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
"In 2020, I lived on the evacuation perimeter of what became Colorado’s largest wildfire, which burned for five months and burned 208,000 acres. It was horrible for so many people in so many ways. The sky was gray, the sun glowed red, ash littered our homes. My home is positioned so that I could see the traffic coming off the mountain–trailers filled with horses and goats and belongings, and we could all see the hard work of firefighters and emergency response teams heading up. Helicopters and planes overhead, burned pine needles at my feet.
I began writing my community’s stories. When I’m stressed, I write–it’s a way to bear witness and sit with one’s emotions. It’s also a good way to explain the situation to others, which hopefully increases empathy, awareness, and action.
Then, in the summer of 2022, I got Covid, and could barely get off my couch for about three months. Another form of suffering! And although I was quite foggy in the head, one thing I could do was start to compile all my writings and weave together a collection that came together during the next year. Something about the fog of wildfire and the fog of covid helped me clarify the collection, oddly.
Basically, I wanted to celebrate the restoration efforts that began soon after the fire. I wanted to give voice to all the heroes (sung and unsung). I wanted to shout out the amount of expertise and knowledge and dedication out there. I wanted fiction to contain the reality we live in."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
PRAISE FOR PLAYING WITH WILDFIRE
“An immersive story of a changing landscape, innovatively told.”
“Pritchett’s creativity is boundless.”
—BOOKLIST, starred review
“Fierce, vivid, and closely observed.”
—FOREWORD REVIEWS, starred review
“Pritchett’s writing takes off in moments when the affinity between human and nature catches the characters by surprise.”
“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 Wildfire, like fire itself, mutates and shifts, offering up glimmers of dreams and truth within the ruin.”
—BETH PIATOTE, author of The Beadworkers: Stories
“In an act of violence and love, Playing with Wildfire dismantles the far reaching effects of a climate catastrophe piece by piece, bearing our collected suffering to the stinging air. Here it may be seen, acknowledged and caressed. Utilizing unique forms and style to emphasize the disparate realities and voices of the cast, Pritchett has nonetheless crafted a fresh work that ponders upon elements of loneliness, climate grief and the desire to heal present in us all.”
—STERLING SHALLBETTER, Old Firehouse Books
“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 Wildfire 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 Wildfire 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 Wildfire is rich with surprises of all kinds, from start to finish.”
–ALYSON HAGY, author of Scribe: A Novel
“Playing with Wildfire 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
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