We’re excited to be featuring the 2015 Oregon Literary Fellowship recipients on our blog this spring! The applications for 2016 fellowships are due Friday, June 26, and you can read the guidelines and download an application by clicking here.
2015 Oregon Literary Fellowship Recipient
Colleen Burner hails from Kansas and Missouri. She received her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and her MFA in Creative Writing from Portland State University.
Q&A with Literary Arts
1. What are your sources of inspiration?
Dreams, films and visual art, calibers achieved by other artists, communing with other writers.
2. How would you describe your creative process?
It’s like quilting and collaging–gathering pieces, figuring out how they go together, making them connect. Sometimes taking things apart and reusing the pieces later.
3. What is most exciting about receiving a fellowship?
The fact that some people agreed I deserve it is thrilling; that I’ll be using the funds to take myself to New Mexico for a good stretch of time–even moreso.
4. What are you currently working on?
I’m in the middle of a novella about two sisters traveling around New Mexico and their experiences within their unique reality.
5. What advice do you have for future applicants?
The same advice my mom has had for me: You don’t get anything you don’t apply for.
OLF Judge’s Comments
In Colleen Burner’s stunning and lyrical novella, Creatures in the Land of Enchantment, a pair of disaffected sisters drive through “Spaghetti Western-lookalike geography, except it’s the real west, fake spaghetti” with their beloved grandmother’s cremains; their only plan: “burying bits of her ash and smudging her all over her home state.” They explore a roadside museum of mutant animals, a nudist ranch, and a ghost town; they survive by trading jars “full of invisible things for feeling and believing” (“What is Left After a Star Explodes,” the souls of coyotes and crows, the breath of apprehension) for gas money and peanut butter. Burner recreates the usual buddy-buddy road trip as an intensely female narrative of longing and landscape, both metaphysical and sensual, where “the afternoon light is diamond-hard, the road is a long mercurial tongue lapping us up,” and the pursuit is not of men but of self – a land of enchantment, indeed.
Excerpt from current work:
from Sister Golden Calf
A small museum packed with artifacts from the earlier half of the twentieth century.
Between two yellow blossoming cacti outside, we leave some ashes. Her favorite
blooms. Inside, rooms of antique guns and tools and saddles and cowboy
paraphernalia (brown things appearing to be made of leather and rust) give way to
roomfuls of buggies and cameras and typewriters and more guns and more tools. In
one room, I fall in love. A sign taped to the glass case: SIAMESE HEREFORD CALF calf has
2 bodies and 8 legs Two legs are on top and six on the bottom This calf was born on the
94 Dickinson Ranch in 1942 Purchased and put on display in 1958. It doesn’t say when the calf
Hello, spectacular creature, I say, crouching down to see her face. One eye stares
over my shoulder.
The calf looks like something that might’ve grown out of the ground. All lump and leg. Mangy and eaten away at, absolutely dead and still aging. Two bodies fighting over a single head at one end, legs in a tangle at the other.
How did you ever stand up or walk on your own? How long was your life?
Oh how you love a mutant, Kit says behind me.
An outlaw by nature, I say. Didn’t even have to shoot anybody. You are a perfect
creature, I tell the calf. You are mutated and beautiful and tremendous.
Gazing at the calf I feel the sky split inside my mind. A ripping of the internal
atmosphere but immediately fused together by this creature. This mutated creature
formed by nature—an abstract of nature—a clump, a manifestation, of frustrated
wilderness—immortalized on a human scale by taxidermy, a preservation of the
appearance of the body. This is what I see; but only part of what captivates me.
These glass eyes somehow hold soul, and I am mesmerized. I stare and try to
memorize all of her deteriorating details—whorls of thin tawny hair, the angles of the
joints in the sprawling legs—until Kit’s made her way through the rest of the museum
and comes back to drag me away.