Pritchett, Laura 1971–

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Pritchett, Laura 1971–

(Laura Rose Pritchett)

Personal

Born February 16, 1971, in Fort Collins, CO; daughter of James S. (a professor and rancher) and Rose (a rancher) Brinks; married James Pritchett (a professor of agricultural economics), 1993; children: Jacob, Eliana.

Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Colorado State University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1993, M.A., 1995; Purdue University, Ph.D., 2004. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, camping, gardening, and environmental issues, particularly pertaining to land preservation and ranching in the American West.

Addresses

Agent—CO. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Freelance writer, educator, and speaker, 1993—. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, instructor, 1994-95; Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, instructor, 2000-01; Ucross Foundation resident, 2004. Volunteer with Amigos de las Americas, Oaxaca, Mexico, Fine Arts Series, Colorado State University, and The Mission (homeless shelter), Fort Collins.

Member

PEN, Women Writing the West, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi.

Awards, Honors

Milkweed Prize for Fiction, 2001, and PEN USA Award for fiction, 2002, both for Hell's Bottom, Colorado; Arts Alive grant, 2003, for story "Door to the Beyond"; Pushcart Prize nomination, 2004, for story "Strands of Barbed Wire"; Willa Award, 2006, for Sky Bridge.

Writings

Hell's Bottom, Colorado (stories), Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.

Sky Bridge (novel), Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2005.

(Editor) Pulse of the River: Colorado Writers Speak for the Endangered Cachel la Poudre, Johnson Press (Boulder, CO), 2006.

(Editor) Home Land: Ranching and a West That Works, Johnson Press (Boulder, CO), 2007.

Work represented in anthologies, including Comeback Wolves: Western Writers Welcome the Wolf Home, Johnson Books (Boulder, CO), 2005. Contributor of stories, articles, and reviews to periodicals, including Orion, High Country News, U.S. Catholic, Colorado Review, Matter, Fox Cry Review, Elle, and Sun. Editor and contributor to nonfiction books, including Home Land: Ranching in the Radical Center, Johnston Books, 2006, and The Cache la Poudre River, Johnston Books, 2006.

Sidelights

Growing up on a small ranch in northern Colorado, Laura Pritchett knew she wanted to be a writer from an early age. After writing and publishing short fiction during her twenties, Pritchett assembled a collection of her interwoven short stories about a ranching family that was published in 2001 as Hell's Bottom, Colorado. Praised by contributors, Hell's Bottom, Colorado won the Milkweed Editions Fiction Prize as well as the PEN USA annual award for fiction. Calling her storytelling both "admirable" and "steely-eyed," a Publishers Weekly contributor added that in Hell's Bottom, Colorado "Pritchett's emotional revelations are often painted with broad strokes," while her "writing is redeemed by fierce tenderness."

In the ten stories that comprise Hell's Bottom, Colorado, Pritchett introduces readers to three generations of a Western cattle-ranching family: parents Renny and Bill, their daughters Carolyn and Rachel, and their four teenaged grandchildren. In the title story Renny and Bill are grieving the death of Rachel, but a brief respite comes when they work together to help a cow deliver its calf. "A Fine White Dust" goes back in time to Rachel's live-in relationship with Ray, an abusive man who ultimately became her killer. Reviewing the collection, School Library Journal reviewer Molly Connally predicted that "teens will find this a moving portrait of the American West and what it takes to eke out a living from land that is as harsh as it is beautiful."

Pritchett's debut novel, Sky Bridge, is also set in Colorado. In the story, twenty-two-year-old Libby convinces her younger sister, Tess, not to have an abortion, promising that she will help care for Tess's child. Libby hopes that after Tess has her baby, she will come to love the infant. Instead, the teen leaves town—and ulti-

mately becomes involved in smuggling drugs across the Canadian border—leaving Libby to care for her baby, which she names Amber. Amber is only one aspect of Libby's life that is in turmoil: Unsure about whether she wants to marry her boyfriend, Derek, the young woman also loses her job in the town's grocery store. After Tess shows herself to be unable to care for a child, Amber's father is visited by a flash of responsibility and decides that he wants custody of the infant. For Libby, Amber has become central to her world, and several supportive friends now step in to help the young woman keep the infant, among them a hippie beekeeper named Ed, who is new to town. Reviewing Sky Bridge for School Library Journal, Kim Dare wrote that Pritchett's novel "offers a gritty but redeeming picture of a family that never quite lets go of hope, and characters who are not soon forgotten." In a Kirkus Reviews appraisal, a contributor wrote that the novel "displays Pritchett's gift for dialogue and compelling characters."

For Pritchett, the region where she grew up, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, figures prominently in all her writing. "I'm still in love with [this area] … and as I've witnessed the development of the west (one acre of Colorado's land is developed every four minutes; gone forever), I've been compelled to write about it," she explained on her home page. She explained that her "growing sense of loss and alarm" inspired her to edit two collections of essays that address the region's land-use issues: The Pulse of the River: Colorado Writers Speak for the Endangered Cache la Poudre and Home Land: Writings for a West That Works.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 1, 2001, Carol Haggas, review of Hell's Bottom, Colorado, p. 52.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2001, review of Hell's Bottom, Colorado, p. 1388; March 1, 2005, review of Sky Bridge, p. 255.

Library Journal, June 1, 2005, Faye A. Chadwell, review of Sky Bridge, p. 121.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 3, 2002, Susan Salter Reynolds, review of Hell's Bottom, Colorado.

Publishers Weekly, October 29, 2001, review of Hell's Bottom, Colorado, p. 36; April 25, 2005, review of Sky Bridge, p. 41.

School Library Journal, February, 2002, Molly Connally, review of Hell's Bottom, Colorado, p. 154; May, 2005, Kim Dare, review of Sky Bridge, p. 169.

ONLINE

Laura Pritchett Home Page,http://www.laurapritchett.com (May 20, 2007).