Voices in the Valley brings in award-winning writer

“You will find her work sorrowful and intriguing and full of complexity,” said creative writing professor Arra Ross.

Ross said she wanted to bring a new voice to Voices in the Valley.

“Her work demands that you love the world,” Ross said. “You will find yourself drawn to those openings in the world that are beautiful and flawed.”

This semester, Caitlin Horrocks is the fiction writer brought to campus by Voices in the Valley.

Horrocks is the author of the story collection “This is Not Your City,” a “New York Times” Book Review Editor’s Choice and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. Her stories appear in “The New Yorker,” “The Best American Short Stories,” “The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories,” The Pushcart Prize,” “The Paris Review,” “Tin House,” “One Story” and elsewhere.

Her awards include the Plimpton Prize and a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Fellowship. She is the fiction editor of “The Kenyon Review” and teaches at Grand Valley State University as well as the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

She read from her story collection, “This Is Not Your City.”

Horrocks said she was interested in doing something that played with time, so she read the first story in her collection, entitled “Zolaria.”

“A lot of people say to avoid childhood (in fiction writing),” she said. “Well, I wanted to talk about those summers that you feel you’ve lost. I had to think: How do I make them feel important?”

She said as a child, the small things always seemed like big things.

“It mattered a lot,” she said. “I didn’t want to be one of those people that grows up and thinks that children don’t have problems.”

Horrocks said she is interested in writing fiction that has magical qualities, but set in a world that still feels real.

“There are ogres and there are blackberries,” she said. “I chop those up into a much larger stew and forget what is real and what is imaginary.”

She said many people ask if the characters in her stories are autobiographical.

“Everyone draws on what they know,” she said. “My parents would call and claim that, that backyard was their backyard. But my work is entirely fictional.”

Horrocks knows that she asks a lot of her readers.

“I ask them to go on a journey,” she said. “They have to piece everything together themselves.”

Her best advice to writers looking to experiment with time in their stories is to literally piece out the story on paper.

“When I was working on (“Zolaria”), I pieced together the fragments of the story on my floor. Literally breaking apart the story helped me,” she said.

Horrocks said everyone has to start somewhere. She said when she first started writing, she wrote fan fiction and adventure stories. Her advice to others is that if you find that you haven’t stopped writing after 20 years, then you may want to take the time to commit to it and get better.

“I kept thinking it was a hobby until I let myself indulge,” she said. “I always thought I’d grow up.”

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