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Kelly Barnhill

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Fiction and Excerpts [1]

Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch

, || When Mr. Sorensen—a drab, cipher of a man—passes away, his lovely widow falls in love with a most unsuitable mate. Enraged and scandalized (and armed with hot-dish and gossip and seven-layer bars), the Parish Council turns to the old priest to fix the situation—to convince Mrs. Sorensen to reject the green world and live as a widow ought. But the pretty widow has plans of her own.

The Book That Reached into the Switchboard of My Mind and Flipped Everything On

Once upon a time, when I was young and bright and full of juice, I wrote without ceasing. I was in college then—impulsive, moody, often brokenhearted, hungry for knowledge and in love with the world. I wrote poetry, short stories, and two novels. They were, I will freely admit now, uniformly terrible. Still. I felt I couldn’t write them fast enough. There wasn’t enough paper. There wasn’t enough ink. There weren’t enough midnight hours. And I thought it would never stop.

And then it did. Just like that. I entered my twenties and discovered that I had nothing, nothing to say. The well had simply dried up, and all the fields were barren. So it goes, I told myself. I guess I’m not a writer. So I did other things instead—specifically, I became restless. Took weird jobs around the country. Janitorial work in Virginia. Phone book delivery in Florida. Wildland firefighting in Washington. Dull-eyed office drudgery in Oregon. And then teaching in Minnesota. I worked as an activist. Worked with homeless youth. Read a lot. Went to graduate school. Fell in love. Got married. Had a kid at twenty-five. Then another at twenty-eight.

And when I was thirty I had my third. A colicky baby—my only boy—and an impressive handful. Red-faced raging. Often inconsolable. My beloved firemonster. The only time that child was still was when he was napping, and because of his often-upset tummy, he did best when he napped on my body, as I lounged on the couch. Since I couldn’t move very far, it meant that I had a lot of time to read. And so I read a lot. I took the kids every week to the library and came home with two tall stacks—one for me and one for the children—and we plowed through the lot of them.

And then I read The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, by Louise Erdrich.

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Read Kelly Barnhill’s “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch”

When Mr. Sorensen—a drab, cipher of a man—passes away, his lovely widow falls in love with a most unsuitable mate. Enraged and scandalized (and armed with hot-dish and gossip and seven-layer bars), the Parish Council turns to the old priest to fix the situation—to convince Mrs. Sorensen to reject the green world and live as a widow ought. But the pretty widow has plans of her own.

We’re pleased to reprint Kelly Barnhill’s “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch”, originally published on Tor.com in August 2014. The story now appears in Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories, a new collection of Barnhill’s short fiction arriving February 20th from Algonquin Books. It will also be featured in Worlds Seen in Passing, an anthology celebrating ten years of Tor.com short fiction, available this September.

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Five Books With Chaotic Childhood Companions

When I was a little kid, I had an imaginary friend named Zolo who was a real asshole. Zolo was snub-nosed and furry. He had wings that didn’t seem to be operational—or if they were, they never seemed to function when I was around—and had a very long tail. He was brown and chubby, like an overfed bear—the tail and the wings and the distinctly nonbearish face notwithstanding. Also, he smoked cigarettes, one after another, which kids today probably don’t see in their imaginary friends, but I think was a fairly normal thing to a child of the seventies.

Zolo always had excellent ideas. Like the time I put peanut butter on the baby’s feet to see if she’d notice. (She did.) Zolo didn’t think I’d get in trouble. (You bet I did.) Or the time Zolo convinced me to turn my bed into a trampoline. (My nose is still crooked from the colossal crash.) Or the time I couldn’t open the porch doors made from ancient, wobbly leaded glass, and since my mom was changing the baby’s diaper, I backed up two rooms, held my arm straight out, and charged at the glass doors at a run. (The wood floor is probably still bloodstained after all these years, and I still have the scar, slithering like a snake down my arm.) Every time, there was Zolo, in the background, laughing.

Children’s literature, like my ridiculous childhood imagination, is lousy with helpmeets like Zolo—the enigmatic, the irascible, the incorrigible, the curmudgeonly, and the downright rude. And the sometimes dangerous. Perhaps this is because children, in their core, know that help can come from all kinds of people—even jerks. And that anyone, even a friend, should be regarded warily, like a beloved dog who sometimes bites.

[Here are some examples…]

Series: Five Books About…

Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch

When Mr. Sorensen—a drab, cipher of a man—passes away, his lovely widow falls in love with a most unsuitable mate. Enraged and scandalized (and armed with hot-dish and gossip and seven-layer bars), the Parish Council turns to the old priest to fix the situation—to convince Mrs. Sorensen to reject the green world and live as a widow ought. But the pretty widow has plans of her own.

This short story was acquired and edited for Tor.com by consulting editor Ann VanderMeer.

[Read “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch” by Kelly Barnhill]