free trip to Cancun when we were the correct caller during the month of February Getaways…), so that was good. I wasn’t so hot in Freshman Comp, where we were told to write personal narratives of our dull personal lives. Nonetheless, I decided that I might like to be a high school English teacher, and so in my second semester I enrolled in an advanced British Modernist lit course that, as a freshman, I had no business being in.

And there I first heard the sounds of Big Ben ringing out the hour: First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable.

There I first read J. Alfred Prufrock’s Love Song.

There I first encountered The horror! The horror!

There I became, if not yet a writer, a serious lover of literature. Even if I didn’t understand it at all. Especially because I could not understand it all. For that was the beauty of it: I could not comprehend what I read, I could only feel it. (And isn’t that love?)

I’ve referred to that class many times over the years – as the first place I encountered Virginia Woolf, as the first time I really encountered literature that was both beyond me and piercing through me. But I haven’t actually been back to the place. I’d almost forgotten that the memory was associated with an actual place.

And so I was taken aback by how fully my senses responded to the geography and walking paths and new spring smells – and how utterly I was transported back to that freshman year that I’d all but forgotten.

Presentation at IUSB

February 24, 2011 — Leave a comment

Dean’s Seminar – Friday, February 25, 2011
Indiana University South Bend
12:00 noon, UCET Classroom, NS245

Kelcey Parker, Assistant Professor of English
For Sale By Owner: The Writer and the House of Fiction

The author Henry James created a famous description of the “house of fiction” to serve as a metaphor for three key elements of literary creation. The “watcher” gazing outside is the author; the “window” suggests the literary form; and the “spreading field” in view is the subject matter. This talk will serve as an introduction to my new story collection, For Sale By Owner, by way of these elements: subject matter, form, and “the consciousness of the artist.”

The idea of the house of fiction resonates throughout my collection. Indeed, houses function, for the characters, as symbols of success and failure, and as places of refuge and isolation. Each story has its own architecture – with paragraphs and section breaks designed to guide the reader as through hallways and parlors. Further, the collection’s subject matter ties my work to the long tradition of “domestic fiction,” but the forms of the stories – the varied lengths and styles, the formal and fabulist conceits – yield a contemporary version of what my editor calls “twisted domestic” fiction.

I will close with a short introduction to my current project, which continues my exploration of houses and the intersections between literature and architecture: Liliane’s Balcony is a novella set at Fallingwater, the famous house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann.

Thanks to Coleen Hoover, Valerie Sayers, and everyone at Notre Dame for being such gracious hosts. And thanks to all who came out, took pics, bought books, and asked great questions.

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FSBO in IUSB Preface

February 15, 2011 — Leave a comment

I’m reading at Notre Dame , Wed. 2/16 at 7:30 p.m. in Hammes Book Store!

Here’s their nice link.

And many thanks to Rebecca Gibson for the following press announcement at the IUSB Preface:

For Sale By Author Kelcey Parker: For Sale By Owner

To read an author’s writing is to take advantage of the rare chance to look inside someone’s mind.  You now have this opportunity for Assistant Professor of English and author Dr. Kelcey Parker.

Read the rest here.

Making Literature

February 10, 2011 — Leave a comment

Before we have even recovered from AWP, we’re off to our next conference! By we, I mean my IUSB students and me.

I love the title of this conference – Making Literature. Sometimes I feel like what Creative Writing needs is a new name. Something with less of an Adjective-Noun construction and more of a Verb-Noun construction. Something that suggests our connection to a long-established tradition and speaks to our aims: making literature. Our goals are not merely to creatively write – we want to make literature.

I wonder what would happen if I said I was the Director of the Making Literature Program rather than the Director of the Creative Writing Program.

A couple universities have changed their language in interesting ways: Brown University has a Literary Arts Program; Tufts University and others have positions for Professors of the Practice of Poetry.

Anyway, stuff I think about.

Making Literature
Taylor University
February 10-12, 2011
The William A. Fry Undergraduate Conference
on Literature and Writing

I will give a reading on Friday and lead a fiction workshop on Saturday.

Here’s what the amazing students are up to:

McKenzie Tozan will read original poetry on a creative writing panel.

Hannah Stowe will read her paper on a literature panel: The World’s a Stage: Sheridan’s Defense of Theatrical Freedom in School for Scandal

Book Signing at AWP

February 2, 2011 — Leave a comment

My book is up at Amazon! Click here.

And here’s the flier for the Kore Press signings at AWP:

I’m very excited to meet my book For Sale By Owner at its release this week at AWP. I’ve seen pictures and we seem to have much in common, but we’ve never actually met.

If you’re at the conference, please stop by the Kore Press table. I’ll be there Friday, 1-2 for an author’s signing, and probably again on Saturday to help out at the table.

Kelcey Parker
For Sale By Owner
AWP Author Signing, 1:00-2:00
Friday, Feb. 4
Kore Press table: Hall A, Table H-24

Click HERE to purchase at Kore Press.
Or HERE for Amazon

The beautiful photography on the cover is by Emily Hanako Momohara, from her Koden series.

About FSBO

In Kelcey Parker’s tales of twisted domesticity, a woman gives her family up for Lent; a mother finds redemption at Chuck E. Cheese; a former best-friend-forever wreaks baby shower havoc; a bride swallows a housefly at the altar; and a suburbanite’s obsession with memory books puts her family in jeopardy. These stories offer a contemporary and dryly funny view of marriage, parenting and loss.

Fans of Lorrie Moore and Aimee Bender will find kinship in Parker’s wit, her generosity of spirit and the confidence of her voice. This debut collection marks the appearance of a writer with a blunt and beautiful perspective on family, home, and an evolving American subculture.

Praise

These are fantastical, ingenious, deeply imagined and felt stories about the homes, families, jobs, lives that we dream about, that we disappoint and are disappointed by in equal measure. What a first book!

Brock Clarke, author of Exley and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England


The stories in Kelcey Parker’s For Sale By Owner are gorgeous, sinister dreams that sweep us into the unsettled lives of women – wives, mothers, lovers, friends – straining against the bonds of expectation.

Darrin Doyle, author of The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo and Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet, A Love Story

Thanks so much to Prof. Ann Hostetler and her students for inviting me to their class at Goshen College yesterday morning. I appreciated the chance to read some work and to talk writing and publishing.

Afterward, Ann and I had a delicious lunch of chestnut soup and turkey curry salad at Rachel’s Bread. On the way, we crossed an intersection with a horse and buggy. I got to take home the student literary magazine Red Cents and some of Ann’s poetry, which I look forward to reading.

Goshen is also where I saw Over the Rhine play a couple years ago at the downtown theater. Ann says I just missed them this year. Bummer!