Biography

 

Biography

 

If you want to know who I am, read my work. To bring ideas into the world is a long journey. Along the way, I’ve found real satisfaction in being a novelist, essayist, journalist, editor, teacher, performer and mentor. From 2018 to 2020, I was honored to serve my community as Prose Writer-in-Residence at Hugo House.

If you’re noticing how many gigs I have, that’s the truth of the literary life. Though oriented toward others, I intend to stay focused on writing. As a woman, I must back my own talent or be erased. While still giving readings to support the publication of my debut novel Subduction, I am writing my next book, whose pagan themes I began researching in 2016.

A hybrid text that combines historical fiction set in a Roman cult with a contemporary investigation of mother goddess worship in diaspora, its working title is Great Mother.

It’s a joy to share what I’ve made and learned.

Seismic Cover

I am proud to be the editor of SEISMIC — Seattle, City of Literature, an essay collection that reflects on the UNESCO designation by which “Seattle’s literary reputation was solidified on the world stage,” according to the Seattle Times. If the personal is political, then the local is global.

To steward the ideas of these artists and wisdom keepers was a sacred duty. Featuring cover art by Mita Mahato and available via free download, SEISMIC contains essays by Timothy Egan, Rena Priest (Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation), Dr. Charles Johnson, Washington state Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna, Seattle Civic Poet Jourdan Imani Keith, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Anastacia-Renée, Dujie Tahat, Wei-Wei Lee and Ken Workman (Duwamish). 

I am  grateful to KUOW 94.9-FM  for airing the September 2020 SEISMIC launch hosted by Seattle City of Literature and Seattle Public Library, a performance which Speakers Forum called “celebration, meditation, wake, and call to action, all in one, for this place, our people, and our literary imaginations.”

Below, you can see me holding the Sunday edition of the Seattle Times in which my SEISMIC introduction appeared with the canonical oral history given by Workman. It is a true honor to share space with the great-great-great-great grandson of Chief Si’ahl. 

Excerpts from SEISMIC  were also published in Literary Hub, Crosscut, Seattle Met, the Seattle Arts & Lectures SAL/on blog and The Stranger, which invited me to record this video Message to the City. The Rumpus kindly published my SEISMIC-inspired reading list.

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The Washington Post and the Seattle Times (pictured above) praised my pandemic essay “The Inescapable Joys of Motherhood” in their reviews of Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort During the Time of COVID-19, which includes contributions by Luis Alberto Urrea, Lidia Yuknavitch, Andre Dubus III and Richard Blanco among many other well-known writers. With the support of Central Avenue Publishing, sales of Alone Together benefit the Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation to help indie booksellers.

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My Hobart essay “A Few Thoughts While Shaving” concludes Advanced Creative Nonfiction: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology. I am so glad to be part of this “anthology of contemporary creative nonfiction by some of today’s most inventive and celebrated writers.”

Forthcoming from Bloomsbury in March 2021 but available for pre-order today, it includes “advanced explorations into the craft of creative nonfiction” alongside writing prompts, proven strategies and “in-depth discussion of truth, ethics, and memory.”

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Featured by NBC News, Latina Outsiders: Remaking Latina Identity is an anthology of unruly women’s voices published by Routledge. “This anthology defies convenient categorization, but that’s part of its collective and inclusive energy that challenges even the term Latina itself since Latina is not a box but a landscape of inspiration.”

With a university edition available for libraries, a paperback edition will be out in December 2020, featuring my essay “Every woman keeps a flame against the wind,” which Proximity editors called one of the top True reads of 2018.

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Pie & Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter & Booze is a 2017 New York Times New & Notable book to which I contributed my very first personal essay about the ways women are conditioned to experience and express pregnancy. Because of a trick of the alphabet, I was the final reader, just after Jess Walter, for packed crowds at some of their unforgettable Pie & Whiskey events.

