Author Kristen Arnett Speaks at Valencia’s East Campus

Mickenzie Hannon, Contributor

Florida native and award-winning author Kristen Arnett made a visit to Valencia East Campus library to read from her newly published novel, Mostly Dead Things, and to give literary and life advice to Valencia students on Oct. 1.

Arnett made her start as a librarian and is known for her work in writing queer fiction, short fiction and essays – she is also a columnist for Literary Hub. Arnett received awards and accolades such as the Ninth Letter’s 2015 Literary Award in Fiction.  Additionally, her work for Literary Hub has been recognized at North American Review, The Rumpus, and McSweeney’s. Her story collection, Felt in the Jaw, which was published by Split Lip Press, was awarded the 2017 Coil Book Award.

Arnett introduced herself and described how she perceived short fiction writing to be “a single moment in time that is captured.”

As the event progressed, attendees learned a lot about Arnett and her writing process with short fiction and novels. “Normally writing a short story, I compare it to a moment inside a snow globe,” Arnett said.

A uniqueness of Arnett’s writing is her use of intricate descriptions of Florida, which is learned directly from her experiences of living there her entire life. These descriptions are evident in Mostly Dead Things, a New York Times Bestseller. Arnett admitted that Mostly Dead Things began as a short story, but after realizing that it felt unfinished, it slowly developed into a novel. Mostly Dead Things tells the coming-of-age story of a lesbian, Jessa, who has to cope after the suicide death of her father – from whom she inherited a taxidermy business. 

“For me, as a person, I like people to laugh. I like to think about comedy or what makes things funny in very broad ways,” Arnett said of her novel. “In writing this book, I was thinking a lot about grief, loss, and how do we deal with that. A lot of the times, when we deal with grief and loss, we have to find some humor in things or we just can’t get through it. In the course of this book, I found myself trying to make these dark humor places happen because, without it, the pressure feels like too much.”

Arnett is currently working to publish a short fiction collection that she describes as “lesbian domestic,” which will focus on the experiences of queer people in households and their everyday challenges. Arnett is also working to publish a novel discussing the relationships between mothers and sons.

Valencia’s East Campus hosts three literary events during the fall semester that feature guest authors. The literary events are free to attend and refreshments are provided. The next literary event will feature authors Shawn Welcome and Raymond Jimenez on Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Building 8 Room 101 at Valencia East Campus.