Shelly Catterson

Shelly and Dave EggersEducation

B.A., The Evergreen State College, 1993
M.F.A., Vermont College

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Wolverine Farm

Biographical Note

So far, I've finished my book of short stories, MEDICINE WEATHER, a jillion times ~ most recently the winter of 2014 (February). And I've worked on a memoir titled MUD (about my mom's sudden death when I was ten) since 1997. I plan to finish a full draft by this summer. Both books have some impressive readers right now, but I don't have a definite acceptance for publication yet.

Wolverine Farm Publishing in Fort Collins, Colorado printed three of my short stories. This small press is a non-profit community with a volunteer-run book store. My first public reading beyond graduate school took place at New Belgium Brewery, a long-time supporter of Wolverine Farm. My second was in Denver's gorgeous LEON Gallery. Since then, we've held many readings, including a release at the Tattered Cover (also in Denver) soon after the floods last fall.

This year, I am helping to support Wolverine Farm as they expand into a new building. The new space will host literary and community events, a letter press print shop, a bicycle museum, local art, coffee and beer. My grandmother's family in Wyoming donated a letter press from their old school supply business for this new building.

Stories on Stage (professional actors reading short stories) is also very supportive of my work and I've sent their director several stories to consider for next season.

And though I live in the mountains, I work part-time at Boulder Book Store, a forty year old local business. As a writer, reader and bookseller, I am a fanatic about independent book stores and supporting writers and artists.

Publication Type

Fiction

Latest Publication

A Poetic Inventory of Rocky Mountain National Park (Wolverine Farm Publishing)

Publication Excerpt

AIRSTREAM

While his father recovered from being in a coma, Porter asked permission to borrow the family Airstream. “Adelante,” his father said, though he never spoke to Porter in Spanish before the accident. His words still limited in any language, he added, “Go outside.” He tried to gesture with his hands but his muscles didn’t quite let him. Porter’s father was Inuit by blood; the Spanish came from Porter’s mother, a woman Porter didn’t know, except through stories.

A neighbor agreed to stay with his father while Porter went camping in the trailer five miles away. Porter brought Frida with him, and they called the outing a Date, as if they were from the city. But he knew the best way to learn about a woman was to take her into the woods. He’d met Frida inside an abandoned cabin while his father couldn’t gesture at all. Porter hadn’t gone anywhere since his father came home from the hospital months ago.

After they parked, they got ready to grill buffalo burgers. As Porter worked on the fire, Frida disappeared into the Airstream and emerged wearing a lime green gown with her usual red Chuck Taylors. She laughed and covered her face with her hands, but then twirled around once. Porter glanced down at his jeans, lit the kindling with his father’s lighter and gave her a peck on the cheek. “I’ll be right back,” he said, lunging into the trailer.

When he appeared still wearing the jeans but also a vest and duct tape bow-tie, his hair braided, he asked Frida to dance. He skipped pulling on a shirt, since he felt too hot already and didn’t want to keep her waiting. Within moments, they both realized that her country swing and his Puerto Rican salsa were not so different. In fact, those two dances could almost be long lost cousins.

When Porter dipped her, she said, “Wow, this waist is crazy tight. I don’t know if I’ll be able to eat dinner unless I take this thing off.”

“I’ll help you take it off,” he said, very serious. Frida raised her eyebrows twice.

“I don’t know how my mother did it,” she said, her head falling back, watching the fire and the aspen trees upside down.

“Is the dress hers?” he asked. Frida only nodded, hanging from his arms. “Did you ask her permission, or are you trespassing as usual?”

“My mom knows,” she said and glanced away. His own father found out everything from small town neighbors, and Porter wondered what his father might hear that night. But he hoped his father would sleep without his wicked flashbacks.

When Porter drove his truck into that tree, the noise paralyzed him. The sound of the brakes, the collapsing metal, his father’s screaming made muscles useless. When the noise stopped and all he could hear was the creek, Porter fainted. Next to that creek, he did nothing to save his father.

Additional Publications

"In the Mean Time, We Watch Them Dance" (Story) in MATTER Journal 14 ~ Animal, by Wolverine Farm Publishing
"Hurricane Tequila" (Story) in MATTER Journal 15 ~ East Coast, by Wolverine Farm
See Open to Interpretation
Forthcoming (in 2014):
"Sideburns" (Story and Honorable Mention) in Open to Interpretation's book "Love and Lust" (Short writings based on photographs), by Taylor and O'Neill, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Stories chosen and read by professional actors for Stories on Stage:
"Rebels" (at Su Teatro in Denver by Buntport Theater actors for a Flash Fiction show)
"Ready to Burn" (at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art for their "Love Stories and Other Disasters" show)

How did Evergreen help you in your career?

My friend Drew taught me the basic steps of the Mambo when we read "Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love." Sandra Simon was an inspiring creative genius who never wrote herself, but encouraged all of us to dance the Mambo in class. Marilyn Frasca gave a new wild depth to my journals and my visual art. A student writing tutor named Theo gave me an enormous ego for at least three days (in the winter). Russ Fox somehow eased my stage fright. Pete Sinclair told me I should stop writing ~ and if I couldn't, well then, I was stuck being a writer.

Similar to my alternative high school in Evergreen, Colorado (Mountain Open High), Evergreen kept me writing all the time. And when I couldn't take another grey winter, Evergreen let me move back to Colorado and just write (highly mediocre) stories for my last year.

Also, because of Evergreen, I get to tell people that not only did I grow up in the territory of "South Park" but I went to the same college as the creator of "The Simpsons." (Not to mention that amazing Lynda Barry, who can sing "You Are My Sunshine" with her mouth closed.)

(And yes, that is Dave Eggers in the photo, another down-to-earth writer who uses his powers for good.)