Jaimee Wriston Colbert

English Department Binghamton University
Binghamton, NY 13902
Phone: 
(607) 754-1253

Author's Bio

Jaimee Wriston Colbert is the author of five books: a new linked story collection, WILD THINGS, (2016 BkMk); the novel SHARK GIRLS (2009 Livingston), finalist for the USABookNews Best Book of 2010 Award, the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year, and a starred review in Booklist; DREAM LIVES OF BUTTERFLIES (2007 BkMk), winner of the gold medal (first place) in the 2008 Independent Publisher Awards (IPPY); a novel, CLIMBING THE GOD TREE (1998 Helicon Nine), winner of the Willa Cather Fiction Prize; and the story collection SEX, SALVATION, AND THE AUTOMOBILE (1994 Zephyr), winner of the Zephyr Publishing Prize. Her stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including: Gettysburg Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Tampa Review, Connecticut Review, New Letters, Solstice, Tahoma Literary Review, Green Mountains Review, and broadcast on NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” Stories from Wild Things have won the 2012 Ian MacMillan Fiction Prize; the 2009 Isotope Editors’ Fiction Prize, and 2008 Jane’s Stories Short Story Award. She has had stories anthologized in Ohio Short Fiction, and Peculiar Pilgrims – Stories From the Left Hand of God, and a story presented at the 2007 Boston Fiction Festival, and performed throughout Maine by PCA Great Performances. Originally from Hawai'i, she is Professor of English and Creative Writing at SUNY Binghamton University. Praise for WILD THINGS, BkMk Press 2016: "Colbert's divining sense of brokenness and our longing for wholeness makes for extraordinarily incisive, stirring, funny, and haunting all-American stories." -Donna Seaman, Booklist "These characters sing their hunger and dance their hard-won wisdom. These brilliant, surprising stories defy gravity and take flight." -Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage. "By turns luminous and razor-sharp, in landscapes as diverse as a shimmering beach in Oahu and a crumbling mill town in upstate New York, these characters find comfort not only in the "peace of wild things" but also in their scrap and bite, their tenacious urge toward survival in an absurdly hostile world." -Pam Houston, Contents May Have Shifted. "A tremendous new collection from a writer with extraordinary powers of observation and an empathetic understanding of the thorny, heartbreaking human condition. ... A stunning book." -Christine Sneed, The Virginity of Famous Men. "A book more apropos to our country and our times, in light of the results of the November election, would be hard to find. ...If you want to get a feel for the hopelessness that drives the choices some of us shake our collective heads at, read these stories." -Joe Ponepinto, Tahoma Literary Review - TLR Recommends. "Colbert’s sensibilities hit the page through heartbreakingly rendered characters struggling to make sense of a damaged world. Her gaze is wide, raw and unflinching...." -Christine Maul Rice, The Sunday Rumpus Interview. Praise For SHARK GIRLS, Livingston Press 2009: "Colbert has created an edgy and lush gothic tale laced with outlaw eroticism and barbed absurdities, and propelled by a powerful undertow racing beneath every alarming scene, bitterly funny moment, and strange twist of fate. From women battered and haunted to "throwaway kids," rock-and-roll burnouts, and quixotic guests, Colbert summons a world as volatile as Hawaii itself, with its cycles of volcanic destruction and slow repair." -Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review). “Colbert’s Shark Girls is a mesmerizing novel, vibrant with eroticism, myth, and mystery.” -Madison Smartt Bell, All Souls’ Rising. “This novel is so original and strange that it's hard to put a label on it, yet it has the lively detail and bold characterization and compelling plot that always make a good novel. I was captivated by the bold twists and turns, as well as the sharp and inventive language, and I was drawn in by the fascinating lore and setting of Hawaii.” -Bobbie Ann Mason, In Country. “Jaimee Wriston Colbert’s Shark Girls is as inventive as any novel I have read in a long time, the prose boisterous and perfectly mastered to tell this story about home and leave-taking, and about the quirky and unrelenting desire of the heart to find itself. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignantly, even disturbingly sad, it is, finally, and in every word, tender and original and as compassionate a look at character and place as you’re apt to find anywhere. Shark Girls dazzles. A remarkable achievement." -Jack Driscoll, How Like an Angel. Praise For DREAM LIVES OF BUTTERFLIES, BkMk Press, October, 2007: "Evocative images of specimen butterflies, their broken bodies permanently suspended in time and pinned in place, suffuse Colbert's inventively interconnected stories of fragile yet defiant people whose lives immutably sway in a limbo between uncertainty and endurance…Colbert's incandescent protagonists manage to find a sliver of salvation, a glimmer of grace, through the timeless act of simply reaching out to another human being." -Carol Haggas, Booklist. "Colbert's words are like magic...it is her brilliant exploration of that no-man's land between what we desire and what we must live without that defines Colbert's deep empathy for her characters." - Kim Barnes, A Country Called Home. “Dream Lives of Butterflies is full of startling wisdom and high-flown humor. Jaimee Wriston Colbert’s characters are complete originals; full of sass and attitude, they struggle with the cultural tension between worlds and lives. Readers will love following these people on their full-hearted, rambunctious adventures.” -Diana Abu-Jaber, Origins. Praise For CLIMBING THE GOD TREE, Helicon Nine, 1998: "…Colbert has a knack for creating vivid characters and handles well the novel's recurring themes of loss and retribution." -Publisher’s Weekly. "A debut novel set in a haunted Maine town. Eerie, understated, and deft. Colbert uses atmosphere the way David Lean uses scenery." -Kirkus Reviews. "The scope of Jaimee Wriston Colbert's storytelling is impressive, with no fewer than 16 central characters delineated in intricately overlapping narratives…The stories stand on their own as sensitive and unsentimental evocations of unrelieved loss." -The New York Times Book Review. "Jaimee Wriston Colbert looks deeply into the ragged places in our psyches—into the parts of us torn open by loss and by failed love—and reveals our humanity in all its beauty and imperfection. Here is a writer who, in powerfully linked stories, movingly evokes both our craving for the sacred and our tenacious embrace of the profane." –Dawn Raffel, Judge, Willa Cather Fiction Prize. “Climbing the God Tree is an intricate cat’s cradle of obsession, desire, compassion, and hope. Jaimee Wriston Colbert holds back nothing—in each of these finely interwoven lives, I recognize something of my own. An extraordinary novel.” -A Manette Ansay, River Angel.

