I know I’ve already posted this week about my visit to Texas Tech University as part of their Creative Writing Program Reading Series, but it was such a wonderful trip that I’m going to go ahead and post twice. The faculty and graduate students are some of the most generous I’ve had the fortune to meet, and it was a particularly special visit for me since Iron Horse Literary Review published the short story of “Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down” that became this novel. Professor and founding editor Leslie Jill Patterson is one of the kindest, most generous literary citizens and people, and it was such a pleasure to spend the week with her, creative writing professor Katie Cortese, and a cohort of really amazing graduate students. In addition to having the chance to read from the novel, I also conducted a Master Workshop with several of the doctoral students in fiction, and it was a such a pleasure to read and workshop their beautiful work.
Below is the podium where I had the pleasure of reading from the novel. Many, many thanks to Texas Tech University for an amazing visit!
I’m really delighted to be visiting Texas Tech University’s creative writing program this week, where I’ll be giving a reading from Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down and working with Texas Tech’s doctoral students on their fiction manuscripts. This is a near-and-dear visit for me, as Iron Horse Literary Review published the short story of “Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down” that eventually became my first novel. I’m so excited to visit and meet everyone at the program, and many thanks to Leslie Jill Patterson for inviting me as part of Texas Tech’s Creative Writing Series.
I’m thrilled to have just learned this week that my short story, “A Personal History of Arson,” which appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Puerto del Sol, was chosen by Amy Hempel for inclusion in The Best Small Fictions 2017. The anthology is due out from Braddock Avenue Books in September 2017 and will include work by Allegra Hyde, Jesse Goolsby, Joy Williams, Scott Garson, Julia Slavin, Matthew Baker, W. Todd Kaneko, and William Woolfitt, among many others. Huge thanks to Series Editor Tara Masih for organizing this anthology, and many congratulations to the other winners, finalists and semifinalists!
This week, I’m thrilled to be featured on the TK Podcast with James Scott, my absolute favorite writing podcast that interviews novelists, editors, agents and authors. The podcast has featured writers like Mike Scalise, Laura Van Den Berg, Matt Bell, Sarah Domet and Jamie Quatro, and I’m thrilled to share this week’s episode with writer and Southern Review editor Emily Nemens. Emily and The Southern Review published an excerpt of Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down last summer, and I’m beyond excited for us both to featured on this week’s episode. Thanks for having us, James!
I am beyond thrilled to have a new short story, “The Whispering Arch,” in the latest issue of Passages North. Issue 38 is absolutely gorgeous and includes new work by Robert James Russell, Alex McElroy, Sadie Hoagland, Justin Lawrence Daugherty, Jill Talbot, Matthew Minicucci and many others, as well as a stunning new essay by LaTanya McQueen. My story appears in print alongside these fantastic writers, and can also be found in its entirety online. Many, many thanks to Jennifer Howard and the editors at Passages North for including my work in such an impressive issue.
I’ve also just returned from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Washington DC, which was one of the best AWPs I’ve attended. It was great to catch up with so many friends and meet new writers, and I had the chance to do two signings – one for Our Hearts Will Burn Us Downand one for An Elegy for Mathematics, which sold out at the conference and is now entering its second printing – and also participate in Bull City Press‘s 10th Anniversary Reading with Ross White, Tiana Clark, Anders Carlson-Wee, Emilia Phillips and Anna Ross. In addition, I had the chance to serve on a panel about writing fiction away from our own experience with Michael Croley, Richard Bausch, Brad Watson and Ananda Lima, a picture of which is below, and also attend the conference’s Candlelight Vigil for Free Speech. Given the current political climate, and especially with the conference being held in DC, it was affirming to be around so much wonderful energy and resistance through art.
We’ve had the tremendous honor this week at Santa Fe University of Art and Design of hosting Danielle Evans, author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, as our spring visiting writer in the Creative Writing and Literature Department. Danielle visited our fiction classes, conducted a lunch Q&A with students, and gave a phenomenal reading on Tuesday night of her new short story, “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain,” which appears in the recent 25th anniversary issue of American Short Fiction.
One of our creative writing students, Chantelle Mitchell, also had the chance to interview Danielle for SFUAD’s Jackalope Magazine. Thanks to Chantelle for this excellent interview, and many, many thanks to Danielle for a really amazing, enriching visit. Our students and faculty are incredibly lucky to have had the chance to learn from Danielle and her work this week.
