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    Beth Alvarado

    writer & teacher

  • Novel Cover Art Jillian

    Black Lawrence Press

    With the ecstatic knowledge of an ancient curandera and the playful, storytelling prowess of a child, Alvarado travels great distances, bears witness, presages problems, and intuits solutions. She isn’t just at the forefront of white writers writing about race, she’s at the forefront of people writing about what it means to be human and how we might survive our own dangerous shortcomings. Masterful and original, her voice has been here since the before-time; in a world that needs healing and vision more than ever, it would behoove us all to listen.

    ~Jennifer Tseng, Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness

    Novel Cover Art Anxious Attachments

    Autumn House Press

    Winner of the Oregon Book Award

    Praise for Anxious Attachments,

    Alvarado’s gorgeous essays evoke the fluidity and awe of an underwater journey. She offers us a tour of grief—its causes, its cultural conditions, its grasp. In delineating, with devotion, with humor, losses that are at once ordinary and extraordinary, material and supernatural, she offers the reader a chance to better see what’s right in front of them. This book is an act of generosity, of friendship, of remembrance. I felt my head turned by it, encouraged to see my everyday loves with wider eyes.

    ~Aisha Sabatini Sloan, Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit.

    Novel Cover Art Anthrolpologies

    University of Iowa Press

    Praise for Anthropologies

    ‘Memory is a silent room, a home movie from an old Brownie camera,’ Beth Alvarado writes. Her memoir, Anthropologies, suggests otherwise: there is little silence here. Instead everything is sound and light: story stacked up on story, memory on dream, aperture after aperture opening and staying open, recording past the final page. Anthropologies offers us the eternal present tense of memory: all our lives and our families’ lives existing at once, like the voice of her father, preserved on her mother’s answering machine and now here with many others in this lovely echo chamber of a book.

    ~Ander Monson, Vanishing Point

    Novel Cover Art Not a Matter of Love

    New Rivers Press

    Winner of the Many Voices Project Award.

     

    Praise for Not a Matter of Love

    Alvarado’s is a formidable talent, wise and witty and unflinching. To read her fiction is to understand two terrible truths: that humans hardly ever understand each other, and that we will persist relentlessly in an attempt to do so. This is serious, beautiful work.

    ~Antonya Nelson, Bound

  • About Me

     

    My most recent book, Jillian in the Borderlands: A Cycle of Rather Dark Tales, is described by one reviewer as "marrying the social-justice novel with magical realism." Another reviewer writes: "Alvarado’s use of many voices not only showcases her talent for dialogue but also challenges the tendency to make stories and histories of people and places linear and from a single perspective."

     

    In my nonfiction, I have written extensively about marrying into my late husband's family when I was 19 years old. My essay collection Anxious Attachments was long listed for the PEN Art of the Essay Award and won the 2020 Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction. Taken together as a larger narrative, these essays are about the power of love to revise who we are, what we believe, and what our story is.

     

    Much of my work is set in Tucson Arizona, where Fernando and I grew up and raised our children. My lyric memoir Anthropologies layers scenes, oral histories, portraits, dreams, and family myths from both his family and my own. My first story collection, Not a Matter of Love, won the Many Voices Project Prize for work that the final judge called "wise and witty and unflinching."

     

    I taught at the University of Arizona for many years and now am on the faculty at Oregon State University-Cascades Low Residency MFA Program. I am part of the Artists Network at Narrative 4 and on the Advisory Board of JackLeg Press. In January, I will begin teaching small group workshops on-line. The first workshop is full -- but there are spaces in the one that starts in June.

     

    Please see the final page of this website for more information about both the workshops and individual mentoring and then feel free to email me with questions at bethalvarado1@gmail.com.

     

     

     

  • Announcements

    "A Book for All Souls" my review of Victoria Garza's beautiful lyric memoir, The Field, will appear in the

    Los Angeles Review soon!

     

    Just want to let everyone know about a great opportunity: the Writing Ranch's "Writing Down the Baja' Writing Retreat" from February 19-26

    with Ellen Waterston.

     

    I interviewed Karen Brennan about Television, a memoir, from Four Way Books, and the result is "Gaps in the Telling,: A Conversation about Hybridity, Disability, Motherhood, and Class." Read here, in the

    Los Angeles Review.

     

    My review of Ru Freeman's wonderful story collection, Sleeping Alone, just out from Graywolf, is up at NYJB!

     

    "How can we live with the constant threat of violence?" a review essay I wrote about Under These Dark Skies, a brilliant essay collection by Arianne Zwartjes, is out in High Country News.

     

    "Bloomsbury in Winter -- 2020," the first essay in Unreachable Cities, my collection-in-progress, is out in the Spring 2022 issue of Fourth Genre.

