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Alyson Hagy in conversation w/ Joshua Demaree

  • Penn Book Center 130 South 34th Street Philadelphia, PA 19104 (map)

ALYSON HAGY grew up with on a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  She is a graduate of Williams College (’82) where she twice won the Benjamin Wainwright Prize for her fiction and completed an Honors thesis under the direction of Richard Ford.  She earned an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan (’85) working with George Garrett, Alan Cheuse, and Janet Kauffman.  While at Michigan, she was awarded a Hopwood Prize in Short Fiction and a Roy Cowden Fellowship.  Early stories were published in Sewanee ReviewCrescent Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review.  In 1986, Stuart Wright published her first collection of fiction, Madonna On Her Back.

Hagy taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan, and the Stonecoast Writers Conference before moving to the Rocky Mountains and joining the faculty at the University of Wyoming in 1996.  She is the author of eight works of fiction, including Hardware River (Poseidon Press, 1991), Keeneland (Simon & Schuster, 2000), Graveyard of the Atlantic (Graywolf Press, 2000), Snow, Ashes (Graywolf Press, 2007), Ghosts of Wyoming (Graywolf Press, 2010), Boleto (Graywolf Press, 2012), and Scribe (Graywolf Press, 2018).  She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Christopher Isherwood Foundation.  Her work has won a Pushcart Prize, the Nelson Algren Prize, the High Plains Book Award, the Devil’s Kitchen Award, the Syndicated Fiction Award, and been included in Best American Short Stories.  Recent fiction has appeared in Drunken BoatThe Idaho ReviewKenyon Review, INCH, and Michigan Quarterly Review.

A brutal civil war has ravaged the country, and contagious fevers have decimated the population. Abandoned farmhouses litter the isolated mountain valleys and shady hollows. The economy has been reduced to barter and trade.  In this craggy, unwelcoming world, the central character of Scribe ekes out a lonely living on the family farmstead where she was raised and where her sister met an untimely end. She lets a migrant group known as the Uninvited set up temporary camps on her land, and maintains an uneasy peace with her cagey neighbors and local enforcer Billy Kingery. She has learned how to make papers and inks, and she has become known for her letter-writing skills, which she exchanges for tobacco, firewood, and other scarce resources. An unusual request for a letter from a man with hidden motivations unleashes the ghosts of her troubled past and sets off a series of increasingly calamitous events that culminate in a harrowing journey to a crossroads.

Drawing on traditional folktales and the history and culture of Appalachia, Alyson Hagy has crafted a gripping, swiftly plotted novel that touches on pressing issues of our time—migration, pandemic disease, the rise of authoritarianism—and makes a compelling case for the power of stories to both show us the world and transform it.

Scribe, which begins with the baying of hounds and ends with silence, reminds us on every page that humans remain the storytelling animal, and that therein might lie our salvation. . . . In this brave new world, a woman with a pen may prove mightier than a man with a sword.” —The New York Times Book Review

Born and raised in central Pennsylvania, JOSHUA DEMAREE received his MFA in creative nonfiction from Rutgers University-Camden and is co-director of Blue Stoop, a hub for literary life in greater Philadelphia. His criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books and EXPO Chicago's The Seen. He lives and works in West Philadelphia.