“When I first started [writing] fiction, I avoided sex scenes because there aren’t that many ways to write about sex, and I did not want to write pornographically like my dad, so I just sort of skipped over those parts. I eventually realized, this is a part of life, and I just have to figure out a way to write about it, so I use metaphor more to describe sex.”
In a recent conversation with a fellow prose writer, I articulated my frustration with writing my artist statement, one of the many documents I crafted on the job market this past fall and one I am still revising. (Is an artist statement ever done?) I told her while I know my work is interested in the relationship between artistic practice and social justice, I don’t yet know what that relationship is. She put down her glass and blinked at me as though I had asked her if paper was thin, then proceeded to tell me that while art itself might not be capable of instituting change in the world, it creates the space for change to be imaginable.
The tired image of the guy with the horn smoking the cigarette on the street corner, the muted trumpet moment on the movie soundtrack–these tropes have inured us to the actual sound of jazz, but stop for a second and listen. Really listen. Solos like Gray’s and Parker’s are the kind that make the impossible seem casual. They’re the skateboarder doing a crazy triple flip on a ramp despite gravity, before we’d seen that a thousand times. They’re the first moon landing and the millions of people watching the event on TV from their living room sofas. They’re an unscripted feat that pushed the limits of what music could be.
Let me tell you how I first met Fannie Ingram Schwahn. How I was browsing the local antique store a summer or so back when there, buried amid the flotsam and jetsam, I came upon a wedding certificate dated June 5, 1922. Fannie was listed as the bride, and though I knew nothing of her—had never even heard her name—I was entranced, nonetheless by her story. Or rather, the story of how her marriage certificate had made its ways into my hands.
Alyson Hagy has won the $1,000 Lawrence Foundation Prize for 2015. The prize is awarded annually by the Editorial Board of MQR to the author of the best short story published that year in the journal. Hagy’s story “Switchback” appeared in the Spring 2015 issue. “Switchback” is a mature, finely crafted story set in Yellowstone country and dealing with limitations and acceptance.