The Watery Part of the World


By Michael Parker

Formats and Prices





  1. Trade Paperback $13.95
  2. ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 5, 2012. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Michael Parker’s vast and involving novel about pirates and slaves, treason and treasures, madness and devotion, takes place on a tiny island battered by storms and cut off from the world. Inspired by two little-known moments in history, it begins in 1813, when Theodosia Burr, en route to New York by ship to meet her father, Aaron Burr, disappears off the coast of North Carolina. It ends a hundred and fifty years later, when the last three inhabitants of a remote island—two elderly white women and the black man who takes care of them—are forced to leave their beloved spot of land. Parker tells an enduring story about what we’ll sacrifice for love, and what we won’t.





Nag’s Head, North Carolina

THE DAY WHALEY CAME for her she had spent among the live oaks, huddling and shivering in the squalls of frigid rain. The low tight trees provided tolerable canopy, yet eventually the driving rain came at her sideways. No protection from its furious winds. The coast brought out the worst in rain. What a few miles inland would have been restorative, replenishing, here seemed unutterably desperate. The hues, or, rather, hue, of the landscape exacerbated the loneliness, for everything turned the dun color of wet sand. Even the dull green of the live-oak leaves. Especially the roiling ocean.

Hours in the wet sand. She knew she needed to rouse herself and stroll the beach, for that was where they would be searching for her, the party her father would have sent to rescue her, but she could not summon the strength to abandon her paltry shelter. Her shivering turned the supplications she repeated into stutter. But her father heard. Late in the day he came to sit with her. He covered her in blankets, pulled dry wood from a satchel. He made her a cup of tea. Cakes and fresh strawberries. Don’t speak, child, he said when she tried to form syllables unbroken by shiver, tried to tell him how she had come to be abandoned on this island: how the ship she’d boarded in Charleston to visit him in New York hit high wind and rough water off the Outer Banks of North Carolina; how she’d left her maidservant retching below deck and made her way topside to find even the captain ashen and unsettled; how, through the wind-slanted rain, Theo had spied a blinking, had pointed to the ship and they’d made for it, only it wasn’t a ship but a lantern tied to the head of a nag by thieves luring ships to the shallows; how, when Theo was brought above deck by the men who boarded the ship and presented to their leader, Daniels, she had refused to let go of the portrait she had brought along to present to her father upon his return from exile in Europe; how the woman in the portrait had spoken to her and how she had spoken back to the woman, who was no longer a reasonable likeness of her but her protector and savior; how she had screamed her name, her father’s name, what stray phrases entered her head: I do not love my husband the governor I am the empress of Mexico not a ship at all but the head of a nag; how Daniels, disturbed by her outburst, had deemed her “touched by God,” and spared her life. How this was the moment Theodosia Burr Alston died, and the woman who spent her days scouring the beaches for the glint of a bottle, a sheet of parchment curled within, her father’s beautifully slanted hand visible beneath the sea-clouded glass, was less born than unsheathed, for who was she all along but a fraud incapable of the simplest virtues.

She explained none of this to her father because he would not let her speak. Every time she tried he shushed her and drew the blanket tighter around her body. The fire caught and crackled as he fed it. Never before had she been so comforted by such an essential element as fire.

He said, finally: It’s a pity, the way the world treats its most vigilant servants. Both of us end up exiled from the things we love. Sent to some purgatory where we are doomed to hide who we really are.

She asked why.

Oh Theo, it’s not for me to answer why such hardships occur in the world.

No, why us? Why is this happening to us? What did we do to deserve this? For surely we provoked it?

You speak as if we’re such great sinners, he said. The fire was dying down. His voice was as cold and gray as the ocean twisting and crashing in the distance.

Father, she said, but he was gone, as was his fire, the warm mug of cinnamon-spiced tea.

In his place hovered the other island ward. Old Whaley, he was called. On his knees in the wet sand, one hand holding back a branch. She blinked, as if this would make him disappear. But he was even more present when she opened her eyes.

They watched each other. Rain dripped off their noses, their chins. Theo had seen him only a few times, always in the distance: moving over a dune, disappearing into a copse. He lived alone in a lean-to in a wood by the sound. A hermit, he sold his catch or traded it for sugar, coffee, his few store-bought needs. Mostly he survived on what he scavenged. He looked like it—rail thin, skin the ghastly gray-white of a fish belly. His beard was a tangle. Yet nothing could dampen his eyes, which were vivid blue beacons.

