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Building Fiction

Building Fiction story
Building Fiction

Building Fiction was published by Story Press in 1997 (ISBN 1884910289). It is now available from the University of Wisconsin Press (ISBN 0299187241).

“Over the course of the seven years I’ve been writing novel-length fiction, I’ve read dozens of how-to books. Frequently I’ve found those written by authors of ‛lit fic,’ such as Kercheval, to not be very useful to a writer of commercial, popular fiction. But Kercheval is a happy exception to this rule. I found her book clear and often very insightful on almost every aspect of the novel.”
—Kate McMurry

“[W]hen I picked up a copy of her writing textbook, Building Fiction, I jumped from the back of the bandwagon straight up into the driver’s seat, because, gang, that is one fantastic writing text! It’s my go-to book on the craft of fiction, edging out even the ubiquitous (and also excellent) Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. To be fair, Burroway’s is probably still a stronger text for, say, a graduate workshop, but for the home bookshelves of beginning and advanced writers alike I have never found a better, more precise or insightful text on the craft of fiction than Building Fiction. When I took some time away from the classroom a couple of years back and lived overseas, writing practically in a vacuum and trying to make the best of what I’d learned up to that point, Kercheval’s book was indescribably helpful. That’s the mark of a great text: not just one you learn a lot from but one you actively return to and still find useful years down the road.”
—Samuel Snoek-Brown

“If you are writing fiction or teaching students to write fiction, this book is the best guide you can have.”
—Kelly Cherry

Reviews can be found here, and the book can be purchased here.

Space cover

Space cover

Winner of the Alex Award from the American Library Association. Space was published in hardback by Algonquin Books in 1998 (ISBN 1565121465) and in paperback by Berkley in 1999 (ISBN 042516683X). It  has been reissued by the University of Wisconsin Press in paperback (ISBN 9780299300241) and as an e-book .

Looking back at a time when America was on the brink of all the big changes coming by way of Apollo 11, The Feminine Mystique, and the Vietnam War, this high-spirited memoir focuses on what it was like back then—for a girl.

Jesse Lee Kercheval opens her story in 1966 when she was a precocious ten-year old girl whose family moves from Washington, D.C. to Cocoa, Florida. Bedroom community to the rocket launchers, Cocoa was a town rising out of a swamp, a city of the future being built out of concrete block and hope. Alligators still wandered across the newly paved subdivision streets, and civilization was based on the twin luxuries of central air-conditioning and mosquito control.

Living in their brand-new house in a brand-new development (called Lunar Heights), the family—father, mother, two little girls—tried to ride the Space Race’s tide of optimism. But even as the rockets kept going up, the family was spiraling down. Father hid out at work while Mother overdosed her depression and Jesse Lee and her sister, Carol, hovered at the edge of the nest, having to try their wings too early and too alone. By the end of the book, America has flown to the moon but Jesse Lee’s
family, weighed down by the realities of life on earth, has crashed.

Weaving domestic and public concerns, this brilliant rendering of an era juxtaposes the sensibilities of a young woman poised at the edge of adulthood (hilariously, touchingly so) and those of a whole country poised on the edge of things equally frightening—the future of NASA, the outcome of the war and woman’s lib.

“Never has the space program been so charmingly brought down to earth than by this utterly beguiling girl.…  I was fascinated, enchanted, edified, and moved.”
Gish Jen

More reviews can be found here.