Camille A. Collins: Winter Reflections on Gratitude


photo courtesy Camille A. Collins

I’ve known Camille A. Collins for ages in her capacity as a book publicist, but I hadn’t realized she was also a writer until she told me about her debut YA novel, The Exene Chronicles. It’s a story about growing up in the suburbs of San Diego in the 1980s that reveals a lot of the emotional truths about being a teenage punk rock fan in those days (yes, the titular “Exene” is the lead singer of X), wrapped up in a drama about child kidnapping, adolescent frustration, and the currents of racial hatred that have been bubbling on America’s surface for decades. Camille’s sent along “a small grouping of texts perfect for leisurely winter weekend reads,” as she describes them: “While reveling in the amazing writing, each novel, poem, or short story serves as a catalyst for reflection and gratitude, on things (such freedoms, privileges, or simple material comforts) which we sometimes take for granted.”

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20 January 2019 | guest authors |

Leesa Cross-Smith: Coziness and Comfort

Leesa Cross-Smith
photo courtesy Leesa Cross-Smith

I first learned about Leesa Cross-Smith in late 2017, when she wrote an essay about country musician Sturgill Simpson for Oxford American. Well, really, it was as much about her path to artistic success as it was about his, about the inspiration she drew from his work. And she said: “I got here by writing the stories I wanted to write, by not worrying about where the publishers would put me or if my readers would find me. I trust them. They trust me. They’re smart, and they know what they’re looking for. I may not be easily labeled, but I’m here anyway and it ain’t half bad.”

Well, right then, I wanted to see what she had done. So I asked her publisher about what was then an upcoming debut novel, Whiskey & Ribbons, and I’m here to tell you now: This is the real deal. You want to be in on the ground floor of Leesa Cross-Smith fandom, and this is your chance. Go for it.

I call Whiskey & Ribbons cozy and romantic. I talk often of coziness and comfort, because I am (sometimes) a naturally anxious person. Whenever I find myself worried about someone or something, real or fictional, I like to place them in a comforting spot, imagine things when they are safe and right again. In It Chooses You, Miranda July writes, “All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life—where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.” I rewrite things in my head and fanfic in my brain in order to fix sad endings, in order to make them okay. Coping and hope and holding on are just a few things that inspired me to write Whiskey & Ribbons.

Some years ago, a local police officer was shot and killed. His shift was soon to be over or had already ended, but he never made it home. I thought about him and his family a lot. And after 9/11 I watched a lot of interviews with the widows, specifically… the pregnant ones, the ones with small children… I listened to how they spoke about coping, about grieving, about how it felt when their worlds were turned upside down.

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8 March 2018 | guest authors |

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