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About Carrie Messenger

Carrie Messenger received her BA from Yale University and her MFA from the University of Iowa. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova and lived in Romania on a Fulbright grant. Her work has appeared in Ecotone, Fairy Tale Review, and Witness. She has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and The MacDowell Colony. She lives in Shepherdstown, WV. In the Amber Chamber won the 2017 Brighthorse Prize for Short Fiction.

Even more about the author for the extremely curious . . .

I am an Associate Fiction Editor for the literary magazine West Branch. I am faculty advisor for the beautiful undergraduate literary magazine Sans Merci, founded in 1976 and continuously in print at Shepherd.

I grew up in Evanston, outside of Chicago, where I used to ride my bike along the lakefront into the city.

I went to Yale from 1990-1994, where I majored in English, worked for a literary magazine and the yearbook, volunteered at an elementary school, and co-managed a literary magazine by middle school students for middle school students. That final volunteer position was the best job I’ve ever had.

I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1994-1996 in Straseni, Moldova. Moldova is between Romania and Ukraine. I hadn’t heard of Moldova before my recruiter told me I was going there, and went to Sterling Library at Yale to spin the globe and see where I was going. My parents were Peace Corps Volunteers in Ethiopia in the 1960s, among the very first groups of volunteers, and my little sister served in Honduras. In Straseni, I taught English to students ranging in age from elementary school to high school. I was the faculty advisor for the debate team. I learned Romanian, the national language of Moldova, on the fly, not planning to use it after Peace Corps, but I fell in love with Romanian.

When I came back to the States, I lived in Brooklyn for a year and a half and worked for the New York City Parks Foundation. It was the opposite of Straseni.

I attended the Iowa Writers Workshop from 1998-2000. In Iowa City, I was lucky enough to work with writers like Lan Samantha Chang, Stuart Dybek, Elizabeth McCracken, and Jim McPherson. There were two Romanian writers at the International Writing Program when I was at Iowa, one from Moldova and one from Romania, and I became friends and did translation work with both of them. I met my husband at Iowa in a workshop.

At Iowa, I applied for a Fulbright to Romania and spent a year in Iasi, the historical capital of medieval Moldova, allowing me to visit old friends in Moldova as well as new friends in Romania. I was lucky to meet and translate the extraordinary writer Gabriela Adamesteanu, who had been to Iowa through the IWP.

Back in the States, I worked for a year at the Newberry Library in Chicago before starting a doctoral program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. At UIC, I studied literature and film studies as well as creative writing, but my dissertation was a creative project. Some of the stories in my collection were written in these years. I am more than slightly obsessed with Chicago and the novel I am working on now is about the city in the late 1960s. It is an exploration of what the city was like right when I was born, the world my parents lived in when they returned to the States after Ethiopia.

Now, I live with my family in Shepherdstown, WV, a small town on the Potomac—there is a cable show called The Ghosts of Shepherdstown that claims it is the most haunted town in America. I teach at the public university in town, Shepherd University, and ride my bike along the C&O trail instead of the Chicago lakefront. Shepherdstown is smaller than Straseni, where I lived during Peace Corps. We live next to the historic grist mill from the 1700s, which draws a steady stream of tourists due to its gigantic water wheel.