B L O G

  • I had a baby!

    The headline says it all: after a year of infertility, three IUIs, an embryo transfer, a miscarriage, another embryo transfer, and finally a healthy, successful pregnancy (notice how my last blog post was A YEAR AGO...this is what I've been doing, haha), we finally got to meet our little boy, Townes Finn Whatley. We are so thankful.

  • What I'm Working On

    Over the past year, I've been working on two projects:

    1. Last year I completed a draft of a novel that this year I decided should be three separate novels! Instead of one novel with three storylines, I'm expanding each storyline into its own novel, creating a kind of thematic trilogy about women in American cults. 

    I've recently completed the first book, titled According to the Doctrine, which follows Rosemary, a young woman living with her husband in a fundamentalist cult in small-town Texas, as she chafes against the restraints of her environment and finds her voice in a restrictive world. To me, this is a novel concerned with voices, the ones we allow to dictate our lives, the ones we do not let speak, the ones we trust and the ones we do not—the voice of God, the voice of the society in which we move, the voice we alone can hear. Through Rosemary and her life in the cult, According to the Doctrine examines the damaging effects of the patriarchy, the danger of misplaced beliefs, and the tragedy of silencing voices we fear, even when the voice we quiet is our own.

    The second book follows Alice, a student who finds herself in a fledgling Manson-like cult after fleeing the predetermined course of her life as a nice suburban girl, as a future wife and mother, and the third tells the story of Harriet, the first wife to her community’s great man in upstate New York in the late 1800s. Both of these manuscripts are partially completed.

    2. In my story collection, tentatively titled All the Living and the Not, men and women grapple with the strange contradictions of ordinary life, the way marriage both unifies and alienates, how the math of motherhood means both a multiplication, a kind of doubling, but also a subtraction—an equation in which something is gained and still something is lost. These are stories about magic and prophecies, about creatures and ghosts, but at their core, they are stories about the everyday horrors that fill domestic life: separation and miscommunication, infertility and pregnancy, motherhood and fatherhood, the kind of love that both restores and destroys. The stories in this collection have been published in Ploughshares, Electric Literature, Indiana Review, Post Road, and The Rumpus.

    A few other things have happened too!

  • Tin House + New Story Out Soon + Harvey

    The Link Crew

    Hello out there!

    It's been a busy summer, and now it's already the middle of September! Here is a quick rundown of what's been happening lately:

    • Tin House- I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend the Tin House Summer Workshop in July, where I got to work with Kelly Link and attend lectures and readings by some of the best writers and teachers out there. Workshops themselves can be hit or miss, but ours was full of smart, talented, kind writers, and Kelly was a wonderful and brilliant leader. As always, it was hard to be away from Margaux, but I came home from Portland ready to work. I'm currently seeking representation for my novel (officially! Cross your fingers for me!), so I've spent the last few months working on short stories while I wait to hear back.

    • New story coming out!- Speaking of stories, I have a new story coming out in Post Road this winter! I'm thrilled. I'll post a link where you can read or buy when it's published. 

    • Hurricane Harvey- There's so much to say about what we've experienced here in Houston in the past few weeks. It's been scary and inspiring and devastating--and now heartbreaking to watch people in the Caribbean and Florida live through the same thing with Irma. Margaux and I evacuated before the storm, but Josh stayed home to monitor the situation and help where he was needed. Our neighborhood is near a bayou and in a flood plane, but we miraculously avoided flooding in our home, and we are so thankful. I've been defending Houston for years, telling people that it's not what they think it is, that it's diverse and exciting and full of kind, strong people, and while I hate for this to be the reason why people have come to realize what I've known for so long, I'm glad that everyone else is seeing why Houston is such a special place.

    Reunited after Tin House!

    Sporting her new Powell's Books shirt!

  • Hello again!

