Before I’d even entered elementary school, I was already planning on being a cop, an astronaut, a cowboy, a French general, a fighter-jet pilot, an acid-rain tester, the president, Bruce Springsteen’s roadie, Bruce Springsteen’s wife, and Billy Idol’s mistress. Much to the distress of my parents, however, the artsy side came through early on, and by my pre-teens, I was sneaking Dad’s war biographies to read in the fort I’d built in my bedroom closet, singing every word to Les Misérables, painting portraits with acrylics, and creating cut-n-paste zines that traveled all around the world. At 13, I started a publishing company for political zines and poetry chapbooks, but by high school, I’d decided to be a Broadway star and went to Lansing College for Musical Theater. It was the Colonial History minor, however, that would eventually plant roots on my feet.
Raised on an 1800s mid-Michigan farmstead and in the backwoods of a Great Depression-era log cabin in the middle of a northern-Michigan national forest, I was surrounded by French-American history and enamored of local lore, covering everything from Paul Bunyan to the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald to the hero-worship of Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie. As I pinballed across the country, from Detroit to Seattle to Boston to Palo Alto, I dressed up in Colonial outfits, participated in Civil War reenactments, and gave underground ghost tours, Victorian brothel tours, and guided tours of the Freedom Trail. I’d walk to Paul Revere’s house, just to sit on the bench in front of it. I’d go to the Old State House for free-admission Sundays, just to look at John Hancock’s velvet coat and the looseleaf tea captured from the bootcuffs of Boston Tea Party participants, and I’d gaze out the balcony over the site of the Boston Massacre and imagine—no, rewrite—this country before it was a country. My motto became not “write what you know,” but “write what you want to know,” then dig, dig, and find it.
In the history realm, I am an appointed government advisory Vice Chair of a Colorado historical commission, an appointed liaison to a Colorado historic preservation commission, and a member of the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation, Ohio History Connection, and Louisville (Colorado) History Foundation. I volunteer regularly at my local history museum, digitize old Colorado online newspaper archives, edit Wikipedia for fun, and am a Founding Quartermaster member of the American Battlefield Trust. I write an ongoing history travelogue about my research and site visitations, Travelurgy, and I’m the founding editor of the annual Footnote: A Literary Journal of History.
In the writing realm, I am the recent winner of the Loudoun Library Foundation Poetry Award and Nantucket Directory Poetry Award, and am a two-time Top 10 Finalist for the Saluda River Prize for Poetry, judged once by South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Heath Wentworth and once by poet Ray McManus. My writing has been a recent placed finalist in the Cowles Book Prize from Southeast Missouri State University Press, Able Muse Book Award judged by author Charles Martin, Bevel Summers Prize for Short Fiction from Washington & Lee University, Pen 2 Paper Writing Competition in both poetry and fiction categories, Blue Bonnet Review Poetry Contest, Baltimore Science Fiction Society Poetry Contest, and West Coast Eisteddfod Poetry Competition. I have earned four Pushcart Prize nominations and a Best of the Net nomination. I serve as editor-in-chief for that same ongoing press that I started when I was 13—Alternating Current—and The Coil online magazine; a fiction and nonfiction reviewer for Publishers Weekly; and a contributing editor, culture writer, and proofreader for Pacific Standard magazine. My work has appeared in numerous journals, including Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, Electric Literature, Midwestern Gothic, The Nashville Review, Slice Magazine, Pacific Standard, The Maine Review, and Shenandoah.
In the personal realm, I now live in an old mining settlement outside of Boulder with my delightful guitar-playing, physics-professor husband who tells bad science jokes and screams Bash Brothers lyrics at the top of his lungs. I can sing you every Broadway song ever written, I’m still Bruce Springsteen’s roadie in my heart, and there are two furry children who occupy my intern chairs: Alice, a fat orange tabby cat, and my German Shepherd, Napoleon, the emperor of everything. I’m an obsessive francophile, a reciter of unnecessary facts, and I have an uncanny memory for remembering how historical people died: Thomas Jefferson from an infected carbuncle on his buttcheek, Simon the Zealot cut in half lengthwise, lawyer Clement Vallanndigham shooting himself dead in court while demonstrating how the victim of his client might have accidentally shot himself, Allan Pinkerton biting his own tongue to death, Napoleon Bonaparte’s severed parts ending up in a suitcase under a guy’s bed in New Jersey, and so on. I know, I know: shop talk. This is why I’m so fun at parties, folks.
As a collector of equally unnecessary things, my office is divided between collections of Canadian Mounties (largely from the 1930s Hollywood Hero era), antiques and 1800s cigar cards of the Marquis de Lafayette, magnets from every battlefield I’ve visited, hideous Wade figurines from boxes of Red Rose Tea, historical whiskey decanters, and hundreds of pressed pennies from every souvenir penny roller I’ve ever encountered in life.
My debut historical novel, set against the backdrop of the 1689 King William’s War in New England, Out Front the Following Sea, is forthcoming from Regal House Publishing in spring 2022. It’s 11 years in the making and has been fueled by so many cups of coffee and shots of bourbon that I’ve long since lost count. You can find me elsewhere at leahangstman.com and on social media as @leahangstman.