Photograph by Jon Bolden
In searching for curators, we are always interested in mixing things up—different genres, differences in authors, different geographies, etc. With a PhD in English from the University of Chicago, we know she is trained to spot excellent work and to articulate her thoughts well. As a writer and book reviewer—with work appearing in The Rumpus, The Hairpin, LA Review of Books, the Chicago Tribune, Gastronomica, and the Austin Chronicle—residing in Austin, Texas, she has plenty of exposure to some of the best authors the state has to offer. This makes her a perfect choice for curating.
Although I first met her behind the scenes of a play about cheerleading at Austin’s Salvage Vanguard Theater, Bridget Brewer is the only one of these writers not currently residing in Texas. This native Oregonian is now pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Brown University, which makes her officially tri-coastal. However, Bridget’s one of those ambi-talented, energetically gifted young women you just want to claim for your home state. A visual artist and stage performer as well as a writer, her short fiction shares with her performances an oddball sensibility paired with an exuberant, goofy grace. You’ll be seeing more of her.
Melanie Westerberg first came across my radar back in 2012, when her short story “Sheds” was a finalist in the Austin Chronicle story contest. A coming-of-age western with elements of fantasy, it appealed to me for its bone-dry depiction of ranch life as much as for its fresh take on a shape-shifting heroine. Melanie hails from Iowa and admits to being “obsessed with landscape”; Texas appeals to her love of the great wide open, and she has been quietly cultivating her place-bound sensibility for years, most recently at a writer’s residency at Madroño Ranch in Central Texas.
Currently a library-sciences grad student, Kendra Fortmeyer founded a library at the high school where she teaches creative writing, and both libraries and young people feature prominently in her work—she’s written a YA novel and recently published a library-centric piece in One Story Magazine. The story of hers that first caught my eye, “Mermaids at the End of the Universe,” took fairy-tale whimsy to its furthest possible endpoint, spinning it into a lyrical fable about aging, beauty and death. Reminiscent of Peter Beagle in its humor and beauty, Kendra’s work is frequently surprising and always delightful.
I first encountered LaToya Watkins earlier this year, while reviewing the Wings Press anthology Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem, Song. Her story “Outsiders” stood out for its deft, confident voice and incisive, multi-layered depiction of the social and psychological terrain of Dallas, Texas. When Wendy asked me to curate this series, I immediately thought of LaToya; having recently completed her PhD from the University of Texas at Dallas and won a Pushcart Prize for her story “Mother”, she’s got big things on the horizon. Keep her in your sights.