Living Arrangements (BkMk Press 2011), Laura’s first short story collection, won the 2010 G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction as selected by Robert Olen Butler. The collection also received a national gold 2012 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY Award), a silver ForeWord Book of the Year Award, and was named a category finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Stories in Living Arrangements have appeared in Inkwell, American Literary Review, Crab Creek Review, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere.
Interviews, reviews, and guest posts: The Fiction Writers’ Review (Q&A), New Pages (review), ForeWord Reviews (review), Cleveland Magazine (review), PANK (review), The Quivering Pen (guest post for “My First Time” series), Lakewood Patch (article), Lakewood Observer (article), Washington College Magazine (interview), Lancaster Newspapers (article), Averil Dean’s blog (Q&A), Pelt and Other Stories (Q&A).
“Walter’s debut collection (winner of the 2010 G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction) focuses on the significance of memory and place, the challenges of being an independent woman in the modern world, and struggles with death and grief … the collection offers well-crafted, keen entertainment, and some genuinely affecting tales.”
“Walter’s debut collection looks at female characters grappling with the driving force of their desires and the reality or reconciliation of predicaments … Walter has a firm grip on her characters’ varied emotional extremes.”
“Walter’s tight collection of stories ranges from the point of view of the child to the adult, from the man to the woman. Sometimes her stories are beautiful; often they are full of the ludicrousness of life. Mature readers who prefer literary to commercial fiction will enjoy delving into this writer’s psyche.”
“The stories in Living Arrangements are rooted in the most important principles of literary art. They are not content simply to render the problems of characters; they transform those problems into the dynamic of desire, which drives all great narrative. And the desire in these stories is that of most great literature: the desire for self, the desire for a place in the world, in the universe. Living Arrangements is a splendid recipient of the redoubtable G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction.”
–Robert Olen Butler
“Laura Walter writes with thoughtful compassion, and has a keen eye for finding the poetry in everyday life. Beneath the seemingly ordinary surfaces of her characters, she uncovers powerful emotional truth.”
—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply and Stay Awake
Laura Maylene Walter’s first book is a collection of fine and finely unsettling stories. In these wonderfully written little tempests, the characters possess a keen but rarely bitter clarity about the losses and accommodations that life demands. I continue to marvel at the way will and intent mesh in them, long after I put the book down.
–Kristin Ohlson, author of Stalking the Divine and co-author of Kabul Beauty School
I thought of you today for the first time in years. I was in the doctor’s waiting room. The woman sitting next to me was called to her appointment, and as she stood up to go, she dropped the magazine she had been reading on the table by my elbow. The moment I saw that yellow-bordered National Geographic I thought of you, Elizabeth, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. It was like coming home after spending years away.
Every Christmas, your mother fills the house with stars. She beams and holds you in front of the Christmas tree. She sets out all the presents, the line of stockings with names written in glue and glitter. Pine needles and tinsel bits will riddle the carpet for months to come, reminders that your mother worked to give you magic.
I close myself into the dressing room and put on the matching set Lucille picked out for me: a deep purple push-up bra with boy-cut panties trimmed in silver lace. It’s straight off the display rack, and I get to keep it at the end of the day. That’s a bonus to modeling underwear: you can’t exactly put it back on the rack when you’re done.
She appeared still in her skating practice dress, a simple black number with two straps crossed seductively in the back, showing her pale skin. Not a blemish anywhere, not even a freckle. She smiled and took programs and photographs from the crowd, her wrist making the same little flourish at the end of each signature. When she had signed the last program he stepped back into the folds of the crowd, making himself invisible.
A gray barn cat snaked through the heat and high grass nearby. In Caroline’s childhood, these cats had always been present: scrawny, tough creatures who appeared at unpredictable times with battle scars and wounds, the price of their independence. Joyce doted on them in private; more than once, Caroline caught her mother hidden in a dark corner of the stable, holding out pieces of chicken or fish. The cats lapped the treats out of her hand, momentarily forgetting their wildness.
Milena wrote in shaking pencil on the backs of used notebook paper everything she planned to make during her granddaughter’s visit. Lentil soup, spiced with pepper. Cabbage noodles. Dumplings stuffed with prune butter. Pairs of sweating sausages. A vat of creamed spinach, steaming green and dotted with bread torn ragged from the loaf.
The first rule of yoga is to breathe like you have never breathed before: long, ropey lengths of air pulled past your ribs and through your nose. Do this again, slower if possible, and feel the breath move through your insides. Do this until you go blank or until your body hums, or until you forget and open your mouth and realize you have to start all over again.
Other stories in Living Arrangements:
- A twelve-year-old girl struggles with the fact that she may – or may not – be a musical prodigy. (“The Clarinet”)
- A bagel shop employee tries to hold onto a failing friendship as an old affliction resurfaces. (“A System Based on Counting”)
- A college student attends a grief group with a girl who looks exactly like his dead sister. (“Festival of the Dove”)
- A girl dresses as Sylvia Plath the year she experiences the darker side of Halloween. (“The Last Halloween”)
- A mother and daughter’s shopping trip takes an unexpected turn. (“The Wig Shop”)
- A young woman faces a tension-filled family reunion. (“In the Backyard”)