The Art of the Climate resident has been chosen, and is also AS IF Center’s first official resident. Through a competitive process, we selected Cynthia Reeves, a writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of journals and anthologies. She has won numerous honors, including Miami University Press’s Novella Prize (2007) for Badlands; several Pushcart Prize nominations; and prizes in Columbia’s Fiction Contest, the 2006 and 2008 Quarter After Eight Short Prose Contests, New Millennium’s Short Short Fiction Contest, and Potomac Review’s Fiction Contest. She has also been awarded residencies to Vermont Studio Center and the 2017 Arctic Circle Summer Solstice Expedition to Svalbard.
Cynthia’s work most often arises in the intersection between history and science. She seeks to portray how the political and the external impinge upon the personal. Often that fresh angle comes through locating the work in the lives of ordinary people whose stories have been lost or ignored, with the goal of enlarging our engagement with wider, unfamiliar worlds. A graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA program, Cynthia has taught in the creative writing programs at Rosemont College and Bryn Mawr College.
What will Cynthia be doing at AS IF Center?
Cynthia’s current writing project is a trilogy of linked novellas entitled The Comfort of Water. All three are set on the Svalbard archipelago, where in June 2017 she shared the Arctic Circle Summer Solstice expedition with 31 other artists. The first novella, The Last Whaler, concerns a Norwegian couple—a beluga whaler and his botanist wife—stranded on Spitsbergen during the winter of 1935-36. Among other themes, it explores the effect of humans on the environment and the protagonist’s changing attitudes toward harvesting whales. The second, The Last Glacier, is a fairy tale set in a parallel contemporary world told from the point of view of the glacier. Its intention is to describe a world that could be lost without significant intervention to slow down the loss of ice at the poles. The third, The Last Eden, a post-apocalyptic novella set in the near future, centers on two characters—a female botanist and a hominin creature—confronted with a cataclysmic event: the sudden massive calving of an ice shelf that isolates them in an Arctic cave. Each has knowledge of the past but no way to access or employ that knowledge. What would become of their desire to reclaim a world already gone? What is the potential for a relationship, for love, to redefine the possible even in the most extreme conditions?
This writing project poses two major challenges: to create three very different, authentic worlds, and to portray the geo-political and scientific context in which each story is set. During the residency, Cynthia will continue writing the novellas while also collaborating with scientists at NCEI—especially botanists and glaciologists—to more fully understand the implications of climate change on plants and ice and to supplement her years of Arctic research.