“Come with me now, miss,” said Whaley. She realized, staring at him, that he was a lot younger than most who called him Old Whaley.

Since he too was a ward, did that mean she had to keep up her pretense around him?

Just in case, she fell back on her failsafe silence.

Whaley shrugged. “You want to stay here? Out in this mess? It’s set in now.”

He raised his shoulders again, no shrug this time, but a respectful acknowledgment of the heavens—perhaps of the God whose touch damned and saved the both of them. Theo could only acknowledge the irony of God’s touch determining her fate. Her faith was Sabbath faith, and her lack of devotion if made known to even one other person or even fully admitted in her heart would have filled her great-grandfather Jonathan Edwards with ire and shame. God was the one thing lacking in her rigorously modern and masculine education, since her father, the son and grandson of preachers, had replaced the Calvinist dogma of his youth with freethinking Greeks and Romans after reading Mary Wollstonecraft and deciding his daughter should be educated as he had been, minus the scripture.

“It’ll not likely let up anytime soon,” said Old Whaley.

She looked past him at the screen of rain.

“I don’t have much but it’s dry.”

She spoke before she could stop herself. “Do you have a fire?”

He smiled. She saw his brown chiseled teeth and thought of food and of a place to stay for more than a few nights. For months they had moved her around the island, sheltered her in shacks and sound-side cottages. The families who had been ordered to take her in all but ignored her. Mostly she ate what would have been slopped in those households lucky enough to own a few pigs. If she was lucky, she got salt fish, biscuits, tack. Vegetables were dreamed. Fantasies of fresh ears of corn slick with hot butter, salt-studded. What a thing to dream, given all her thousand wants, yet there it was in front of her, slowly spinning, golden with promise as a rising sun.

“Yes. I have a fireplace.” He nodded and scooted out backward. Beyond the thin shelter of her live oak, he turned and waited. But she hesitated. She’d been talking to her father and blinked awake to find Old Whaley. Therefore this Whaley was a figment. What awaited her should she follow was surely worse than a few more frigid hours beneath her tree.

“Come on then,” he said. “Let’s get you next to that fire.”

She shook her head no.

“You’ll die out here,” he said. She watched the wisps his words made. What was language but steam? Better not to speak at all than to waste precious breath in a dissipating cloud.

Old Whaley went away. Her father did not return. Only Theo and the wind, rain-laden, unrelenting, determined to take both her and island apart.



Yaupon Island, North Carolina

AFTER SO MANY STORMS hit the island the people started to move away. Back pews and balcony of the church thinned so much the preacher asked the couple dozen of them still in attendance to spread out so it would look like he’d drawn a crowd. Weeks later the preacher himself went off island, hymnals he said he needed, and never came back. Woodrow watched those last to arrive leave first, and in time the descendents of families who had been around as long as the wild island ponies, rumored remnants of seventeenth-century Spanish explorers shipwrecked along the Outer Banks, packed it in for Salter Path, Beaufort, Elizabeth City, anyplace not stuck out here on this six square miles of sea oat and hummock afloat off the cocked hip of North Carolina.

Then Wilma blew through, taking with it the power and the light and Woodrow’s dear sweet Sarah, love of his days and mother of his eleven children. After Wilma it was only the three of them left: Woodrow Thornton on the sound side of the creek, Miss Whaley and Miss Maggie up what they’d called the hill. Sisters, though night and day different: Maggie with her dirty same old skirt and that T-shirt her boy lover had given her years earlier, her dead daddy’s old waders she wore to slosh across the creek nights when she came stumbling down to this place to hide out from her prissy sister, who in all the years Woodrow had been knowing her had always worn a plain brown dress down to her shins almost and hid her hair up in a bobby-pinned bun. Woodrow hated hearing those boots squishing his porch boards, though he could not blame Maggie wanting to get away from Whaley. He did a good amount of hiding out from her himself, stuck mostly to his side of the creek.

Those that Woodrow called the Tape Recorders, down from Raleigh twice a year with their questions and their tape machines, liked to point out to Woodrow what they thought he’d not taken note of: three breathing bodies left on this island and a Colored Town right on until the end. But that was the way it was and the way it was going to be and Woodrow had a sweet spread of close to four acres where he kept his stock and in the season ran an ornery little garden, eggplant, radish, turnips, squash, beans, okra, watermelon, anything what would not mind some sand. He and his people had long since got used to staying off by themselves, though since it was only the three of them left, Woodrow was all the time having to cross the creek up to where his white women lived.