Happy New Year! It’s been a nice holiday season here between traveling to St. Louis to see my family, and then to Marfa for New Year’s Eve – where I saw many jackrabbits, hawks, plenty of art, and even the mysterious Marfa Lights – and now I’m back in Santa Fe to get some reading and writing in before the semester starts. As 2017 begins, I’m making space for a few weeks of quiet contemplation, especially as the inauguration approaches.
Last month, I was fortunate to chat with Chris Wiewiora at BOOK CENTRAL, a radio show from KHOI 89.1 FM in Iowa that focuses on books about or by writers from the Midwest. Chris has interviewed some of my favorite Midwestern writers, including recent chats with Dustin M. Hoffman and Benjamin Percy, and he asked me some fantastic questions about Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down. The interview has been archived online and the podcast can be listened to in its entirety here.
Happy New Year all! Wishing you a restful, peaceful 2017.
I’ve been asked often about the use of first-person plural in Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down, and I love this recent craft essay by The Masters Review‘s Sadye Teiser that explores the use of collective first in the novel, as well as in many of the short stories they’ve published. Thanks, Sadye, for this thoughtful piece!
I’ve taken a bit of a fall hiatus from posting news here, but am happy to include a round-up of some thoughtful reviews since the October publication of Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down. My hometown of St. Louis kindly covered the book, especially since the novel is set in a fictional township of the city, with reviews in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and PlaybackSTL. I’m also grateful to The Buffalo News for their insightful review, to Publishers Weeklyand Booklist, and to Ploughshares(who created a book trailer too!).
Ploughshares’ Most Necessary Books for the End of 2016
Midwest Connections Pick: November 2016
“Written in the collective voice of the community, a la Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides, Valente artfully employs short chapters on arson and anatomy, as well as diagrams, newspaper articles, and biographies of the victims on the way to an unforgettable ending, with fire serving as a powerfully fitting metaphor for grief, loss, and our inability to comprehend the nature of fate.” – Publishers Weekly
“The characterizations are acute and the resolution…is tantalizing and thought provoking.” – Booklist
“Valente has written a poetic page-turner that explores how we grieve in solitude and grieve together, and what the human body endures when that grief overwhelms. Quizzical, melodic, and unforgettable, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down breaks new ground on issues of mass violence, communal loss, and the act of remembrance.” – Ploughshares
“Valente’s beautiful, elegiac novel about a community in mourning, and the unseen forces that unravel and consume us after a tragedy, is a work of heartbreaking timelessness.” – J. Ryan Stradal, Author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
“A breathtaking portrait of violence and its ruinous aftermath. As Anne Valente’s riveting characters navigate the transformed landscape of their hometown, they find themselves awash in devastation and redemption and mystery, and this reader found herself increasingly spellbound by this remarkable and urgent debut novel.” – Laura Van Den Berg, Author of Find Me
“Anne Valente is a sorceress, conjuring a story of sorrow and suspense with characters so real we feel their heartbreak, their bewilderment, the horrible chills down their spines…This is a gorgeous book full of mysteries. It scorches with truth, and sings with hope. Valente writes like all of our lives depend on it.” – Diane Cook, Author of Man V. Nature
“A book we desperately need…One of the most compelling novels I’ve read in years.” – Matt Bell, Author of Scrapper
“Lyrical, mysterious, and structurally innovative…This is a book that does not look away. This is a book we need now more than ever.” – Kelly Luce, Author of Pull Me Under
“Pulsing, eerie, and impossible to put down, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down unearths the grief that raises a Midwestern community in the wake of a school shooting. In acrobatic prose, Anne Valente shows us what tragedy leaves behind: how we ask questions that may be unanswerable.” – Chloe Benjamin, Author of The Anatomy of Dreams
“Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down is a beautifully written, lyrical book wrapped up in a compelling mystery with shades of Stephen King. Gripping and profound, a terrific debut.” – Kate Hamer, Author of The Girl in the Red Coat
“Gripping, visceral…I couldn’t stop reading – or caring about these characters…There’s a tinge of mythic eeriness to this story…but it was the resilient, appealing characters who propelled me through this intense novel, and lingered long after its close.” – Sharon Guskin, Author of The Forgetting Time