2020 Petrichor Prize finalist
I was born in an insular community in rural North Carolina into a family of storytellers. When family and friends gathered, stories were told, and small moments took on larger meaning and portent. The whole of it was imbued with and made extramundane by the singsong cadence of Appalachian folk speech, a Scottish-flavored Elizabethan English ferried through the generations and across the American landscape by colonial ancestor settlers, from Pennsylvania, to the Appalachian Mountains, to the Piedmont.
Garden of the Dead, the 2020 Petrichor Prize Finalist, is the first novel in a trilogy set in Gold Ridge and Potter, fictional towns deep in the red-dirt heartof North Carolina. Place shapes the emotional parameters of my characters’ choices and, in some cases, provides me with actual characters. When I write, I listen and watch the people in my head who beguile me to witness their individual stories. They speak still in this first language, despite my own transnational life.
In Garden of the Dead, a 1960s freak car accident sets in motion a series of events that will forever change the lives of the book’s central characters. The novel explores the transformative power of death and how tragedy can bind people together even more lastingly than passion. I’m fascinated with how people can experience the same event in utterly different ways. The story found seed in my first memory, a family misfortune, much of which, I would only learn as an adult, was the fiction of a three-year-old shaped by the character of my childhood and all that came after.
This fictive world, put in motion by what Tobias Wolff refers to as “the catalyst of memory,” is told through the small lens of the intimate dramas of rural characters struggling to understand themselves and others. Exploring the potency of simple emotional stories, I search for the profound in the everyday and explore the constellation of emotion in the dynamics within family and community.
An early draft of Garden of the Dead won the Washington Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the Eludia Award. Stories excerpted from the novel have been published in Walking the Edge: A Southern Gothic Anthology, Snake Nation Review, Parting Gifts, Short Fiction by Women, The Village Rambler, and The Washington Review. Excerpted story awards include the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, the Manchester Metropolitan University Manchester Fiction Prize short-list, the 2018 Bridport Prize short list, and the 2016 Seán Ó Faoláin Prize long-list.
My other awards include Ohio Arts Council and the Virginia Arts Commission Fellowships, VCCA and Fundacíon Valparaiso artist residencies, Writer in Residence, Cincinnati Public Library Foundation, Finalist; StoryQuarterly Scholar, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, 2016 Fish Short Story Prize Short List, 2018 Under the Gum Tree Nonfiction Prize, finalist; the Virginia Governor’s Screenwriting Award, and Sundance Institute Screenwriters Workshop, finalist.
Stories, poems, and nonfiction have appeared in StorySOUTH, The Mississippi Review, The American Literary Review, Verdad, Potomac Review, Dash, and many others. Anthologies include Neighbors, 2020; Show Us Your Papers, 2020; The Boom Project, 2016 Fish Anthology, Gravity Dancers, Double Lives, and Best New Poets. I have taught fiction at the Chautauqua Institution, Danville Writer’s Conference, and the Writers’ Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
An art historian and inveterate traveler, my assignments, which include interviews with such art and entertainment luminaries as Frank Gehry, Annie Leibovitz, Alison Krauss, and Lucinda Williams, have taken me all over the world, and I have published more than a thousand features on the arts, design, architecture, interiors and gardens, photography, travel, food, fashion, books, and dance in such publications as The Boston Globe Magazine, Elle, Traditional Home, Interiors, Art & Antiques, Travel & Leisure, Edible Ohio Valley, Neiman Marcus The Book, USAir Magazine, Hearst Special Publications, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Times, Photographer’s Forum, American Photo, and Southern Accents. My on-air interviews have been featured on “Around Cincinnati”, a weekly art talk show on NPR station WVXU. I now live in Cincinnati with my husband, visual artist Shinji Turner-Yamamoto.