Content Tagged ‘Cary Holladay’

Introducing “Horse People” by Cary Holladay—and a holiday discount on Astoria to Zion

AstoriatoZion3DforLookoutweb_000If you love fiction as much as we do, we’ve got a fantastic holiday deal for you! Astoria to Zion features twenty-six of our favorite stories from the first decade of Ecotone from writers including Lauren Groff, Brad Watson, Edith Pearlman, Rick Bass, and Rebecca Makkai. Use code HOLIDAY15 at checkout to get a copy for only $10! (It retails for $18.95, so this is a huge deal, guys.)

To entice you further, here’s more about one of the stories, “Horse People” by Cary Holladay, from Ecotone fiction editor Ryan Kaune. You can find introductions to many of the other stories on the blog here.

Introducing “Horse People”

At AWP in Seattle, I had the distinct pleasure of not only attending the book release party for Astoria to Zion, but also hearing Cary Holladay read and talk about a selection from her short story, “Horse People,” which is included in this wonderful anthology. Long after the party, I was still unable to shake a few especially poignant remarks from Holladay’s speech—in particular, her mentioning that silence is part of every family story, and that we all have to do the work of interrogating the past. Of course, she was more eloquent than I’m able to render here on the page, but what she said really spoke to me. It hit home.

We all come from somewhere, from some place that is ours and ours alone, no matter how many others share a similar geography. And just as that place often shapes who we are and who we will become, the complicated mixture of family and history does as well. I come from a long line of talkers and tellers of tall tales, but I knew at a young age that I was not one of them. Instead, I’m a listener, an observer. And so is Barrett Fenton, the character whose progression we follow in “Horse People.” It isn’t until much later in his life that Barrett begins to mull over the events of his childhood and to question the truth of them, to try to understand the ways in which the silences surrounding those events, the facts left out or untold, shaped his understanding of place, of people, and of himself.

“Horse People” begins with Barrett accompanying his father on a trip on horseback, to fetch a young man named Phillip so that he may reside with the Fenton family as their live-in cook. When Barrett and his father arrive at Phillip’s house, they’re confronted with the tragic situation of Phillip’s father, who lies on a heap of clothing in the corner, apparently dying from a poisonous spider bite. As the story progresses, we begin to pick up clues about larger issues taking shape within the family—for instance, Barrett’s mother’s affair with another man, and the quiet assumption on the part of the Fenton brothers that Phillip is gay. It is only in his later years, long after his wife has died and his children have grown and had families of their own, that Barrett finally chooses to ponder the mysterious events in his childhood and to finally reconcile his past—“feeling how impossible it was to tell the truth of an event, to know the truth of another person’s life.” He wonders about the mysterious silences that surround his mother and father, their relationship, his mother’s affair, and finally, Phillip. The story ends with Barrett looking deep within his past, within himself, realizing that he can’t remember a crucial part of the story of Phillip’s father. It is this missing piece, possibly more than any other gap in his memory, that causes him the most distress.

“Horse People” is a leisurely, seemingly straightforward story about a particular boy and his family, but it asks more from us than a surface-level reading. It asks us to reconsider the truths that have shaped our collective understanding of culture, class, race, and sexuality. It asks us to stare down our past and wonder at the blank spaces in the narrative.

—Ryan Kaune, Ecotone fiction editor

Shawn Vestal Video

We continue our video series featuring three Astoria to Zion authors with Shawn Vestal, author of Godforsaken Idaho, a collection of short stories. Last week, we heard from Rebecca Makkai and the origin of her story: bog mummies! In this video, Shawn Vestal discusses place and risk in his writing, as well as what it means to write about his Mormon upbringing and family. Check out his story “Winter Elders” in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

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Seven Questions for Cary Holladay

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today we welcome Cary Holladay to the blog. Her story “Horse People” first appeared in Ecotone’s evolution issue and was reprinted in New Stories from the South 2009. It now has a home in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.


What books are open on your desk right now?

American Hipster: A Life of Herbert Huncke, The Times Square Hustler Who Inspired the Beat Movement, by Hilary Holladay, my younger sister.

Where did the idea for “Horse People,” your story in Astoria to Zion, come from?

A story my father told when he was old, or as he put it, “way up in years.” He kept saying, “When I was about eight, my father took me to get a cook. We rode on horses, way back in the woods.” The cook, Philip, was a young black man from a big family. He cooked for my father’s family for fifty years. That recollection, together with what I knew of my father’s life, Philip’s life, and of the place—Rapidan, Virginia—became “Horse People.”

If you could change one thing about a classic work of literature, what would it be?

Barren Ground, a novel by Ellen Glasgow, published in 1925, is a wonderful story of a woman’s triumph over failed love and rejection. Hardworking protagonist Dorinda Oakley becomes a successful dairy farmer. However, she ossifies into a joyless Lady Bountiful. I’d change the ending so she finally falls in love again and has fun.

Which fictional character would you choose to go on a road trip with, and where would you go?