    WELL. Here’s my one blog post for the year! Haha. But I have a good reason! Last summer I was given a grant to write a novel, and so that’s what I’ve been doing. I started it last June and have spent just about every free minute I’ve had in the last twelve months working on it. And now I have a complete first draft! It has a beginning and a middle and an end and characters, and they do terrible things and good things and go places and talk to each other. It’s only the first step in a very long process, but it’s a complete thing even in all its messy first draft glory, and I feel proud of that.

    I haven’t shared any details about it on this blog, but I wanted to write a little bit about it here because you never know, someone out there might stumble upon this and be interested in learning more. Strangers things have happened! So here’s a quick glimpse:

     When it comes to cults*—if a person is in proximity to one or living within the confines of one—there are only a few choices she can make: She can stay. She can leave. She can join in, or she can run far away. My novel follows three women across time who find themselves facing these decisions, fighting against the chains that hold them, finding their places, their voices in a restrictive world. There’s Rosemary, who lives with her husband in a fundamentalist cult in a small town in Texas, Harriet, the first wife to her community’s great man in upstate New York, and Alice, a young woman fleeing the predetermined course of her life as a nice suburban girl, as a future wife and mother. Using the lives of these women and the cults that hold them back as a microcosm of our society, the novel examines the damaging effects of patriarchy and the danger of misplaced beliefs. 

     Among the many works that have inspired me, both thematically and structurally, are The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Girls by Emma Cline, and The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

     One other writing related thing:  I got into the Tin House Writer’s Workshop again, and this summer I will actually be going (last year I had to choose between Kentucky or Tin House)! I’ll be working with Kelly Link in short fiction. If you’re interested, read my favorite story of hers here. I’m already super sad to leave Margaux for a few days, but I’m looking forward to being around a group of writers again.

     

    *My sister was recently telling someone about me, and the conversation went like this:

    Her: She’s writing a book about cults.

    Him: Colts?

    Her: Yes, cults.

    Him: A book about colts?

    Her: Yes. Wait, what do you think I’m saying?

    Him: Colts? Like baby horses?

     HAHA it kills me every time I think about someone thinking I’ve been writing a book about baby horses. 

  • Just a quick update!

    Margaux reading Mama a story :)

    Hi! Since it’s been a good long while since I’ve written anything here, I wanted to give a quick update about what’s been going on for me writing-wise.

    1. First, my story “Lots of Rooms to Fill” is in the current issue of Indiana Review. It’s a story about motherhood and connection and disconnection and, naturally, a little ghost. I’d love for you to read it…you can buy the issue here!

    2. Lately I’ve been working on what I’m calling a collection of “tales,” all of them a little fabulist in nature. My stories in Indiana Review, Ploughshares, and CHEAP POP are all in this collection, and I’m getting closer to having a completed first draft. Which is exciting! I think I have some good stories in there, but with that said, I’m branching out a little and taking on another project too—I’m working on a novel. Which is exciting! But also terrifying! I spent my last semester at VCFA working on a novella, and a few months after I finished it, I began thinking about expanding it into a novel. I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it, and I finally decided I should give it a chance even though I have no idea what I’m doing. The novella/novel-in-progress is about a married couple in a cult in Texas, and I’ve been doing a lot of research into other cults and communes in American history, and I’ve been loving it. Cults, man. They’re the gift that keeps on giving. Well, not if you’re in one, I guess. But you know what I mean. I think. By the way, are y’all watching The Path on Hulu? We just finished it, and I’d definitely recommend it.

    3. Because I’m working on a novel, my former advisor at VCFA Bret Lott encouraged me to apply to a writing retreat/workshop in Kentucky for emerging novelists who are also Christians. I found out a few days ago I got in, so I’ll be heading to Stanford, Kentucky in July for a week of writing. During a time when it’s been hard to feel like a writer—or much else besides Margaux’s mom—this acceptance has been a great encouragement.

     

    That pretty much covers it! I’ve been reading a ton, too, and I’d like to share what my favorite books have been recently, but I’ll save that for a future (probably far future, let’s be honest) post. :)