‘Still Life with Horses’ Nominated as Finalist for the Midwest Independent Publishing Association Award

Still Life with Horses, winner of the Howling Bird Press 2017 Nonfiction Prize, has been nominated as a finalist for the Midwest Independent Publishing Association Award in the category of Autobiography/Memoir. For author Jean Harper, the success of her memoir has been a long process that began with the death of one her best friends; a horse named Buddy. In a recent interview with the online literary blog The Review Review, Harper said that “when you love an animal it’s almost a primal thing. You speak in ways beyond language, through the body; so when you’re writing about that animal, it’s as though the whole body is writing. It’s exhausting; it’s exhilarating.”

A prolific writer, Harper’s first book is titled Rose City: A Memoir of Work. Her essays have appeared in The Florida Review, North American Review, Iowa Review, Harpur Palate, Yemasee Review, and elsewhere. She also teaches writing and literature at Indiana University East. When asked about the her process of writing Still Life with Horses, Harper said that at first “it was a big bloated mess of a draft, but that’s how I like to work:  have something to edit.”

Throughout the interview, Harper emphasized that all writers go through the same process of getting stuck, getting rejected, searching for the right word, and endlessly fiddling with the same paragraph, but added, “you have company. You are a real writer.” She went on to express gratitude for mentoring provided by editors and the networks created by literary journals. Harper stated that, “a good editor is such a fantastic learning experience for a writer.”

Perhaps the greatest takeaway from the interview with Harper was her commitment to her craft. As Harper stated, “I’m paying attention all the time; I’m writing it down on paper all the time.” When asked about her nonfiction characters, Harper expressed the need to “get it right” and to be truthful and honest. But ultimately, she said, her “allegiance is to the story.”

 The full interview by Tanya Perkins and posted by The Review Review is found at: A Chat with Memoirist Jean Harper. Harper’s book, Still Life with Horses is published by Howling Bird Press and distributed through Small Press Distribution.   

Jean Harper speaks about love, resiliency and persistence

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Jean Harper’s book may be inspired by the depths of a friendship she formed with a horse, but you don’t need to be a horse-lover to find meaning in this book. If you’ve ever been in a dead-end relationship, found yourself in a stagnant place when you yearned to grow, or tolerated someone simply because it was easier than making a difficult change, this book will speak to you.

Harper says once you find the capacity to love deeply, you will always have that ability. When you are doing something you believe in, whether it be writing a story that needs to be told, learning to ride a horse, or learning to love, keep doing it and your experience will pay off. This is perhaps why Harper never gave up on telling the story of Still Life with Horses. She knew it had to be told and that it had the capacity to inspire others. Listen to her interview and then pick up this life-changing book!

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