Joanna Michal Hoyt

Tell us who you are, a little about your work and what you enjoy other than writing.

I live on a Catholic Worker farm in upstate New York with my family.  Our mission is to live an alternative to consumer culture. We grow food for ourselves, and some extra to share, as sustainably and affordably as we know how to. We try to be present and helpful to neighbors who need, not a program, but a friend with some time and capability to share.  Sometimes I’ve been involved in a church group’s outreach to migrant farm workers. Those encounters and some uncomfortable history reading informed the story below.

I enjoy my work, most of the time.  I also enjoy berry-picking, reading fiction, contradancing, reading history, walking in the woods, and taking part in friendly arguments. 

What is your story about in On loss (don’t give us any spoilers)!

My story is told by Cristina Fuentes, a ten-year-old girl who travels from Mexico to a farm in el Norte—the US—with her father in 1954.  She and her dad are busy the daily hard work of making a living, taking care of each other and mourning their dead relatives.  But the country they’ve come to has just become preoccupied with fears of an “immigrant invasion…” I’m not very good at genre classification, but I think this story is historical fantasy.

Where did you learn of the On Loss anthology. Did you have a story in mind or write your story specifically for the anthology? 

I heard about On Loss in a Facebook open-call group for writers of speculative fiction, and I thought of Cristina’s story, which I had already written.

What else have you written or are you most proud of?

I’ve written various short stories of which I am (probably excessively) fond and proud.  My favorite is “Cracked Reflections,” narrated by Kass Lenohart, a young German-American girl with anxiety issues and a deep sense of solidarity navigating the social panics of the WWI homefront and the First Red Scare. That story appeared in Enigmatic Mirror Press’s anthology “Mysterion.”  I’ve written a novel about Kass, set earlier, during the immigrant textile strikes of 1912; I’m still seeking an agent for that story. You can read some of my short pieces free online: see links at https://joannamichalhoyt.com/short-stories/

What is your current work in progress?

I don’t write as much in summer when the farm work is hectic.  I’m messing with a few short stories now.  This winter I’ll either start writing the second novel about Kass, which currently exists only as a fat folder of notes and a few scattered scenes or finish (meaning write the last four-fifths of) a middle-grade fantasy novel.  I haven’t yet decided which.

What’s your specialty: short stories, novels, poetry?

Short stories and novels.  I love poetry but lack the grace and economy necessary for writing it well.

Do you self-publish, traditionally publish or both?

My short stories have appeared in traditionally published magazines and anthologies.  I am hoping to find a traditional publisher for my novel.  We’ll see…

What’s your favorite genre of books to read

Favorite novels include “Gilead” and sequels by Marilynne Robinson, “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo, “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens, “A Means of Grace” by Edith Pargeter, “Jayber Crow” by Wendell Berry,  “The Scent of Water” by Elizabeth Goudge, “The Other Wind” by Ursula Le Guin, and “The Last Unicorn” by Peter Beagle. 
Favorite nonfiction, besides the Bible, includes “Made for Goodness” by Desmond Tutu, “Horizon” by Barry Lopez, “Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community” by Wendell Berry, “Deep Economy” by Bill McKibben, “Braving the Wilderness” by Brené Brown, “Deep and Simple” by Bo Lozoff, and “The Shelter Of Each Other” by Mary Pipher.

What advice would you offer new writers

Read! Write! Keep reading! Keep writing! Also: practice listening thoughtfully and caringly to people who are not like you, perhaps especially those who make you uncomfortable.  That makes you a better writer as well as a better neighbor and human being.

Leave us with a favorite quote! 

Two related quotes from Brené Brown’s “Braving the Wilderness”:

“The world feels high lonesome and heartbroken to me right now. We’ve sorted ourselves into factions based on our politics and ideology. We’ve turned away from one another and toward blame and rage. We’re lonely and untethered. And scared. So damn scared…”

“We seem to have forgotten that even when we’re utterly alone, we’re connected to one another by something greater than group membership, politics, and ideology—that we’re connected by love and the human spirit. No matter how separated we are by what we think and believe, we’re part of the same spiritual story.”

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