The season of celebration in the Little Patuxent Review community continues! Morgan Christie, whose short story “The Panther” appears in our Summer 2019 issue, has her first full-length short story collection coming out next month. These Bodies, which author MK Roney says are “written with empathy, subtlety, and just a little bit of magic,” will be available from Tolsun Publishing on December 8.
I chatted with Morgan ahead of her virtual book launch.
Q: Congratulations on These Bodies! How would you describe the collection and your motivation for writing it?
A: Thank you, Holly. It’s great to share words with Little Patuxent again. The collection is an exploration of differing relationships, both external and internal, surrounding a variety of characters. Specifically, These Bodies highlights the experiences, loves, and losses of people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, women, and people living with mental illness and addiction. A microcosm of the depiction I hope literature continues to become, and remains.
My motivation for writing it stems from my motivation for writing in general—voice and representation. As a reader and student of literature, I came up not seeing enough diversity in the literary world. There weren’t enough stories that varied in voice, from people whose experiences, cultural norms, race, sexual orientation, or mental capacities looked or felt a way other than what had been deemed “literary.” That literary norm was too much a reflection of everything else in the world, and so came the compelling urge to create a collection similar to what I always longed to read.
To what extent do you see writing—particularly writing stories that explore people and experiences that aren’t often written about—as a political act, even an act of resistance? How important was that to you when you were crafting the stories in this collection?
I don’t really see writing either of those ways, but understand its existence in both realms. The act of writing itself always remains a form of expression, a reflection of the writer and what they choose to reveal to the world. My writing does curve as an act of resistance, mostly because I do—but I find that more so reflective of the world around us, including the literary one. When we think of a political act, it’s often comparable to a radical one, so when I think of my work being a highlight of the experiences of people from walks of life that vary from the typecast literary realm, I hate to think of it as a political or act of resistance, but realistically, it falls this way. There’s no reason that stories centered around people of color, from people in the LGBTQIA+ community, women, or people living with mental illness or addiction should still be umbrellaed “underrepresented,” but they are. This is why the collection curves in that political/resistant way, not by choice, though it was my choice to write of course, but simply by existing.
As far as the importance, it’s the reason I write, the way I’ve always written. To help shift this curve, where our stories no longer need to reflect this resistance, is what I hope to accomplish. Where all facets of the world reflect all people and their experiences, where we are all represented, in all things. Needless to say, very important. I greatly appreciate that question.
Just keep reading and writing everything you can, never limit yourself, not by genre or anything else.
What did you enjoy most about writing the stories in These Bodies?
Breathing life into the people that have been rattling around in my head. The collection in itself was years in the making, with one of the first pieces being written in 2014 and the last being written the year it was picked up in 2019. Just fleshing out all of these characters, circumstances, experiences, and mostly, carving through the diversity of relationships throughout the collection. The examination of love or a lack of it among the slew of protagonists and their experiences, how they differ because of gender, race, or sexual orientation and how they are similar, in the collection has been a compelling evaluation. I enjoy putting pen to paper, or fingertip to key, so writing these have been painful wonders, cold sunlit emotional chasms well worth exploring.
What has the publication process for the collection been like for you? What lessons, if any, have you taken away for future projects?
It’s been wonderful. I was fortunate enough to land at an amazing press, Tolsun Publishing. The staff members are so supportive, it’s incredible. My editor, David Pischke, actually selected These Bodies in 2019 and has worked with me for the past year and half through the editing process; our one-on-ones have been so beneficial in refining the collection. They are just such a fabulous group of people at Tolsun, with fantastic authors, and the process has been just as fantastic as they are.
The main takeaway has been the importance of finding a publisher that believes in your craft as much as you do.
What’s next for you?
I have another poetry chapbook coming out in the spring, when they come (2021) with Black Sunflowers, a new small press out of London. It’s a sort of a sci-fi epic exploring an evasion of earth paralleled to colonization, that’s what’s next publication wise. I’m slowly working on a novella right now as well, a stepping stone to the novel that’s been knocking around for a few years up there where the short stories were.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?
It was given to me in undergrad by my professor, Metta Sáma. She said that just like in all things, when it comes to writing, you are more than one type of writer. The concept seemed so simple as I battled between calling myself a fiction writer or a poet for graduate school applications. It was a lovely moment of clarity that’s fed so much of my writerly growth. The different things I write, and read, inform so much of my other writings they’ve started to feel symbiotic. If my love for prose-y science fiction didn’t exist, neither would my next poetry chapbook; if my engrossment in political poetry never festered, neither would my first stage play. They’ve all become these wondrous companion pieces to one another, and I really enjoy the space.
So explore all that writing has to offer, even if you don’t consider yourself a poet—read poetry, learn from the movement and cadence of the piece, and apply it to your prose. Just keep reading and writing everything you can, never limit yourself, not by genre or anything else.
And, of course, where can people find These Bodies?
These Bodies comes out December 8th, 2020! Tolsun’s website is my preference, but of course, all of the standard online markets will carry, as well as various bookstores. Visit me at morganchristiewrites.com for buying options, or check it out on Tolsun’s site.
Morgan’s work has appeared in Room, Aethlon, Moko, Obra/Artifact, Blackberry, BLF Press, as well as others, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry chapbook “Variations on a Lobster’s Tale” was the winner of the 2017 Alexander Posey Chapbook Prize (University of Central Oklahoma Press, 2018) and her second poetry chapbook, “Sterling,” was released last year (CW Books, 2019). She is the winner of the 2018 Likely Red Fiction Chapbook contest.