Contributor Spotlight: Laura Catherine Brown

Laura Catherine Brown’s story “The Shell of Nut” is part of Issue 72 of the Bellingham Review. Subscribe or purchase a single issue through our Submittable page here.

What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?

It was inspired by the Righteous Brothers song “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” and became a story with an entire soundtrack. But songs are ultimately inadequate to express the inchoate feelings of a narrator with a tenuous sense of self and a violent internal drive toward both escape and conformity.

Tell us about your writing life.

I’ve been writing forever, but didn’t start thinking of myself as a writer until I was in my thirties. I went to art school and graphic design is how I earn a living. I never got an M.F.A., but I still take writing workshops. I feel like an eternal apprentice. I’m compelled by characters thrust into situations they don’t have the capacity or resources to deal with. Confronted with imperatives both internal and external, they respond in flawed, delusional and desperate ways. I’m inspired by failure, because failure galvanizes; and by loss because loss haunts. Failure and loss are intertwined for me. I’ve been in a writing group for many years and this group has been a profound source of creative strength and stimulation for me. We meet monthly and most of us are working on novels so there’s been continuity. Knowing that I have insightful, incisive readers creates an energy toward writing that counteracts the distraction and inertia of life.

Which non-writing aspect(s) of your life most influences your writing?

Writing and graphic design complement each other. Writing requires solitude and soul-searching. Graphic design is social and collaborative. Yoga is another non-writing influence. Both yoga and writing require discipline and practice. In both, there are basic forms with infinite variations. Both entail acts of discovery.

What writing advice has stayed with you?

  1. When you think of composing a scene: Arrive late, leave early.
  2. Eliminate “filler” gestures such as nodding, grinning and shrugging: If you find your character nodding, grinning or shrugging, either figure out what’s really going on and how that might manifest physically in a unique and revealing way, or just cut it.

What is your favorite book (or essay, poem, short story)? Favorite writer(s)?

Favorites are hard! I constantly return to “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot, which I’ve loved since high school. I have Mary Oliver’s “The Journey” committed to memory. Magic Mountain is one of my all-time favorite books. I also love pretty much everything by William Trevor, Alice McDermott and Ann Enright. The same is true of Denis Johnson, Antonya Nelson and Virginia Woolf.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Fleur Jaeggy’s I am the Brother of XX. Her stories are short, brilliant and harrowing. She eliminates connective sentences, which gives her prose an incantatory force. I bought two novels I’m psyched to crack open: Wolf Season by Helen Benedict, who writes with incredible authority and grace about the effects of war on women soldiers and civilians; and Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott. On my kindle, I’m reading Life Drawing by Robin Black. I used to have a T-shirt with an illustration of a stack of books that said: So many books, so little time. That’s how I feel.

What project(s) are you working on now, or next?

My second novel, Made by Mary, is coming out in March 2018 with C&R Press. It’s a black comedy that uses magic realism to blow up myths about womanhood. I’m also revising a third novel called Invisible Hand, about a visual artist with a day job in a bank during the great recession. I’ve got a slew of unfinished short stories to dive into. I hope I live long enough to complete everything!

Anything else our readers might want to know about you?

I think everyone should practice yoga! Writing can be a cerebral, disembodied experience—we collapse our chests, hold our breath, strain our backs and inflame our wrist tendons. Moving and breathing become essential to keeping the channel open.

Where can our readers connect with you online?

I’m on twitter: @lauracbrown. Facebook: Laura Catherine Brown. And I have a website: lauracatherinebrown.com. You can also find me on Instagram @lauracatherinebrown.


LAURA CATHERINE BROWN’S second novel, Made By Mary is forthcoming with C&R Press in spring 2018. Her first novel, Quickening, published by Random House, was featured in Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers series. Her short stories have appeared in several literary journals, including Monkeybicycle, Paragraphiti and Tin House. Her books have come about, in part, because of the great luck she has had in attending residencies at Byrdcliffe, Djerassi, Millay Colony, Ragdale, Ucross, Vermont Studio Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She lives in New York City where she’s currently writing a third novel.


Featured Image: “Yoga” by Din

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