Pic: a river near the rural village of Keshkowa in Iraq Kurdistan (taken in September 2017.)
Running Wild Press, the publishing house that picked up Memories of Green Rivers, has been in the news a lot lately - mainly for breaking boundaries in the literary industry. They're a women-led publishing house focused on stories that don't fit neatly inside the box.
According to an article in LA Wire, the press: "...have received numerous accolades, including 'best of the year' by Kirkus Reviews, multiple starred reviews, and even featuring in gift bags for Grammy Award nominees. Kastner herself has been named to multiple “best of” lists and featured in Forbes and other publications. But what sets Running Wild, LLC apart is their dedication to discovering and elevating lesser-known authors who are doing great work but may not have been considered by major publishing houses. Kastner and her team take those amazing stories and help the authors elevate them, so readers get the absolute best groundbreaking stories."
I thought I had imposter syndrome at the start of the year, but now it's working overtime!
Whenever I'm asked about the novella, Memories of Green Rivers definitely does not fit neatly into a box. It's about traumatized people finding reasons to live after losing everything, and yet it's oddly an optimistic story about discovering mercy.
I went on a few dates with a writer/comedian a year and a half ago. She was awesome and hilarious. She's published in McSweeney's, something I'll forever be jealous of her about. I'm funny, but not classy funny. I'm Marc Maron-angsty funny, I think.
I was in the middle of writing this, and I was trying to sum up the story. She read it, smiled, and said: "It's about finding out none of us are our worst moments."
I think a lot about that sentence.
This novella was written against the backdrop of major life changes for me, and times of heavy self-reflection. I think about all the ways I've grown since COVID, and I've come to see clearly that this piece was mainly about piecing together my own self in light of these changes. A lot of writers talk about how they accidentally write themselves into their work, and the way I accidentally wrote myself into this piece was this: I had to rediscover mercy and self-forgiveness in my own life. I lost a lot during 2020, as I recently mentioned in a podcast interview. I was overly hard on myself in a lot of ways.
But through writing out the main character's journey, it was piece of my own self rediscovering mercy.
I wept several times writing it over the past two years, being deeply touched by the power of the message the story held. I view that definitely as God's hand at work in putting it together. To me, that is the central spiritual message to the piece.
And I hope readers who encounter the piece will walk away feeling the same thing:
None of us are our worst moments, and we can find the courage to pick ourselves up and try again.
I'm excited for the journey ahead, and what impact it may have on folks. I think this odd out-of-the-box story will touch people.
(It will be published in January 2025, so I'll be talking a bit about it over the next few months.)