Evangelina Everyday

In the dark of her bedroom, Evangelina McQuarry lay awake, her husband Russell snoring fitfully beside her like, she thought, some congested elephant. Evangelina opened her eyes. Evangelina closed her eyes. Evangelina concluded that whether her eyes were opened or closed made no difference whatsoever. — “Evangelina Prays for Downton Abbey”

Evangelina, as drawn by my daughter

You do not want to be inside Evangelina’s mind for long. Trust me on this.

Not that Evangelina is anything special. Evangelina is as everyday as women come. If she were a landscape, she’d be a patch of woods on the edge of a fallow Indiana field, her edges visible from all directions from miles away. Nothing special on the outside. A disturbance to nobody. One might think her a boring, self-contained Midwestern housewife.

But poke one foot into my thematic novel, Evangelina Everyday, and before you know it, you are in Evangelina’s undergrowth, her mind. Tamp down the black raspberry brambles there. Inside Evangelina’s mind a grocery store grid of saltines can paralyze, a longed for anniversary at Chicago’s Hotel Blake becomes a place from which to watch men in orange jumpsuits walk the exercise yard at the top of a skyscraper prison, dolphins swim at the edge of a town called Hicksville, and the tweets of a presidential candidate spark desperate dreams of poems carved into potatoes. Inside Evangelina’s mind, Downton Abbey characters, especially poor Edith, become people worth praying for in hopes that by praying, one’s own unhappy life might improve.

Rooted  in the minutiae of Midwestern life, Evangelina Everyday is focused around the inner life of one who suffers the annoyances of a Midwestern lifestyle in a manner all her own, a manner filled with anxious contemplation of the worth of her life. As a Midwestern grotesque character, Evangelina McQuarry has difficulty remembering things people aren’t supposed to forget: her favorite color, her real name. Many things make Evangelina uncomfortable, but bodies are the worst, especially cockroach bodies copulating, clacking and sliding against each other on top of a bedroom dresser in the middle of the night.

In 2018, Orison Books named Evangelina Everyday as a semifinalist for the Orison Fiction Prize.

In 2019, “Evangelina Contemplates ‘Prime Space'” was published in Women Under Scrutiny: An Anthology of Truths, Essays, Poems, Stories, and Art 

Evangelina Everyday will be published by Cornerstone Press in 2022.

Born Beneath Pedro’s Sombrero: Tales of Trauma and Triumph from the National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors

Trust does not come easy to me, and I cannot hold hope in my hands. But I know that Spanish moss can blow into the sky and soar a bird in flight, or dive into the sea and surface a dolphin. Holding tight to nothing, I could become anything, could become everything, could even become nothing at all. — “Born Beneath Pedro’s Sombrero”

As a fiction writer, I am particularly drawn to the strange and absurd. Born Beneath Pedro’s Roswell HondaSombrero:  Tales of Trauma and Triumph from the National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors is no exception. The stories in this thematic novel focus on fictional characters who grew up in or are otherwise connected to tourist attractions in the United States, from Dillon, South, Carolina’s South of the Border to Roswell, New Mexico’s International UFO Museum. To give this collection (mock) credibility, I have also created as the book’s “editor” a character closely associated with the National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors, herself a survivor of Tourist Attraction Trauma.

In 2001, I received an Albion College Faculty Development Grant funding travel and research for this project, which I used towards two extensive trips across the United States and visits to many a tourist attraction.

In May, 2009, “Raised in a Corn Palace” from this collection was awarded the Paul Somers Prize for Creative Prose from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature and was subsequently published in MidAmerica.

In April, 2014, I was awarded an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council on the basis of “Born Beneath Pedro’s Sombrero.”

Please visit the National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors page for more detailed information about the featured stories in this collection, and to help discern whether you too may be a victim of  Tourist Attraction Trauma.

Writing the Rails

In July of 2014, using funds from my Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, I embarked on a self-styled writers retreat in the form of a multi-stage train trip from Bryan, Ohio, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. With the company of friend and fellow writer Mary Catherine Harper, I carved out space to write, think, visit new IMG_0731 (1)places, talk with friends and strangers, and write some more. 

“Writing the Rails” was the unofficial name I gave to the trip and also to the journaling I did along the way.

An excerpt from my summer travels, the opening of my journey.

7 July 2014 – Day 1

Just minutes ago, my dear friend and fellow writer Mary Catherine Harper (MC to me) boarded Amtrak in Bryan, Ohio, and are now hurtling towards Chicago. Mentally I am trying to catch up to the reality that, yes, I am going on this grand adventure, and that the decisions to be made on the homefront can wait until I return.


Passing between fields of green Indiana corn, the charm of riding coach has yet to fade, as I know it will eventually. This is not the first time I’ve ridden a train, after all, and I certainly don’t plan on it being my last, no matter how infrequently I have such an opportunity.

Fellow passengers play on phones and tablets, headphones keeping their minds engaged in their own little worlds even as their bodies move West along with mine. For being so full of people, the train is quiet with only the occasional “Mommy! Mommy!” from several rows up. Passengers sleep, or try to, wrapped up in blankets from home.10488063_10152245107823525_7234568274955698510_n

Sitting next to me by the window, a man heads to New Orleans to see his children. He is younger than me, reddish hair, black glasses. Blue jeans and red and black striped polo. Beyond him, the window, and outside a woods I am passing through. I sway gently back and forth as the train slows, the brakes squeal, and a conductor walks through checking destinations on slips of colored paper–green and orange–above seats.

Kendallville, reads the water tower now within view, a marker of where I am in the world at this moment, and the familiarity of Indiana town names to this native Hoosier eases my spirit and I feel somehow like I belong. This may not be my hometown, but I am moving towards it, as I must to get to Chicago.  Outside the window to my left, a green park sectioned off in soccer fields. Outside the window to my right, a metal recycling lot with jagged silvery scrap jutting out from the heap at inevitable odd angles, and beyond this anarchy of scrap nonconformity, compressed blocks of scrap, cubes of packed metal awaiting fire, leftovers longing to be made into something new.

Screen Shot 2021-09-26 at 4.07.54 PMAnd now the backyards. The blue above-ground pools and the tidy Indiana gardens. Orange trumpet vine climbs over brown picket fence just as it always climbed the wire fence separating my childhood home from U.S. Highway 30. Trumpet vine always does what it wants, climbing fences and houses, clogging septic systems and popping up through floor registers, its bold orange flowers its one saving grace.

The Moose Lodge, the Kendallville Pawn Shop, the abandoned factory of steadfast brick and broken windows, the painted black and white “Office” sign fading into the dull red brick that underlies everything. Slowly, slowly, we pass under a highway and out the other side, and again the fields and the green, a crane in a marsh, a church, and a hospital, orange windsock giving a sign of the wind’s direction.

I like best the green fields and marshes, the staccato of dead trees rising from the still water. The green surrounds and calms me, but the buildings and the people, they surrender untold stories.

I am on a train and I am traveling. I will hear and I will write stories.