Sarah Neilson

  • interviews May 05, 2020

    It Gets Better

    Celia Laskey’s new novel, Under the Rainbow, takes place in the fictional town of Big Burr, Kansas, which could easily stand in for any small town in America. Like the town Laskey herself grew up in, Big Burr is full of people who love each other, while also being insular. After LGBTQ+ rights group Acceptance Across America determines that Big Burr is “the most homophobic town in America,” the group sends a cohort of queer people from the coasts to change hearts and minds. Under the Rainbow follows several characters over the AAA’s two-year occupation of Big Burr and details the ways their work

  • interviews April 14, 2020

    “I want to hear the really ugly parts, too”

    Chelsea Bieker grew up in California’s Central Valley, where agriculture and survival are intertwined, a landscape that leaves its mark on her debut novel, Godshot. Fourteen-year-old Lacey May lives with her mother in the fictional town of Peaches, California. The grape-growing industry, the town’s main employer, has been ravaged by drought. Enter Pastor Vern, a glitter-loving cult leader who exploits this desperation by promising that God will bring rain if the townspeople join his church, Gifts of the Spirit. Almost all the residents of Peaches are drawn in to the group, including Lacey and

  • interviews February 04, 2020

    Queering the Archive

    In 2012, Jenn Shapland was an intern at the University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Center. While working there, she discovered the archives of Carson McCullers, the inspiration for Shapland’s new book. She had never read any of McCullers’s work, but the titles, Shapland writes in the first pages of My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, “always struck a chord with me. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Like, same.” One day, as Shapland was answering queries from researchers and scholars, she came across a request for correspondence between McCullers and Annemarie Clarac-Schwarzenbach, a Swiss writer and

  • interviews October 10, 2019

    Not Just a Game

    What stands out most about the new anthology Bodies Built for Game is how broadly it defines “sports writing.” Edited by former pro basketball player and poet Natalie Diaz and Lambda Literary Award–winning poet Hannah Ensor, the collection moves beyond game recaps and celebrity profiles, opening up the genre to poetry, personal essays, and short stories. The diversity of form, structure, and voice in this anthology broadens the language and narrative around sport and sports writing. (Diaz prefers sport rather than sports “because it connotes a structure of power rather than a pastime.) Whether