Ron Carlson was a terrific mentor and teacher at ASU. It is unusual to meet a writer at his level of accomplishment, who is also as generous and helpful as he is to writing students. Carlson deserves all the recognition coming his way this year. My writing is better because of him, and I think all of the published writers who studied with him can say the same. It's delightful to see him get full credit for his fine books of fiction.
Best Author - 2008
Orange County has served as a sort of halfway house for some great writers, thanks mainly to some fine academic programs at area colleges (Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Richard Ford and Alice Sebold are among the literati hatched at UC Irvine's MFA writers' program). But there are authors of national rank squirreled away in every corner of the county writing in every genre. Start asking around, and everybody's got a favorite. Lots of us love T. Jefferson's Parker's noir-ish mysteries. Former Mater Dei and El Toro High English teacher Elizabeth George has a following for her Inspector Lynley mystery series. Canadian expat and current Laguna Beacher Lisi Harrison's "Clique" series strikes readers of a certain (tender) age, with its "bratfests" and backstabbing teen queens. UCI writing prof Michelle Latiolais' exploration of autism and redemption, A Proper Knowledge, has gained an audience among those who like their thoughts provoked. But for our money, Ron Carlson gives the best reads, taking the mysteries and absurdities of everyday life and turning them into meaningful narratives. With more honors than a war hero, Carlson embraces the modern American West and the relationships—especially the sexual relationships—between its denizens. We're fans of his 2007 novel, Five Skies, with its shiftless preparation for what amounts to a flying leap. And we're fond of his short stories that feature sailing mattresses, wife-stealing bigfoots and frustrated couples-with-children who are just too busy to fuck. Carlson's also good at explaining his craft—see his introduction to the short story collection A Kind of Flying—which is probably why so many brilliant writers come out of his UCI creative-writing program. Our only complaint? The stories don't come quickly enough.