I hold a PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University and am an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Evansville (Indiana), where I’m the faculty advisor of The Evansville Review. I write nonfiction and fiction, returning often to themes of trauma, domestic violence and child abuse, mental health, and agency. I also write humor, mostly for survival.
In early 2016, my essay about dealing with my father’s estate went viral across Hearst sites Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, and Elle. In less than 24 hours, the essay had over 100,000 views, eventually climbing to around 150,000. Two days later, Yahoo! re-printed the essay, and it generated over 400 comments. As the clicks and shares escalated, my phone lit up (as did my anxiety) with texts, tweets, emails, and messages from strangers and other writers thanking me for writing and sharing my story. Even though it felt shaky to be so seen, I realized that by writing about my experience, some people were beginning to gain the courage to speak up about the violence of their own lives.
Later, against all odds, my piece “Family Tradition” was selected by Jonathan Franzen for inclusion in The Best American Essays 2016. Other writing of mine has won various prizes and mentions, including the Gulf Coast Prize, Indiana Review’s Fiction Prize, the Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction, the Calvino Prize, A Room of Her Own’s Orlando Prize, Cincinnati Review’s Robert and Adele Schiff Award for Prose, Hunger Mountain’s Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize, The Briar Cliff Review’s Annual Nonfiction Contest, and The Chattahoochee Review’s Lamar York Prize.
I’ve been a writer-in-residence through the Baltic Writing Residency, Sundress Academy for The Arts (x2), and in summer of 2018, I will be at the Hedgebrook Residency, basking in the magic of the Pacific Northwest. In 2016, I was selected to participate in AWP’s Writer-to-Writer Program, in which I mentored a wonderful writer on crafting her own memoir. In 2017 at the AWP Conference in Washington, D.C., I spoke on a standing-room-only panel about trauma writing alongside writers Aspen Matis, Kelly Sundberg, and Carmen Maria Machado, all fiercely outspoken women on the subject of domestic violence. Throughout the conference, people stopped me to thank me for speaking poignantly and with humor about the struggles of surviving trauma—and then they promptly shared their stories with me. Those affirmations from others have strengthened my ambition to demystify the shame of trauma by continuing to write about it.
I live in southwest Indiana with my lovely husband, a poet, and two bossy dogs.
I’m represented by Rayhané Sanders @ Massie & McQuilkin. She can be reached at email@example.com