Sisters, but Miss Maggie had got married and then unmarried and hated to be called by Midgette, her ex-husband’s name, so she went by her first, not that hardly anybody’d be inclined to call her anything but. She stayed like a child on up into her sixties, dressed so don’t-give-a-damn, like she struck out of a morning bone-naked and that ratty skirt and that nearly see-through, stretch-necked T-shirt dropped out of the sky and she scrambled into them only to keep the sun from getting up anywhere it might sting. She did not give a damn about a whole lot, clothes and what people thought she’d look like in or out of them either.

Lord God, her big sister cared. She cared about names, now. She clung to that family name of Whaley like the three of them clung to their island after the storms kept coming, though it was her first name, the one nobody ever called her for years and years—Theodosia—that really puffed her up. She’d tell anybody about her famous ancestor, daughter of some famous white man shot some other famous white man. Sarah used to say, Me, I couldn’t go claiming some cold killer, I believe I’d be leaving him out of my tree. That’s all she got to claim I reckon, Woodrow’d say, not really defending her, but seeming like it to Sarah, surely. But Whaley, well—she’d been named after the daughter of this famous killer and above everything she cherished a picture of the woman hung over her fireplace.

But Whaley would as soon drag up something happened to her great-great-great-grandmother than to root around in what across the sound had gotten up to 1970. Woodrow only knew this because his oldest boy, Crawl, wrote and said so. Woodrow didn’t think in year-of-our-Lords. He thought: wind, tide, moon, blues running, hog killing, oyster harvesting, when to plant his ornery sand garden. He didn’t have a thing against numbers but now that Sarah was gone what really was the point of keeping a count? Crawl wanted him to know, though. He kept reminding him, as if it meant the same on the island as it did off. One night the three of them were sitting on the steps of the church listening to Whaley read aloud the grocery store ads, and Maggie read Woodrow Crawl’s letter. Crawl claimed he’d given up fishing menhaden out of Morehead to run a club up near Lenoxville. Said in his letter he’d purchased this spinning ball for the club, had it shipped down from Baltimore, said the insurance on the ball was more than what Woodrow spent in a year. Woodrow didn’t doubt that. He did not trade in paper or coin unless he was over to Meherrituck to stock up on store-bought for him and the sisters. He didn’t see what a spinning ball or insurance for it was doing in a letter Crawl wrote to him. Didn’t he have anything else to allow? Or was this what people wrote letters about, talked about, across the sound in 1970?

Maggie read aloud how Crawl said he’d spent all he’d saved up fishing menhaden on the inside and outside decor of his club and it was, if he said so himself, looking mighty fine. Y’all have to come up and see it, Daddy, all the High Life you can drink on the house.

Who did Crawl mean, y’all? Surely not the white women who he knew were reading his letter aloud on the church steps to his illiterate daddy. Woodrow tried to imagine the three of them stepping into Crawl’s club. Miss Maggie would not even notice all the black heads switching around to stare her out when she walked up in there—she’d be at the bar about the time it took for Woodrow to get in the door good—but Miss Whaley would rather swear on the grave of her famous ancestor than go in any club, much less a colored one with a spinning ball, insured or not.

Crawl closed like always, telling his daddy he needed to think about leaving the island and moving in with him and his Vanessa and all them kids over in Morehead and Maggie like always left that part out though Woodrow could tell what was not read, he could hear it in her sucked-in breath, could see the unread words tightening her eyes up under those reading glasses.

She did read, this time, about how Crawl claimed he was coming across in a couple weeks, bringing the young’uns. Told Woodrow he better get to work, catch them some croaker to fry. But Crawl liked to claim he was coming over there and then get busy with something else, inside and outside club decor, whatever it was people got busy with across over in 1970.

Then the letter was over but not over because all three of them knew what was left out. They always waited a moment or two in silence after the letter, like they were observing the words not read aloud, which did not make a damn bit of sense to Woodrow since they were the ones leaving it out. This time he could not listen to their silence. He jumped right in after the Your Son, Crawl, said, “Write Crawl tell him send us over one of them balls, we’ll put it in the church, hang it up above the old organ, reckon that’s what you do with one of them.”