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To see my work in conversation with such innovative thinkers makes me feel  good, and if there’s anything I’ve learned during decades of being a writer, it’s to savor happiness when it arrives. Yes, you can buy these books. Just click on the covers!

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I also freelance from the Pacific Northwest for the Washington Post,the Guardian and the New York Times. Of late, I have written Book World reviews, profiled the Afrolatinx manager of a domestic violence shelter,  investigated the environmental dangers of Amazon’s plastic packaging and that of the cannabis industry for the Washington Post, and revealed our children’s precarious futures in the fourth industrial revolution in this Guardian essay about automation, education and social justice.

 

Awards

 

Named a staff pick by The Paris Review, my novel Subduction was a finalist for two International Latino Book Awards in 2020. Subduction is available through Bookshop and wherever books are sold, but please buy my debut from an indie bookstore near you.

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To learn more about the years and thinking behind Subduction, read these conversations in The Rumpus and Los Angeles Review of Books, my Literary Hub essay, or this interview in The Believer. Like podcasts? Listen to Otherppl.

Check out these reviews of Subduction in The Washington Post, The Paris Review, The Seattle Times and elsewhere. You can also read this excerpt of my lyric retelling of the troubled history of encounter in the Americas. Recordings of my virtual performances are linked via my Virtual National Tour page and in this YouTube playlist.

 

I was floored when the Guardian commissioned me to investigate the disappearance of Blackfeet actress Misty Upham. My 5,000 word narrative about Misty’s life and death was recognized with an honorable mention for Diversity in Digital Features by the Society for Features Journalism in 2016.

As researcher, I was the only non-staffer on the New York Times team that produced Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek. With support from the multimedia crew at the New York Times, author John Branch crafted a complex narrative for a digital age, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2013. Together, we helped make journalistic history.

The Team: John Branch, Ruth Fremson, Catherine Spangler, Hannah Fairfield, Xaquín G.V., Jon Huang, Wayne Kamidoi, Sam Manchester, Alan McLean, Jacky Myint, Graham Roberts, Joe Ward, Jeremy White, Josh Williams, Eric Miller, Shane Wilder, Kristen Millares Young

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Pulitzer Prize for feature writing

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Peabody Award

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Pictures of the Year International

Best E-Project

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American Society of Newspaper Editors

Punch Sulzberger Award for Online Storytelling

I learned reporting on the job at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where I joined the business desk as a retail reporter covering corporate behemoths in 2004, later moving to metro to expose government shenanigans on the waterfront. I wrote 700 stories during my five years on staff, but as a beat reporter, I was lucky to work with editors who supported my penchant for investigations.

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers awarded my and others’ work with 2007 Best in Business, General Excellence award (medium circulation). In recognizing the Seattle P-I business staff, judges highlighted my April 2007 story about an ex-port chief’s illicit retirement package, which spurred a state Supreme Court-sanctioned recall effort of the commissioner who rubber stamped the deal.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Pacific Northwest Chapter awarded my port coverage with 2007 Second Place for Comprehensive Coverage and, in collaboration with my colleague Ruth Teichroeb, 2006 First Place for Best Government Reporting and Best Online Business Adaptation for a series for which I analyzed the publicly-funded port’s gift of profits to cruise industry partners.

Education

 

Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and GO-MAP fellow, University of Washington

Multimedia reporting fellow, Knight Digital Media Center, University of California at Berkeley

A.B. magna cum laude in History & Literature, citations in Latin American Studies and Spanish, Harvard College

One semester at the University of Havana in Cuba, where Harvard College later funded my honors thesis research about legal, political, socioeconomic and literary constructions of sex worker identity

Journalism

 

Freelance Journalist, Book Critic and Essayist, the Washington Post, Guardian, New York Times 

Co-founder (2009) and 2016-2019 Board Chair, InvestigateWest, a non-profit newsroom designed to protect vulnerable peoples and places of the Pacific Northwest

Program Venture Fund grant recipient, KUOW-94.9, National Public Radio station

Staff Political and Business Reporter, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer