Elise earned her Master's in Fiction Writing at the University of New Hampshire, where she received the Tom Williams Memorial for fiction writing and the Charait Award for best short story. She has since taught fiction writing at The New School in NYC, in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire, and at various summer writing conferences.
Elise's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Ploughshares, the Gettysburg Review, the Missouri Review, Good Housekeeping, the Hudson Review, Harvard Review, and many other publications. She is the recipient of the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction from Ploughshares and her work has been cited in The Best American Short Stories.
Elise now spends summers writing on an island in Maine and the rest of the year teaching in Philadelphia, where she directs the undergraduate Creative Writing Program at the University of the Arts.
Elise Juska's website
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A conversation with Elise Juska, author of The Blessings
What inspired you to write a novel about a family?
In a way, I feel as though as I've been writing this novel, or some version of it, for a long time. When I was in college and graduate school, I wrote several short stories about close extended families, always with this central imagethe aunts around the dining room table, the uncles gathered around the TV, the quiet emphasis on food and children.
I grew up in a big family, one of sixteen cousins on my mother's side, and as I've gotten older, I've thought a lot about what the particular experience of being from a big family means. For me, and I imagine this is fairly common, the familythe beliefs and traditions, that long shared historyis a crucial part of who I am. At the same time, there are parts of my life that remain separate, and private, that the family couldn't or wouldn't know. Figuring out how to write the story I'd been circling since college was probably in part a matter of maturityapproaching the subject with more experience and (hopefully) more insightand finding the right form in which to tell it.
You grew up in Philadelphia and ...
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