Now what made him say such a thing? Why should he be the one acting all embarrassed because they did not want to tell him straight out the words his son had written to him?

Miss Maggie said, “I have no earthly idea what Crawl’s talking about!” But Miss Whaley pretended she knew. She acted like she knew all about everything because she read the Norfolk paper. Well, part of it. Really all she liked to read were the ads. Every morning Woodrow poled his skiff out to fish for dinner. Most days, good weather allowing, he stayed out to meet the O’Malley boys out of Meherrituck bringing in the mail off the Pine Island ferry. “Be sure you give me all them flyers,” he’d say every time, and the O’Malleys would hand him a bunch of grocery and dime store circulars sent over from the mainland advertising everything. Miss Whaley liked to call out the prices at night. “They got turkey breast twenty-nine cents a pound! Look at these chairs, I wouldn’t have one of them in my shed and they’re wanting thirty dollars a piece, not a pair, I wouldn’t own one myself.”

All it took to make Woodrow wonder how come he stayed around after Wilma was to sit around on the church steps long enough to hear Whaley say such things three times a night about a two-week-old manager’s special one hundred miles away up in Norfolk.

But most of the time he’d never wonder how come he stayed. He’d never go lusting after some spinning ball, dancing up under it, imagining how such a ball, lit by special bulbs, would glitter diamonds all up and down your partner. He’d never get lost in a vision of him twirling sweet Sarah in a waterspout of diamonds because evenings he’d sit on his porch and stare out across the marsh to where night came rolling blue-black and final over the sound and he’d say no thank you to some ball, we got stars.

Not long after Crawl wrote about his club—couple weeks Woodrow reckoned—he showed up on the island. Had three of his boys with him. Woodrow hadn’t seen him in a while. Crawl was wearing his hair springy long and had on wide-legged pants made out of looked like cardboard and zip-up ankle boots. Woodrow picked up the littlest of the grandbabies, knee baby also named Woodrow, had some dried salt around his eyes from where the crossing had beat tears out of him. Woodrow wiped away the salt and some snot with a rag, then took the boy inside and scrubbed at his face, trying to be Sarah and Woodrow all at once, pushing food on the boys, some three-day-old bread with butter which they carried around in their hands like they didn’t know what to do with food not bought off a shelf in a store.

Everything was different now with Sarah gone. Nothing was easy.

Crawl sent the boys down to poke around the empty houses waiting on their owners to come back, sitting up on brickbat haunches like a dog will do you when you go off for a while. Woodrow and Crawl sat on the porch and Crawl pulled out a pint of Canadian.

Smooth as liver, he claimed. “Have a drink, Daddy.”

Woodrow took a pull though he favored a High Life. Crawl talked on about his club. Night Life was what he was calling it. He had some pictures of it. To Woodrow the club wasn’t much from the outside: cinder-block hut, oystershell parking lot, big old ditch out in front for drunks to get their ride stuck in. He showed some pictures of the inside that was dark and red and Woodrow said, “Un-hunh, okay, all right, I see, that’s nice.” Seemed like he made sounds, not words. He’d look up from the pictures wanting his grandbabies to come back. He wanted to take them down to the inlet and let them jerk crabs out of the sound on a chicken liver tied to a string, but when finally he mentioned going after them Crawl said, “Naw, we got to get back across.”

“Y’all can’t stay through? Plenty of room for all y’all.”

Crawl reached down, tugged at his boot zipper. To Woodrow, boots ought not to come with a zipper, but it was Crawl’s feet, he could cover them however he wanted.

Crawl said, “I reckon those boys used to electricity.” Then he added, all of a sudden loud, “Besides, we didn’t come over here to stay, we came over here to get you to come back with us.”

Woodrow couldn’t see himself going anywhere with duded-up Crawl. He smiled and asked after Crawl’s wife’s people who he used to know a little when he lived in Morehead, where if you asked him everybody put too much notion into how long and wide and clean was the car somebody drove around town.

“Everybody’s doing fine,” said Crawl. “But me and Violet and the boys, we worry about you over here all alone now.”

When Woodrow said he wasn’t alone, seemed like Crawl’d been hiding in a blind with his gun cocked, waiting on these very words to fly out of Woodrow’s mouth.