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Lit News Roundup

As always in our weekly Lit News, we round up the headlines and vital discussions in literature and publishing arts, and also announce Lookout and Ecotone author kudos.

Emma Straub suggestedTen Books To Read If You’re Not Traveling This Summer” for Publishers Weekly and included at #3 Arcadia by Lauren Groff, who has a story in Astoria to Zion.

More than dudes in tights or self-indulgent autobiography: at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Anne Elizabeth Moore considers journalistic nonfiction comics from California, Iceland, and Japan.


Ben Miller, author of last year’s debut memoir in essays, River Bend Chronicle, has been selected as one of Radcliffe’s 2014–15 fellows and will have a year at Harvard’s institute for advanced study to shape a manuscript extending his investigation of the urban Midwest. Congratulations, Ben!

Last night at One Story’s annual Literary Debutante Ball in Brooklyn, two Ecotone contributors made their book debuts. Congrats to Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans, and Ben Stroud, author of Byzantium. We hope you both did it up last night! 

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AWP Video Series

During the AWP conference in February, three Ecotone contributors—Cary Holladay, Rebecca Makkai, and Shawn Vestal—gathered to help celebrate the publication of Astoria to Zion and were kind enough to sit down with us afterwards and discuss their stories in the anthology and the importance of place in their writing. Today we kick off this series with Cary Holladay, who talks about place, travel, and risk in her writing. Her story “Horse People” appears in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade, published by Lookout Books (2014).

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Friday Lit News Roundup

Here at Lookout headquarters, it’s been a beautiful week so we’re spending as much time outside as we can, but if there’s any view we occasionally prefer to the great outdoors, it’s this one. (A gentle reminder: we’re always collecting our favorites over on Pinterest, so please join us there.)


Just in case you were soaking up some rays and missed our posts from earlier this week, we have big news.

We unveiled two new blog categories! In Seven Questions, author Brock Clarke revealed which books are open on his desk, what he would change about The Great Gatsby, and whether he dog-ears his books or not. It’s a terrific interview you won’t want to miss.

And on Thursday, we introduced On Location with Lauren Groff. This department showcases our favorite authors’ writing studios and other spaces that inspire them. In her wise and funny post, Lauren addresses the differences between writing before she had kids—”If anyone had interrupted me, they’d have died a horrid death.“—and her writing practice now that she’s a mother. “I write in line to pick up my kindergartner at school; at night, accompanied by my insomnia in the bathtub; in my parents’ empty house down the street; in my head in the middle of the night when my three-year-old has the croup.”

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It’s Astoria to Zion Publication Day!

Lookout is thrilled to celebrate the official publication day of Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.


We unveiled Astoria to Zion last week during the surprisingly sunny whirlwind that was AWP Seattle. EcotoneLookout, and Milkweed Editions co-hosted a book release party atop downtown Seattle’s gorgeous Sorrento Hotel. Longtime friend of Ecotone Ben Fountain, who wrote the foreword, introduced the collection; contributors Brock Clarke, Cary Holladay, and Rebecca Makkai offered fantastic readings from their stories. For more photos from the event, please see our coverage on Facebook. Check back here for upcoming video interviews with the gracious contributors as well.

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Seattle must-sees for AWP

Now that the annual AWP conference is just days away, we’re setting our sights on Seattle. In case you’re under the impression that it’s all coffee and mist, here are a few things we think might be fun to do while you’re in town.


Seattle Underground


When founded in the mid-nineteenth century, Seattle was several stories lower and its buildings were made of wood. After the Great Seattle Fire in 1889, city officials banned wooden structures and decided that instead of rebuilding the city at its original level, they would reconstruct it a story or two higher. What this means to you: you can tour Old Seattle (family-friendly or adult-oriented) and pretend you’ve time-traveled 150 years and live in the seedy underbelly of the American West.

(photo © Dougtone via Flickr Creative Commons)


The Sound Garden


If you’re the type to venture off the beaten path, you might want to do some exploring and find Seattle’s Sound Garden—yes, the band is named after it. It’s one of five public artworks located on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) campus, overlooking Lake Washington and adjacent to Magnusson Park. It’s an installation of  hollow metal pipes that spin, whistle, and howl as wind blows through them. The effect is said to be beautiful, eerie, and maybe even a little supernatural.

Since 9/11, access has been limited, but the campus is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. (Entry is allowed till 3:30 p.m.). It’s free, but you’ll need to bring a photo ID to get in, and be prepared to have your bags searched.

(photo © The Kozy Shack via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Friday Author Roundup

We’re back at it, and there’s plenty of author news to share this week.

Steve Almond helped heat up Valentine’s Day weekend along with authors John Papernick and Lana Fox at Harvard Book Store’s 50 Shades of Night: A Night of Erotica to Make You Blush.

Andrew Tonkovichdiscusses Mormonist Lit and Scientology, and gives a shout out to fellow Ecotone contributor Shawn Vestal’s short story “Winter Elders.”

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