     

    "Meanwhile--Detroit, Philadelphia, & Tucson" is in the Belfield Literary Review from University College Dublin. This is only the second issue of this journal and it's called "The Long Journey." Fascinating work and they had a launch in the library. I wish I could have made the long journey over the pond to be there.

     

    Excited that "Radical Solidarity" my review of Daisy Pitkin's stunning memoir about labor organizing, On the Line, in the Los Angeles Review!

     

    The Rumpus picked Jillian in the Borderlands for its October 2020 Book Club Chat & also for its list: "What to read when you want to celebrate Women's History," along with many other fine books. So happy for my work to be included with the work of so many authors I admire.

     

    Small Press Picks picked Jillian in the Borderlands! & The Roadrunner Review chose Jillian as one of its top five fiction titles for 2020!

     

    I am thrilled to announce that Anxious Attachments won the Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and was long listed for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spievogel Award for the Art of the Essay! The Oregon Book Awards called Anxious Attachments "a master class in the essay."

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Readings & Events

     

    Haunted Collection for Talyor_Swift_as_Books! My first Instagram Live reading -- with Adam O. Davis, Bruce Owens Grimm, and Leia Penina Wilson! October 21, 2021, 6 p.m EST.

     

    Central Oregon Writers' Guild: Kelsey Freeman, author of No Option But North, and I will be talking about Writing Across Difference on June 8 and then on June 19, 2021, we will follow up with a three-hour workshop where we'll do writing exercises that explore ways of Building Bridges in your writing. You can attend one or both.

     

    Black Lawrence Reading Series! I read with Veronica Montes and Ron Nyren on May 25 at 8 p.m. EDT. You can listen here to my part of the reading.--just scroll down-- Veronica and Ron's readings, which were wonderful, are available on their book pages.

     

    Listen here to Reading with Tiffany Cates, author of M-Theory, Irene Cooper, author of Committal, and Brigitte Lewis, author of

    Origin Stories, for Grassroots Bookstore.

     

    Cinder Skies Reading Series at Northern Arizona University. February 18, 2021, 7:30 MST. More information and Facebook link!

     

    The Rumpus Bookclub Chat,, a conversation with Marisa Siegel wherein she and I talk about the shifting perspectives in Jillian in the Borderlands: "Writing the book was like being at that cross-border dinner party where various people are telling parts of a story, and so you’re left to put the 'story' together yourself. "

     

    "Tell It Slant," a reading and conversation with members and alumni of the OSU-Cascades MFA Program: Jenna Goldsmith, Tiffany D. Cates, Yola Gomez, Brigitte Lewis, and Irene Cooper. October 29, 2020.

     

    Red Dragon Reading Series, SUNY Onenota. October 22, 7:30 p.m. EST.

     

    Reading with Luis Urrea and Pamela Uschuk: Experiencing Culture Across Genres: Pathways to Writing for Change. Colorado Mountain College, October 20, 2020, 6 p.m. MST. Link to register is here.

     

    "Twice Baked Tales," a reading and conversation about fabulism & food with Irene Cooper and Brigitte Lewis. Roundabout Books, September 18, 2020.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Press & Reviews

    Small Press Picks on Jillian in the Borderlands: "The stories in this inventive, emotionally resonant collection never shy away from darkness, and at times they plunge deeply into it. Yet, throughout, they offer glimmers of hope and a sense of possibility. In times like these, that has never felt more welcome."

     

    Review of Jillian in the Borderlands, by Kathryn Ordiway, in Masters Review: "Immediately, in the first tale, the reader is plunged into Jillian's world, a hallucinatory one of ghosts and eternal knowledge, but also a familiar one, filled with deportations and racial injustice and men girls are told to stay away from. . . There is not a moment in these stories where you don't feel the vein connecting Jillian's world to our own."

     

    In "Translating Hidden Histories" Lee Anne Gallaway-Mitchell writes "Alvarado’s use of many voices not only showcases her talent for dialogue but also challenges the tendency to make stories and histories of people and places linear and from a single perspective. In shifting narrators we get a kind of Canterbury Tales of the borderlands. . ." North American Review.

     

    "Jillian in the Borderlands is an ambitious work that straddles geographical, metaphysical, and literary borders, marrying the social-justice novel with magical realism to render a disquieting portrait of the humanitarian toll of our immigration policies. . . ." Review by Alice Stephens in Washington Independent Review of Books.

     

    "Looking for a Witch to Burn: a review of Jillian in the Borderlands" by Laura Eppinger from The Cardiff Review. "Jillian is an adult at the end of this novel, but she is not at the end of her journey: She will continue to cross national borders, aid refugees, and peek under the veil between the living and the dead.