“You know you don’t got to stay here looking after them sisters until they die or you one. Those women don’t have no business staying over here anyway. Surely they got some kin somewhere will take them in.”

“Them two?” said Woodrow. He didn’t know of any kin, or even any friends except little Liz who worked for Dr. Levinson running his tape machine and slapping mosquitoes off his neck and making sure he ate something. Anymore, little Liz was about the only person he knew who even checked in on them. She wrote letters that Whaley claimed were only to her but whenever Maggie snatched them out of her sister’s hand and read them aloud they always asked after her and said something too about him, How’s Woodrow, Tell Woodrow I’m going to bring him some peaches, even once, Give Woodrow my love, which made Maggie snicker and liked to got away with Whaley.

“All I’m saying is, it’s not your job to look after them. Older they get worse it’s going to be. Least now they can still walk down to the dock to meet the mail boat.”

“We ain’t had mail in three years,” said Woodrow. “I been catching O’Malley and them out in the channel when they come back from meeting the ferry.”

Crawl shook his head at this, as if Woodrow wasn’t out on the water most days anyway.

“Come on, Daddy, just pack a bag. You don’t need much, I’ll carry you back across over here any time you want to go, let’s get in the boat.”

The boys were back by then, sitting on the steps, listening in. Woodrow got up and hugged little Woodrow so hard the boy went to squirm. When he embraced the older two he felt in their slack muscles the beginnings of that eye-cutting stage. They would not be coming back to the island to see him. Woodrow even wondered if they were not old enough for Crawl to run his daddy down in front of them. Look at your old granddaddy fussing after his white women, what for?

He sat out on the dock, finishing the pint of Canadian that Crawl had left him, watching the sun sink over the water and wondering what he’d be over there, off island, across the sound. Now who would he be over there? This he could not say but it wasn’t what they all thought: scared to find out. There were some things he feared—he didn’t think you could live and not be scared of something—say the Pamlico Sound, known to go from glassy to six-foot seas in an hour. Other people, their strange and unknowable motives, scared him. The lonely time that come up on him after Sarah died, swooped up close overhead like a vee of geese.

Fear of what they’d be if they left the island might have been what kept the sisters over here, though they had their other reasons, surely. Maggie would do right much what her big sister said when it came right down to it. Else, why was she still here? Why didn’t she leave when that Boyd asked her to go away with him? If she would not leave then, she’d not be leaving this island.

Whaley, well: seems like she stayed for when the Tape Recorders come over from Raleigh every spring. Every April, always the fat bearded one with his bird glasses called himself a doctor but would not look at Miss Maggie’s bad toes and for the past ten years little Liz, who Woodrow liked.

Whaley lived to get that letter said the Tape Recorders were due to visit. A good month before they arrived she spent setting up the Salter place where they stayed, planning meals, fetching items from Meherrituck, which meant Woodrow was the one running himself ragged to prepare for their arrival, all Whaley’s errands on top of his daily chores.

The moment they stepped off the boat Whaley’d switch into her high-tider talk, what the Tape Recorders loved to call an Old English brogue. They claimed Woodrow spoke it too, though how Woodrow could have come out talking like an Old English did not square with the story they liked to tell about how he’d come to be on this island in the first place. Said Woodrow’s people were brought over back when the island did big business as a seaport. Seven hundred settlers and one hundred of them slaves. Ships too heavy with goods to cross the bar needed their cargoes transferred to smaller vessels to navigate the shallows. Lightering, they called it, and his people were the ones did the lightering. That was before the war come and the Confederates turned tail and abandoned the fort over on Meherrituck and that time it wasn’t a storm forced everybody off island except the slaves and a single white woman named Ophelia Roberts, so fat she could not fit through the front door. Like as not Woodrow’s people took care of her until the war was over and only half the population of the island returned from the mainland, according to the Tape Recorders. Then it was a steady dwindling. Ships went north to Hatteras where a storm had opened up a new inlet. Woodrow heard all this from the Tape Recorders and yet he’d heard other stories contradicted their so-called facts. His own father had talked about his ancestor, a man named Hezekiah Thornton his daddy claimed come to the island a free man. Never did a lick of lightering in his days, according to Woodrow’s daddy.

