Queen of the Underground

You can catch my found footage story “Queen of the Underground” in the just released online zine Archive of the Odd Issue #1. This story is about a sociology student whose research into a local homeless community leads her to a portal to the faery underworld in the Sephora store at the mall, and to clues about her own origins. In other words, my obsession with faeries living in the mall has found an audience at last. You have to pay five bucks for Archive of the Odd Issue #1 online zine, but the entire project is so inventive and cool that I hope you’ll think the paywall is worth the dough.

This story was born during my first Ashland MFA residency when Sarah Monette (pen name Katherine Addison of The Goblin Emperor fame, yes she was my teacher, can you believe it?) gave us a prompt based on the Ursula Le Guin story “The Author of Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts from the Journal of Therolinguistics” where she asked us to begin a narrative comprised of letters between characters.

(As a side note, Sarah was a fantastic teacher who introduced us to powerfully unusual readings and gave us moments of silence to comprise our thoughts in seminar discussions. After one week of being her student, I changed my own teaching practice to allow for quiet contemplation and it’s been a revelation in the classroom.)

A few semesters later, I developed Sarah’s story starter into a full-blown found footage extravaganza including a Teen Vogue article, a Next Door posting, a Reddit thread, text messages, a desperate paragraph written on a piece of crumpled binder paper, an academic abstract, a postcard, and more. My teacher Lauren Markham, author of The Far Away Brothers, gave me feedback that was extremely helpful and now here we are.

I am really grateful to my Ashland MFA professors for this one. Nobody in my program ever once told me that a found footage story concerning faeries living in a suburban mall and stealing babies wasn’t a viable option. They always met my imagination with respect and grace. I hope in my own teaching I can encourage my students to be so wild.

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