Author Highlights: Ellen Winter on the Western Landscape

As an assistant editor for Alligator Juniper, I had the pleasure of reading every single letter of work in the most recent issue. (It’s also part of my job description to do so!) If you don’t yet know who Ellen Winter is, you should. Ellen’s stories have appeared in The Antioch Review, Fiction, New Letters, Brain, Child, and others. Her first collection, The Price You Pay: Stories, was published by Southern Methodist University Press. She’s seeking a publisher for a second. Along the way, she’s received fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Bread Loaf. She makes her home in Livingston, Montana with her husband and three children.

Being from Montana myself, I was immediately captivated by how well Ellen’s story, “Morsels,” which appears in AJ 2013, revealed the modern tensions of Montana’s rural communities as well as the spirit of Western life as I have experienced it all over, from Montana to Wyoming to here in Arizona. Here is a snippet from her story, “Morsels”:

Her curly coat was well brushed, so much so that it bore a static charge. She’d never pass for a hunting dog—unless you saw her in motion, saw her muscles at play. Most of the time, she looked like she should be lying on a bed from the Oh-My-Dog catalogue. In fact, there was just such a bed in the corner of the master. At night, wrought iron legs held Artemis aloft.

“We’re calving at our place,” Jackie told me. “I’d appreciate it if you kept her up for a while.” He rubbed Artie’s head vigorously. “She’s a sweetie,” he said, “but don’t underestimate her.” He replaced his cap and rose from the table, draining the last of his coffee. Then he made his way to the door.
As we were saying our goodbyes, I tucked my cell number in the chest pocket of his battered coveralls. “Call anytime you want to,” I said. “We want to be good neighbors,” I added, not wanting to sound forward.
He crossed the yard, leaning slump-shouldered into a non-existent wind. I watched, wondering what I’d just done, and why.

Alligator Juniper’s most recent issue also features this dialogue with Ellen Winter:

Can you speak a little about life in the West and how it influences your work?

The rural West is full of . . . conflict and camaraderie. That makes it an interesting place to write about. The folks who live here—some of them have been ranching for generations, and others are new to the area—have very different ideas about how the land ought to be used. And yet we dig our trucks out from under the same snow.

To read Ellen’s story, “Morsels,” and the full interview,  check out page 176 in the 2013 issue! Visit our website to subscribe.

I hope you find “Morsels” as enjoyable as I did!

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