photo by Phyllis ChristopherThe Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Competition Award winner for 2009 is Lucy Jane Bledsoe. Bledsoe lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes fiction and narrative nonfiction. The competition judges find her two entries "Girl with Boat" and "Enough" outstanding literary stories precisely because neither is "literary" or mannered but instead speaks with an honest human voice.
"Girl with Boat," winner of the 2009 Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction (to be published in that journal in Fall 2009), shows the conflict between loyal family love and the father's desperate, singular need to take them all to live in trackless Alaska; he is down on the world for all the usual reasons of its commerce and mediocrity. He craves absolute purity. Once the family is settled in the far north, the mother dies, but her daughter eventually escapes. This is the story of her return, thirty years later, and of what she finds at the old homestead. "Girl with Boat" is mythic in structure, simply constructed and expressed--clear and poetically precise, meaning not at all easy to write.
Bledsoe's second entry, "Enough" (ZYZZYVZ, Spring 2005), winner of the 2009 International Arts Movement First Prize for fiction, is set in Antarctica, "on the Ice," and depicts with unusual perception the conflicts, self-delusion, but nonetheless warm hopes humans take with them wherever they live.
Besides writing, the author goes sea kayaking in Alaska, backpacking in the Rockies, and skiing in the Sierra. She has been to Antarctica three times as a recipient of the National Science Foundation's Artists & Writers Fellowship, living and working at all three American stations--McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. She also lived at field camps in the Transantarctic Mountains. Bledsoe's work with geologists, biologists, and astrophysicists concerned studying penguins, seals, climate change, and the Big Bang.
World Hum website calls her nonfiction collection, The Ice Cave: A Woman's Adventures from the Mojave to the Antarctic (U of Wisconsin P, 2006), "layered, literary, and unflinchingly honest." Passport Magazine writes, "The Ice Cave is an exhilarating read. There's aching beauty to her tales." The book shows what it means to be simply one member of one species, trying to find food and shelter--and moments of grace--on our planet.
Publishers Weekly gives Bledsoe's novel, Biting the Apple, a starred review. Cited as one of Bookmark's 10 Best Books of the Year, Biting the Apple is "an intelligent, introspective, and smartly sarcastic story about the shackles of the past, the pressures of a present built on falsehoods, and the promise of reinvention and renewal. . . ."
Bledsoe's work has won the 2009 Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction, the 2009 International Arts Movement Prize for Fiction, a California Arts Council Individual Fellowship, a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, and has been translated into Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese, and Dutch.
Her newest novel, "The Big Bang Symphony: A Novel of Antarctica," will be out in spring 2010. The premise is that a galley worker, a geologist, and a composer have run away to jobs in Antarctica, each trying to escape a life that has become unbearable. Kim Stanley Robinson writes: "Lucy Bledsoe has written a beautiful novel about living in that extreme space; vivid and suspenseful, it really captures the feel of the Ice and the intensity of living and learning there."