April is only half-over and it’s already been an exciting month.
I have a new piece up at Lit Hub about my “touch the bear” rule in writing.
I gave a talk at Grubstreet’s Muse and Marketplace conference on the power of scenes, and how to build more scenes into your stories.
I’m busily writing new essays about my inspiration for The Devoted, from Boston to Buddhism and all the lovely ways they intersect. Look out for those soon.
I have a new piece of flash fiction in the latest issue of the lovely Paper Darts magazine, about autopsies and the strange things I imagined that we inhale over the course of a lifetime.
In my April newsletter, I release some new advance praise for The Devoted, and talk about Easter and its inspiration for The Devoted. You can subscribe here, or read an excerpt below:
Happy Easter and Passover, readers! This month I’m thinking about the holiday that formed such a strong part of my childhood memories, and how I decided to frame The Devoted as a story that stretched from Christmas to Easter, as a story about birth and re-birth. For the non-practicing quasi-Christians out there, maybe you went to church only on those two days out of the year — but that was enough to mean something, to shape your identity in some small way. The Devoted is about those small rituals that give us a sense of identity and bind us to our community; and it’s also about what we choose to take and what we choose to leave behind when we set out on our own paths.
New advance praise for the book:
I’m so grateful to the early readers of The Devoted, and happy to release new blurbs from them:
“The Devoted is a beautifully written story of the seductions of faith, its many desperations both light and dark. A most absorbing and psychologically astute novel that announces Blair Hurley as a brave new talent.”
– Chang-rae Lee, author of The Surrendered
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THE FIRST PAGE OF “THE DEVOTED” STARTS WITH A PROBLEM. I’d written a shaky short story for my fiction workshop. It was about Zen Buddhism, and growing up Irish Catholic; it was about getting sucked into religious devotion that became more like sexual worship. But it was talky and vague and technical and confusing. The workshop hadn’t gone well. But at the end of the painful discussion, my teacher said, “it’s not working well because there’s too much here. There’s a novel here.”
I rode the train back to my apartment in Brooklyn, clutching my wrinkled stack of commented stories, thinking about what my teacher had said. The story was a disaster; but I knew there was something there, the seed of a story, the characters and ideas I’d been mulling over, wrestling with, for most of my life.
Back in the apartment, I pulled out my 1935 Royal typewriter, a graduation present from my parents. Sometimes when the blinking cursor on a blank page on my computer felt too overwhelming, I turned to this ancient, creaking machine to get my writing done. Every key press was an effort. It felt like I was really doing something heroic. I looked out the window, let the quiet of the afternoon fill me, and I wrote a page. It was the same character I’d been writing about in my failed short story, but now the central problem of her life was laid bare, and Boston was wrapped up in it too, those long trips on the train, those muddy backyards and strangers walking by with their coat collars turned up. This time, the first page of the story was an open door into everything I wanted to say about belief, about sensuality, about family and devotion and their hard irreconcilability.
That first paragraph got tweaked and shuffled around a bit from draft to draft, but in the final work, it’s still there — and all the energy and mood, the promise of it, was what kept me going through the years it took to reach this story’s completion.
This month, I’m off to the AWP writers’ conference, which is always a huge jolt in the arm for me; it’s tremendously inspiring to learn of others’ projects, successes, and failures, and to re-connect with writers I’ve met from around the country. Coming soon will be some of the first scheduled events for The Devoted — so stay tuned.
Got a new batch of ARCs in today. #thedevoted #writing
Just getting excited about stamping future copies of #thedevoted over here. #writing
A little cafe #writing today.
Seeking Zip’s approval for my book. #thedevoted #writing
A few early galleys of THE DEVOTED are here in person! 🎉 #thedevoted #writing #arcs
THE DEVOTED has a cover. And it’s coming August 2018. #writing #wwnorton
I got a John Steinbeck scented candle this week and it is amazing writers #writing #candles #smokedbirch