     

     

    Reviews of Anxious Attachments:

     

    Melanie Bishop, March 2019, New York Journal of Books: "This whole book is a love song to Fernando."

     

    Ellen Santasiero, May 2019, High Desert Journal: "I love many things about the essays, but a few things stand out in particular. First, Alvarado’s frequent references to mystery, whether through folk tales, stories of otherworldliness, or, most especially, dreams."

     

    Brigitte Lewis, May 2019, Entropy Magazine: "If we readers let ourselves, we will be changed by the words we have read, words that—through their mere attention—make sacred the mundane."

     

    Irene Cooper, June 2019, utterance: a journal: "With deep intelligence, a full heart, and prose that alternately beckons like your one truthful best friend and devastates like the monsoons that sweep her beloved Tucson. . ."

     

    Averi Long, not-dated, The Literary Review: "Alvarado uses down-to-earth story-telling to explore human vulnerability, as well as the mysterious relationship between body and spirit."

     
     
    Reviews of Anthropologies:

     

    Megan Kimble’s review in Sonora Review: "Anthropologies is a pile of perfectly ordered snapshots, so quickly and quietly stacked that soon the remembering becomes a world unto itself."

     

    From Kirkus Reviews: "[Alvarado] lays bare in these pages the many stories and details of her life and identity. Devoid of self-pity or nostalgia, Alvarado’s voice is bell-clear."

     

    From Publishers Weekly: "Sparked by her mother’s deterioration into old age, Alvarado (Not a Matter of Love) has written a three-part memoir about her family life that approaches prose poetry."

     

     

     

    Rebecca Hall in Front Porch Review: "Alvarado’s fictions are, in a manner reminiscent of Alice Munro, subtly metafictional. But Alvarado’s collages are all her own, made from the rough, ocotillo and saguaro-peppered stuff of the American Southwest."

     

    Luke Reynolds in Tucson Weekly. "Alvarado reveals one of her greatest strengths as a writer: her ability to be inside a character's psyche. . .while remaining loyal, even omniscient, to the story as a whole."

     

    Essays & Stories

    recent, selected

     

    "Prague--& why I could not get there," an essay from Unreachable Cities, my collection-in-progress, was beautifully paired with photographs when Journal of the Plague Years: The Magazine published it. Check out the playlist at the end!

     

    "On Listening to Voices" -- a craft essay about Karen Brennan's amazing story collection Monsters -- for the novelist Sarah Stone's Marvelous Paragraph Project.

     

    "Sex after Death" -- essay -- in The Sun, July 2020.

     

    "Essays All: However We Decide to Collect Them" This craft essay was published in River Teeth's on-line blog on May 4, 2021.

     

    From Jillian in the Borderlands:

    "Jillian Speaks," Terrain.org, July 2020

    “La Linea," Cleaver Magazine, Spring 2020.

     

    From Anxious Attachments:

    “Water in the Desert,” in Guernica, October 2015.

    “The Motherhood Poems,” which first appeared in Necessary Fiction & later was reprinted in New California Writing, 2011, Heydey Press, & in

    Notes from the Motherfield, Kore Press

     

    “When Your Daughter Refuses to Be in Your Essay,” LitHub, Spring 2019.

     

     

    Interviews

     

    "Another Kind of Borderlands," an interview about channeling voices and liminal realities in Jillian in the Borderlands. By Melanie Bishop in Fiction Writers Review.

     

    "In Conversation: Beth Alvarado and Frankie Rollins," wherein Frankie and I discuss grief and myth-making and our latest books: JMWW.

     

    "Q & A with Christi Craig" where we talk about Jillian in the Borderlands as being full of "reports and revelations" as well as politics and magic.

     

    "Q & A with Deborah Kalb" about, among other things, the mother/daughter relationship at the center of Jillian in the Borderlands.

     

    "Grieving in Dreams:" Two writers discuss "the apocalyptic imagination" grief, and the liminality of the borderlands. By Kimi Eisele in Guernica: A Magazine of Politics and Art. 2020.

     

    An interview about Anxious Attachments, wherein Irene Cooper and I discuss mothering, and auto-theory: "The narrator, the 'I,' is a construction. It’s an authentic voice, but it’s not really you. It’s who you are in the moment in relationship to that particular subject." The Rumpus. 2019.

     

    "Interview with Beth Alvarado" about Anthropologies by Megan Kimble in Sonora Review. 2011.

     

    "An Interview with Beth Alvarado" about "Emily's Exit" from Not a Matter of Love. University of Arizona Poetry Center. 2006.

     

    Audio & Video

     

    In this conversation about Jillian in the Borderlands, G.P. Gottlieb kept asking surprising questions & I kept saying, well, that really happened, . . and now, maybe, I need a new definition of Magical Realism.

