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English Reading Series features fiction writer PJ Carlisle

Visiting fiction writer PJ Carlisle reads to the audience. (Northern Review photo/Kasy Long)

Visiting fiction writer PJ Carlisle reads to the audience. (Northern Review photo/Kasy Long)

When one describes the creative work of PJ Carlisle, he or she could develop a variety of adjectives, but the most popular phrases range from “innovative,” “charming” and “thoughtful.” Though to the writer, the writing process continually evolves. Once a novelist, Carlisle now experiments with flash fiction work, which the writer presented Tuesday evening as part of the Ohio Northern University Department of English’s Spring Reading Series.  

Originally a poet, Carlisle has spent many years as a novelist and is now a Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writer, as well as the Herbert W. Martin Post-Doctoral Fellow of Diversity and Creative Writing at the University of Dayton. The writer is co-coordinator of Dayton’s LitFest, which features hands-on workshops with award-winning and emerging writers from across the country.

In recent years, Carlisle has transitioned to exploring flash fiction as a popular genre for writing.

“Flash fiction is against everything you’re learning in fiction classes. It’s vignettes, but that’s what you’re supposed to write. You write these faster pieces that are like poetry, which is really interesting,” Carlisle addressed the audience in the gallery exhibit room of ONU’s Elzay Gallery of Art.

Carlisle read two selections from the writer’s flash fiction work. The first was a story written as an email to an unknown addressee. The second was a homage to many white male writers cherished in Carlisle’s literary studies.

During a question-and-answer period, Carlisle expressed admiration for the value of a beautiful literary journal, like ONU’s Polaris Literary Magazine. However, as ONU Department of English Chairman Lisa Robeson noted, these literary journals are becoming harder to find in local libraries.

“Literary journals are now book arts. They’re beautiful,” said Carlisle, who addressed several questions from ONU students and faculty during the Spring Reading Series session.

Carlisle was accompanied by senior literature student Erika Mortimer, who read a variety of poetry she has worked on during her undergraduate education. Carlisle has encouraged Mortimer to continue writing, but also to submit her poetry to literary journals to advance her publication portfolio.  

Carlisle earned a doctorate from the University of Utah in 2015. The writer’s first novel, EpicFishStory, won Bard College’s Mary McCarthy Internal Award, chosen by Harry Mathews. Chapters from a new novel covering gender have won the Turow-Kinder Award from the University of Pittsburgh, along with the Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ Intro Journals Project Award. Carlisle’s prose has appeared in journals, including Quarterly West, WHR, Prosody, Thickets, and Gaslight: an LGBQ Anthology