He could have come back at the Tape Recorders with all this but Woodrow did not much mess with them. Oh, he’d sit for them but he wouldn’t answer the questions like they wanted him to because seemed to Woodrow they had the answers already, that the questions were swole up with the answer, like a snake had swallowed a frog. Tell us what it has been like for your family living here all these years the only blacks on the island. How have you kept up with your heritage? Do you think the gains of the civil rights movement have reached you here on this island? How have these gains affected your day-to-day existence?

Woodrow said the only thing affecting his day-to-day existence was where them fish was hiding.

The story of the three of them on this island, to Woodrow’s mind, was just that: three people on an island. You could even leave off the island part, though the Tape Recorders, why would they do that? They wanted to turn it into something else again: something they wanted to believe in, something about how lost the three of them were across the water, all cut off from the rest of the world and turned peculiar because of it.

Seemed to Woodrow they weren’t all that interested in Maggie’s telling her side of the story because she’d up and start in on something inside of her, which the Tape Recorders, excepting that little Liz who tended just to let you talk, weren’t interested at all in what somebody felt. Also, Maggie when it came down to it did not give a squat for history. She lived up in the right along through now.

Well, no, Woodrow took that one back. He believed it was Boyd she thought about nearly all the time, not Boyd as he was now, across the sound, but Boyd back when she had him, Boyd when he got off the boat and come asking Woodrow to teach him to fish, young Boyd, green smiley innocent Boyd.


  • “A remarkable story . . . The entire novel has a blue-green, underwater feel, a timeless forgetfulness.”
    Los Angeles Times
  • i"Parker invokes magic as well as mystery in exploring the ways the past not only haunts the present but in some ways anticipates it. Like Faulkner and O'Connor, Parker creates a place of beauty and complexity which, in the end, one is reluctant to leave...A vividly imagined historical tale of isolated lives." --Kirkus Reviews
    Washington Post
  • “This is a highly readable study of fear, compulsion, and what it means to be trapped. The writing is smoky and beautiful; the lonely island setting is the most compelling character in the story. Against this backdrop, Parker delves into the human heart and distills for his readers the truths found there.”—Library Journal

    Publishers Weekly
  • “In a lush feat of historical speculation, Michael Parker imagines that Theo survived a pirate attack off the coast of North Carolina and lived out a long, conflicted life on one of the barrier islands. The Watery Part of the World — that evocative title comes from ­Moby-Dick — is an emotionally acute tale about a brilliant woman of privilege who must suddenly use her wits to avoid dismemberment, rape and starvation… … [Parker] lays out a bewitching triangle of dependent relationships in this inclement Gothic tale.” --Washington Post
    Los Angeles Times
  • "Parker's complex world is stocked with compelling characters brought to life by elegant prose." --Publishers Weekly

    People Magazine
  • “A remarkable story… The entire novel has a blue-green, underwater feel, a timeless forgetfulness.”—Los Angeles Times
  • “Parker slices open each isolated life with humor and gentleness, and the familiar battles with loss and loneliness he chronicles makes even this remotest of locations feel close to home.”—People
  • “Parker slices open each isolated life with humor and gentleness, and the familiar battles with loss and loneliness he chronicles make even this remotest of locations feel close to home.”
    People, 4-star review
  • “I found The Watery Part of the World all but impossible to put down . . . This elegantly written tale reflects on the nature of race, love, regret, dependence, fear, sorrow, honor and envy—the eternal challenges of being human. The characters, even the minor ones, are fully formed, the setting is so vividly described that you feel you know it intimately, and Parker’s writing is purely wonderful.” —Nancy Pearl,
  • “A lush feat of historical speculation . . . Disparate parts—pirates and aristocrats in one century; elderly ladies and their handyman in another . . . But Parker has managed to stir them together in a vivid tale about the tenacity of habit and the odd relationships that form in very small, difficult places.”
    The Washington Post

On Sale
Jun 5, 2012
Page Count
288 pages
Algonquin Books

Michael Parker

Michael Parker

About the Author

The author of seven novels and three collections of stories, Michael Parker has been awarded four career-achievement awards: the Hobson Award for Arts and Letters, the North Carolina Award for Literature, the R. Hunt Parker Award, and the 2020 Thomas Wolfe Prize. His short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Oxford American, Runner’s World, Men's Journal, and others. He is a three-time winner of the O. Henry Prize for his short fiction and his work has appeared in dozens of magazines and several anthologies. He taught for twenty-seven years in the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and since 2009 he has been on the faculty of the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Learn more about this author