Our search for quiet novels by Oregon writers netted an incredible number of submissions in January and February. The Forest Avenue Press team spent several months reading, conversing, and ultimately choosing two manuscripts from the rich and varied slush pile.
“Both are excellent examples of quiet novels,” said Laura Stanfill, publisher and founder of Forest Avenue Press. “They offer intimate, character-driven experiences delivered from the sweet spot where plot meets organic, literary language. These manuscripts are urgent in what they share, unflinching in the emotional territory they mine, but they’re also full of beauty, grace, and that clear bell of story, tolling from one chapter to another, insisting readers keep turning the pages.”
In Who Are the Gods?, an Alaskan crab fisherman’s custody of his granddaughter is threatened when the girl’s meth-addicted mother is released from prison. Berne, a business and marketing consultant, has been an active member of Karen Karbo’s writing workshop for a decade. His authority on the page–coupled with his ability to create and maintain a quick and fluid pace–immediately impressed the Forest Avenue Press readers and sent his manuscript to the top of the stack. This is Berne’s debut novel.
Skin Drag explores bullying at an insular East Coast boarding school through the perspective of two young teachers struggling with their own losses. Gray’s background as a poet shines through in each luminous sentence of Skin Drag, but it’s not language for the sake of language, because she keeps everything tethered to the yoke of story, and that story is a haunting and honest take on peer pressure, being different, and the lingering effects of grief. Gray teaches creative writing at Clackamas Community College. Her first full-length book of poems, Another Sunset We Survive, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award in 2007. Her chapbook Bone-Knowing won the Gertrude Poetry Prize in 2006, and her chapbook Where She Goes earned the Blue Light Chapbook Prize in 2000.
Thank you to everyone who submitted queries and to everyone who shared our call for quiet novels with other writers. And congratulations to Dan Berne and Kate Gray. We can’t wait to share your work with the world.