Publications and Prizes

Books: 
Climbing the God Tree
(Helicon Nine Editions, 1998)
, Dream Lives of Butterflies
(BkMk Press-UMKC, 2007)
, Sex, Salvation and the Automobile
(Zephyr Press, 1994)
, Shark Girls
(Livingston Press, 2009)
, Wild Things
(BkMk Press-UMKC, 2016)
Anthologies: 
Jane's Stories
(Jane's Stories Press, 2012)
, Ohio Short Fiction
(Northmont, 1995)
, Peculiar Pilgrims: Stories From the Left Hand of God
(Hourglass Books, 2006)
, Twentieth Anniversary
(Long Shot, 2002)
Journals: 
Chaminade Literary Review, Connecticut Review, Drunken Boat, Gettysburg Review, Green Mountains Review, Harpur Palate, Hawai'i Review, Isotope: Journal of Nature and Science Writing, Louisiana Literature, Natural Bridge, New Letters, Pacific Coast Journal, Paterson Literary Review, Potato Eyes, Prairie Schooner, Rosebud, Snake Nation Review, Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, Tahoma Literary Review, Tampa Review, Tiferet, TriQuarterly
Prizes Won: 
2012: Ian MacMillan Fiction Prize. 2009: Editors' Fiction Prize; Isotope, Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing. 2008: Jane's Stories National Short Story Award. 2008: Independent Publisher Awards (IPPY),Gold Medal, Short Stories Fiction Category; Dream Lives of Butterflies. 1997: Willa Cather Fiction Prize, for Climbing the God Tree. 1994: Zephyr Publishing Prize, for Sex, Salvation, and the Automobile.

More Information

Listed as: 
Gives readings: 
Yes
Travels for readings: 
Yes
Prefers to work with: 
Any
Raised in: 
Honolulu, HI
Literary Agent: 
Eleanor Jackson
work_excerpt: 
Wild Things - (Excerpt) Loulie peeks out at the old woman from her position on the floor, her head between her knees, her legs scrunched up between her arms, her wrists tethered with the rope, chain and padlock, perched on the mattress hour after hour until her butt goes numb. The man thinks the old woman’s a ghost, but Loulie’s about decided she’s just an odd old woman with a humpback, a limp and a mask on that looks like a face, has all the right features and symmetry, but no face would be that frozen, no animation in it whatsoever. He calls her his mother the ghost, has conversations where he does both speaking parts, which makes Loulie wonder if the old woman speaks at all. If she does, perhaps that means she listens, and maybe when the man isn’t home Loulie could appeal to her, beg her to set her free. Loulie had pretty much given up, but now the old woman is around more; in fact, it seems like she may live here too, maybe in that back room Loulie’s never seen—no reason to take you in there, the man had said when he was showing her around the trailer like she was a guest here. Because Loulie won’t speak and the old woman doesn’t seem to either, it’s a strange household with the man, the halting way he talks like he might be a little retarded or something, speaking for them all. Though sometimes Loulie wonders, does she even remember how? One day when the man wasn’t around Loulie opened her mouth just to try it out, a scream—she’d long since realized the trailer is too far away from anyone who might hear her—but just to give it a whirl, as her mom would say, and… nothing; it was like her voice was encased in ice, a glacial hardness that stuck in her throat and then the taste of bile when nothing came out.
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Last updated: Feb 22, 2017