Sarah Stone’s new novel, Hungry Ghost Theater, will be published by WTAW Press in October 2018. Her previous novel, The True Sources of the Nile, has been taught in courses on literature, ethics, and the rhetoric of human rights. It was a BookSense 76 selection, has been translated into German and Dutch, and was included in Geoff Wisner’s A Basket of Leaves: 99 Books That Capture the Spirit of Africa. She’s the co-author, with her spouse and writing partner Ron Nyren, of the textbook Deepening Fiction: A Practical Guide for Intermediate and Advanced Writers. Her stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in Scoundrel Time; Ploughshares; StoryQuarterly; The Believer; the San Francisco Chronicle; The Millions; The Writer’s Chronicle; Dedicated to the People of Darfur: Writings on Fear, Risk, and Hope; and A Kite in the Wind: Fiction Writers on Their Craft, among other places.

She teaches creative writing for the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and Stanford Continuing Studies. She has been awarded fellowships from the University of Michigan, where she received her MFA, and the Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers’ conferences. Earlier in her life, she worked as a psychiatric aide in a locked facility, a graveyard-shift waitress in the restaurant where everyone went after they’d been thrown out of all the bars in town, and an office worker in an apparently haunted massage/bodywork school in the Santa Cruz mountains. She has also written for Korean public television, reported on human rights in Burundi, and looked after orphan chimpanzees at the Jane Goodall Institute.
 

Conversations

from How We Spend Our Days, from Cynthia Newberry Martin's Catching Days series

"I am accidentally writing a trilogy of novels (the first a series of nine pieces, the second a set of linked novellas, the third with multiple viewpoints and an overarching plot line). They’re a kind of homage to, and argument with, Dante, in which three generations of an artistic family try to break free of various addictions, with a little help (and sometimes hindrance) from the occasional ghost or god (versions of some of its pieces show up as stories). I wrote numerous drafts of one of the books before I had any idea what I was doing at all. While I was going back and forth with that book, I kept sneaking away and writing pieces of something else, and before I knew it, that had turned into a different but connected book. And both books seemed to be in conversation with Dante. I don’t know why. I can’t imagine having the grand sense of mission that would be required to say, “I am now going to tackle Dante.” Way out of my weight class, but the mind does what it will, and those poems have a peculiar fascination for me, as for so many other people."

from Interview with Nancy Au, WTAW

"For those of us obsessed with human cruelty and other dark subject matters, it’s all about finding the richness, the fascination, even the pleasures in the world we’re inventing or describing. I often focus on this in my teaching, as well as in my own writing. It’s very difficult to have a book that’s entirely dark, with no humor, light, surprises. Every work that takes on these subjects will have something to offer in return, sometimes in the events or characters, sometimes in the poetry of the language, the unexpected images. Writers like Andrea Barrett, Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, Hilary Mantel, Wole Soyinka, J. M. Coetzee, Manuel Puig, Edward P. Jones, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, George Saunders, Haruki Murakami, and Iris Murdoch have wonderful – and very different – strategies for writing political, wild, unexpected, iconoclastic books, for tackling the hard subjects: death, war, physical and emotional violence, power imbalances, deception, self-deception, and betrayal. These are all writers who work with strong tonal contrasts, making fiction that can be both very dark and yet also brightly colored."

 

 
 Photo by RON NYREN

Photo by RON NYREN