Caitlin Hamilton Summie: Awoken by Erdrich

Caitlin Hamilton Summie
photo courtesy Caitlin Hamilton Summie

I’ve known Caitlin Hamilton Summie for years, first as the marketing director of some fantastic small independent publishers, and then as the proprietor of her own marketing and publicity firm. Now I find out she’s been writing her own short stories this entire time, and they’ve just been collected in To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts. It’s an apt title: Caitlin’s characters deal with the holes left in their lives by, say, fathers lost to combat overseas, or sisters who were their only point of contact with an estranged family—or they’re haunted by the memory of a young girl who played hopscotch outside their apartment building those few months they tried living in Manhattan. Or…well, discover for yourself. In this guest essay, Caitlin reveals how Louise Erdrich’s stories were the key that unlocked a central aspect of her own writing.

I have loved the short stories of Jhumpa Lahiri and William Maxwell and Hemingway—and others—but if I were to think of one collection that really affected me as a writer, it would be Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich—the first Love Medicine, not the revised edition she published later.

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14 August 2017 | selling shorts, uncategorized |

A Personal Statement About Online Bullying and Abuse

(The immediate impetus for this post is a string of events affecting the literary and publishing communities in which I live my life, but I’m sure that everyone reading this has seen similar incidents online, in other areas. And I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. This is the moment it felt right to step forward and say something.)

My perspective on online bullies is shaped by the fact that I used to be one.

When I first got on the Internet as a graduate student, using a university account, the web had yet to become a significant platform, so one of the biggest games in town, perhaps the most significant, was Usenet—a collection of threaded conversations, tagged and sorted by a many-layered hierarchy of subject matters, diverse enough that you could find a “newsgroup” for just about any topic you were interested in discussing. It was a forum where knowledge and the ability to write well could contribute much to your social reputation, and I took to it immediately.

At some point, I acquired a separate account from a commercial Internet service provider, and for a number of reasons I chose to post from that account using a pseudonym. At the time, I could and did give a whole spiel using postmodern theory about distinguishing “the author-function” from the writer and how online technology enabled us to reshape our personalities and the way we present ourselves to the world, but the bottom line is I liked the freedom of “performing” in that voice, that persona, in ways that were unlikely to bring about the consequences they would if I behaved the same way offline.

To be blunt, I was able to behave like a complete asshole.

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30 September 2014 | uncategorized |

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