Mari Christmas was writer-in-residence for July 2016 at Surel’s Place. Christmas holds a PhD in English from the University of Albany (SUNY), and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Notre Dame. She is now a Writer in Residence at Allegheny College. Her work “often involves characters that must learn to navigate and come to terms with strange yet recognizable worlds.” Brian Evenson of Black Warrior Review described Christmas’ contest-winning story, Baby, this way: “Baby manages to mesh the otherworldly with the day-to-day in a way that feels at once natural and uncanny. ”Christmas’ fiction work is influenced by the writings of Amy Hempel, Tama Janowitz, Etgar Keret, Sylvia Plath, Haruki Murakami, George Saunders, and Grace Paley. Her interests include French Feminist Theory, Japanese aesthetics, and the subversive power of humor. Her current work centers around the lives of women.
Christmas has published works in The Canary Press, Paragraphiti, and Black Warrior Review. She is co-editor of Barzakh Magazine, Flash Fiction Editor at Paragraphiti, and has worked previously for FENCE. She is the recipient of the Black Warrior Review Fiction Prize, the Eugene Garber Fiction Prize, and the Barlow Family Initiatives for Women Award, and a finalist for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) Margins Fellowship.
During her residency, Christmas created a work titled Coyote and held a public reading and reception for it. Additionally, she hosted a workshop entitled “With Restraint.” The workshop targeted beginning to intermediate writers and drew on principles of Wabi-Sabi—the aesthetic practice within the Zen philosophical tradition that esteems simplicity, solitude, and the hidden. Focused on the exercise of restraint or learning what to leave out, the exercises in this workshop helped navigate the tricky space where sentiment can turn into sentimentality or false feeling.