    New Books Network.

     

    Reading and conversation about Jillian in the Borderlands with Ilana Masad, The Other Stories Podcast, 2020.

     

    "A Novel Idea" wherein Ellen Santasiero and I talk about writing memoir for Deschutes Public Library. 2020.

     

    "Water in the Desert," YouTube, Narrow Chimney Reading Series, Flagstaff, Arizona. 2016.

     

    "In Conversation with Beth Alvarado” an interview with Sheila Bender on writing memoir for political action. WritingItReal. 2015.

     

    From Anthropologies, a reading for University of Arizona Poetry Center. 2011.

     

    From Not a Matter of Love , a reading for University of Arizona Poetry Center. 2006.

     

     

     

     

  • Post-MFA Workshops in Nonfiction, Fiction, Memoir, and Hybrid Prose

    Why post-MFA? We can begin the conversation at a much higher level. If you don't have an MFA, but want to take a workshop, please send me a writing sample and we'll have a conversation. I would like to be confident both that your writing is already at this level and that your ability to read and provide helpful feedback is already at this level.

     

    Why workshops? Community. Audience. Synergy. Collaboration. I am hoping that when you take one of these workshops, you'll connect with other writers you find simpatico and that, afterwards, you can continue to meet on your own—or take another workshop later and expand your network. I believe that workshop is a generative conversation where the goal is to energize our writing practice and to encourage us to keep going—as well as to offer thoughtful critique.

     

    I have adapted Liz Lerman's Critical Response Theory as a guideline and underlying workshop philosophy. Felicia Rose Chavez also adapted Lerman's process in her book The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop, in case you are curious about what this might mean for you.

     

    This is a 3-month Zoom workshop, limited to 4 people. You'll need to commit to 12 weeks. The workshop will include:

     

    One initial meeting where we will introduce ourselves, talk about where we are in our writing and what we're hoping to get from the workshop. We'll decide on logistics about meetings.

     

    Two three-hour workshop meetings per month for a total of 6 workshops. We'll meet every other week. 2 writers will have their work up for discussion each workshop. I will also provide readings and/or we'll do short writing assignments.

     

    Three 20-page submissions. Each writer will have one "packet" of work, up to 20 pages—about 7,000 words—discussed once a month, for a total of 3 packets (or 60 pages) discussed during the workshop.

     

    Three written responses from me, as well as from your workshop members. I will provide brief written commentary on each packet, including marginal notes, but most of my response will come in the form of my comments in workshop and in the conferences.

     

    Three one-hour conferences. Each writer will have a one-hour conference with me after their workshop session to discuss whatever you want to discuss about your work: readers' responses, questions about my commentary, revision strategies, possible readings, possible places to submit, etc.

     

    Cost: $400 a month for three months, for a total of $1200. Deposit of $200 due to hold your place and the balance of $1000 to be paid in two installments of $500. There is a 20% discount for former or continuing students. (Just in the interest of honesty: I may have to raise the cost in the future if the workload is more than I anticipated, but I always hope to be able to offer the 20% discount.)

     

    When? The first workshop will take place Jan/Feb/March 2023 and it is already full, but I plan on offering another in June/July/August and then another will begin every Jan and every June.

     

    How to apply? Send me a short email at bethalvarado1@gmail.com. Let me know a bit about you as a writer and, if I haven't worked with you before, submit about 20 pages of work, double-spaced. Then we'll talk.

     

    What if you don't have an MFA? As I said, we can talk about that after I see your work. I'd also like to explain my philosophy about workshop and how that plays out both in the meetings and in my commentary on your work.

     

    In the future, depending on demand, I may offer workshops that cover more of the basics and include more readings, more generative exercises, and more practice with revision, but in the meantime, I am offering a limited number of individual mentorships and can suggest places like Hugo House and Literary Arts if you haven't tried community classes. The Forge is a great on-line writing program if you don't have an MFA and want more sustained instruction than community classes can provide. I also just want to let everyone know about a great opportunity to travel and write and take part in community: the Writing Ranch's "Writing Down the Baja' Writing Retreat" from February 19-26, 2023 with Ellen Waterston.

     

    Individual mentoring: Submit some work and then let's have a conversation about this. It all depends on your writing, your subject matter, and on whether or not we feel I would be a "good fit" as a mentor for you at this point in your process. If so, we could figure out an individual mentoring schedule that would include submissions of your work and conferences about it. In those conferences, we could cover suggestions for development, revision &/or over-all structure, books you might read, places you might submit, etc. I prefer to read and talk about work-in-progress. I do not do editorial work, but I can suggest people who do.