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March 9, 2023

By Karen McElmurray, fiction and creative nonfiction faculty

Having a string of days of, well, serious doubt. Doubt about my writing and the choices I have made to support my art. Doubt about the work being meaningful enough—both to the region I come from and to the people I have lived among after a life of so many moves and so many changes. Doubt is an addictive elixir, a mind-altering potion, a deep, watery distance. I hate its power. And then there are moments that remind me to believe. At the gym yesterday I was by the big window and watched two red foxes chase each other into the woods beside the gym. I shouted out in surprise, foxes, foxes! No one looked up much except for a man lifting weights near me. He was walking on two canes, and we went over to the window. We peered outside and then fell to talking. He has had MS for about five years and he works out four times a week. He has young sons, a wife he loves, and he wants to be strong. He’s come to this gym for seventeen years and is determined to keep doing so. I loved his smile. We were by the windows a long while, waiting to see if the foxes might return.


Karen Salyer McElmurray’s Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey was an AWP Award Winner for Creative Nonfiction. Wanting Radiance, her newest novel, has just been released in paperback from University Press of Kentucky, and Voice Lessons, a short collection of lyric essays, was released in 2021 from Iris Press. Her other novels are The Motel of the Stars, an Editor’s Pick by Oxford American, and Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven, winner of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing. Her nonfiction work has been awarded the Annie Dillard Award for Essay, the New Southerner Award, the Orison Anthology Award for Creative Nonfiction and, most recently, the LitSouth Award. She co-edited, with poet Adrian Blevins, an essay collection called Walk till the Dogs Get Mean.


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