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A Novel


"The broad sweeping compassion of this polyvocal novel takes my breath away." 

—CAMILLE T. DUNGY, author of Soil: The Story of a Black Mother's Garden

When a wildfire bears down on a mountain community, residents are forced to gather for safety—resulting in a tangle of love and lust that pulls people from their isolation, friendships that form across political divides, and a new hope for rethinking the ways humans inhabit the burning planet. Playing with Wildfire is a literary landscape that is an experiment in form: an astrology report; a grant application-turned-love-story; a phone call from Mother Earth; an obituary for a wildfire; a burned mountain’s conversation with a lone woman and an injured bear.


Every story captures how fire affects the human psyche and life, and how destruction can lead to renewal.

February 2024  | Fiction | 9781948814898 | 140 pp | $18.95

"I live on the evacuation perimeter of what is now Colorado’s largest wildfire, which has been burning for four months—it started in August and is still burning as I write this in early December. Recently, the sheriff’s deputy was outside, his lights turning red-blue-red, giving my house a strobe light effect. He was directing traffic as people raced off the mountain with trailers filled with horses and goats and belongings. People spray-painted their phone numbers on their animals and cut fences—the fire blew up again quickly this time—and most of my neighbors are fleeing for the fourth time since this fire began. Our air quality is often listed as “Hazardous,” though on some days, we are lucky to have “Moderate,” a direction we could go in the largest sense, too—in terms of our forest management, our land health, and our wellness.


What I am witnessing is not “normal,” but it will become so. We are in an era of megafires and multi-fires. This fire, the High Park Fire, moved from a single acre to 209,000 acres today, breaking record after record, and five new fires started in my area in one week. In 2020, an incredible 1,016 wildfires burned in Colorado. Most of my five literary novels contain wildfires, because they have been part of my lived experience—but this year is catastrophic.


This is not just a story of my state, however—this is a story of our nation. California, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are all particularly suffering as well. The NIFC—the National Interagency Fire Center—reports that of today, there have been 46,000 wildfires that have burned eight million acres this year, which is two million more acres than the 10-year average.


I want to write a story to the suffering of evacuees and casualties and firefighters, a story to the experience of scientists and health experts, and a story of where we might go from here. I want to write about how nature heals the human body, and the ways in which humans can help heal this land. There is an inherent mutualism in healing. As we heal, we can help nature heal, and there is co-creation in this process.


I am called to write this book because, like the pandemic, these megafires present a new type of suffering—both for land and human. We need to look to the past, understand our present, and mindfully approach our future. We need to bear witness, clarify the science of forest and land management, and move in the direction of health and wellbeing."




LAURA PRITCHETT's sixth novel, Playing with Wildfire, will be released in February by Torrey House. She’s also the author of six other novels, two nonfiction books, and editor of three environmental anthologies, and her work has been the recipient of the PEN USA Award, the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, the WILLA, the High Plains Book Award, several Colorado Book Awards, and others. Her best-known novel, Stars Go Blue, has been optioned for TV rights. She’s published over 300 essays and short stories in national venues, most recently in The Sun, Terrain, Camas, Orion, Creative Nonfiction, and others. She directs the MFA in Nature Writing at Western Colorado University and holds a PhD from Purdue University. When not writing or teaching, she can be found sauntering around the West, especially her home state of Colorado.


“Reading Pritchett's wise and attentive book, I entered into the heart(s) of a human and greater-than-human community that felt like my own.”

—CAMILLE T. DUNGY, author of Soil: The Story of a Black Mother's Garden


“In this gorgeous novel, we see the fire in everything it touches: the deer, the house, the lungs, the heart. The form of Playing with {Wild}Fire, like fire itself, mutates and shifts, offering up glimmers of dreams and truth within the ruin.”

—BETH PIATOTE, author of The Beadworkers: Stories


“Incendiary, evocative writing that crackles on the page. Part love letter to the Front Range of Colorado, part environmental manifesto. Pritchett paints a complete and tender picture of one small community’s reckoning with the worst wildfire in Colorado history. A must-read.”

—MOLLY IMBER, Maria’s Bookshop

“In Playing With Wildfire, Laura Pritchett writes with characteristic intelligence and humor. Her worldview in these burning times is a rare cocktail, passion and wisdom in equal parts, administered here with refreshing innovation.”
—RICK BASS, author of For a Little While

“For those of us who live in the West, wildfire is no longer a distant threat but a regular companion. Playing with {Wild}Fire captures this reality by embracing the whole of life in the Anthropocene—music, food, sex, illness, hope, motherhood, addiction, work, and more—in stories as breathtakingly true and tender as they are, yes, playful.”

—ANA MARIA SPAGNA, author of Pushed: Miners, a Merchant, and (Maybe) a Massacre


“Celebrated nature writer Laura Pritchett takes the reader on a journey that is at once singular and daring, intimate and illuminating, through a collection of stories that explore the myriad ways in which a massive wildfire affects a small Colorado mountain community. Playing with {Wild}Fire is a must-read for all of us enduring unprecedented wildfires as well as anyone who wants to experience the possibilities of brilliant storytelling.”

—CMARIE FUHRMAN, author of Camped Beneath the Dam: Poems


“Inventive, sassy, urgent. Playing with {Wild}Fire is rich with surprises of all kinds, from start to finish.”

–ALYSON HAGY, author of Scribe: A Novel

Playing with {Wild}Fire is a wise and imaginative collection in which aspen trees singwarnings, moose and raven describe a terrifying inferno, and Mother Earth sends urgent postcards to humanity. Pritchett’s expansive exploration of what community means in the face of climate change fueled megafires includes a cast of endearing and original characters who split apart and come together and find ways to keep living joyfully.”

—CLAIRE BOYLES, author of Site Fidelity




The residents of Clayton, Colorado, must learn to live with what has burned and what threatens to ignite. In Defensible Spaces, a bus driver confronts a rush of memories when an old flame climbs aboard; a trailer park resident attempts to save her home; a reclusive fire mitigation worker fuels public outrage. Throughout ten linked short stories, townspeople work through relationships with alcoholism, history, and each other, negotiating where and when to create their own defensible spaces that might, but will not always, keep them protected.


​"Turner’s assured prose brings emotional depth . . . This is a worthy addition to the fiction of the American West."





Stacie Shannon Denetsosie confronts long-reaching effects of settler-colonialism on Native lives in a series of gritty, wildly imaginative stories. A young Navajo man catches a ride home alongside a casket he’s sure contains his dead grandfather. A gas station clerk witnesses the kidnapping of the newly crowned Miss Northwestern Arizona. A young couple’s search for a sperm donor raises questions of blood quantum. This debut collection grapples with a complex and painful history alongside an inheritance of beauty, ceremony, and storytelling.


“​Propulsive and complex, this is a gorgeously written debut.”

—KIRKUS REVIEWS (starred review)

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