Fiction writer Tara Ison and poet Jane Miller begin the Literary Southwest 2013 winter/spring season when they speak at 7 p.m. Friday at Yavapai College.
Ison has written three novels: "The List," "A Child of Alcatraz" and "Rockaway," and she has also penned a collection of short stories, titled "Ball."
Her first novel, "A Child of Alcatraz," was inspired by a visit to Alcatraz Island, she said in an email. "I learned that women and children, the families of prison staff, actually lived there from 1933 to 1963.
"The idea of being a woman or a young girl living in this most masculine and threatening - yet starkly beautiful - place in the country fascinated me; I found the prison's unique physical and psychological isolation a rich metaphor for the struggle of one mother and daughter, and for the role of women in mid-20th century American society."
Ison said she originally intended to write the story as a screenplay but soon realized that she wanted to explore the lives of her characters with "greater introspective and linguistic complexity afforded by a novel. I'd also come to feel that the collaborative nature of screenwriting was at odds with the kind of expression and communication I craved as an author."
Ison researched her topic for four years and was a finalist for the 1997 Los Angeles Book Prize.
"The List" is about the potentially destructive power of obsessive romantic love, and "Rockaway is the story of a young woman who exiles herself for a summer "artist's retreat" in "the bizarre world of Rockaway Beach, N.Y."
The woman begins a relationship with a much-older musician devoted to rediscovering his Jewish identity, while grappling with long-buried inner demons, in order to undergo a spiritual and emotional reawakening, Ison said.
"This novel explores some new issues for me as a writer, and required research into Jewish mysticism and spirituality, art history and the worlds and crafts of both music and painting," she said. "I also explored different narrative strategies and literary techniques in order to capture and depict the character's complex inner life, and the haunting fragmentation of memory."
Currently assistant profession of fiction in Arizona State University's creative writing program, Ison's short fiction and essays have appeared in "Tin House," "The Kenyon Review," "The Rumpus," "The Mississippi Review," "The Santa Monica Review," "Publishers Weekly" and numerous anthologies. She is also co-writer of the cult film, "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead."
Miller, a professor at the University of Arizona, is the author of nine collections of poetry, including "Thunderbirds," scheduled for publishing this year, and "A Palace of Pearls," which won the 2006 Audre Lorde Prize in Poetry.
Her list of published works is lengthy and includes "Midnights," poetry and prose poems, "The Greater Leisures," a National Poetry Series selection, and "August Zero, winner of the Western States Books Award. She also wrote "Working Time: Essays on Poetry, Culture and Travel," which is part of the University of Michigan's Poets on Poetry Series.
Miller is a recipient of a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award for poetry, as well as a Guggenheim fellowship and two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships.
The free program will take in Yavapai College Library's Susan N. Webb Community Room, building 19, room 147, on the Prescott campus. A question-and-answer session and a book signing will follow the reading. Friends of the Yavapai College Library will provide coffee service.
For complete author and series information, visit www.yc.edu/hassayampa or contact Jim Natal, series director, at 776-2295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.