If you’re of a certain age or music inclination, you may recognize the title of queer, trans author Claire Rudy Foster’s short story collection, “Shine of the Ever” as a line from the 1990 Pixies song “Velouria.”
Critics have described the book as “a compassionate ode to a Pixies-infused era” that “captures the feeling you get when you’ve chosen the perfect next song.” Foster, 35, of Portland, will read from the book on Friday at Roundabout Books in Bend.
“It’s 13 linked short stories that are set in grunge-era Portland,” Foster said. “The characters are primarily queer and trans girls, and the stories — you know, my pitch was ‘no sad endings.’ Rather than having LGBTQ characters who are victims, or who are excluded or who are sort of props for a straight main character, they’re living their own life, and telling their own stories.”
That means no trauma, rape or murder, Foster said. “A lot of the things that are often linked with my community are simply not in the stories. These are people who are allowed to lead their own imperfect, complicated, pleasurable lives.”
Foster, who goes by the name “Foster Rudy” socially, identifies as nonbinary. Their essays and journalism about sex, identity, relationships and recovery have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and McSweeney’s.
Foster earned a bachelor’s degree from Reed College in 2006 and had writing ambitions even then.
“I had this dream, I think, like many people do, that I was going to hit it straight out of the gate. I was going to be 21 with a huge book deal. I wanted to be a real writer. I wanted that so badly,” Foster said.
But drugs and alcohol abuse compromised Foster’s early efforts at writing — although the author stops short of calling it writing.
“I would say that I was typing during those years. I don’t think that I would call that writing,” Foster said. “There’s a lot of substance issues around creative work. The pressure cooker of being a creative person is pretty intense.”
At Reed, studying with the likes of “My Abandonment” author Peter Rock, “I was learning form. I was learning structure, but … because of my issues with substances, I wasn’t able to finish anything, and I wasn’t able to focus,” Foster said. “I was making pages. I was typing, but it was just material. It was like a pile of leaves. It was like, ‘Well this is not a book.’”
Foster has been in recovery from alcoholism and addiction since 2007. After getting clean, Foster earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing, “which I don’t recommend,” they said.
Wait a minute. Most writers do not regret — or at least do not admit to regretting — earning an MFA.
“I feel like … it accelerated my learning curve,” Foster said. “Studying writing in an academic setting, I think, connected me with these great teachers who did a lot to push me and teach me things faster than I would have learned on my own. But honestly, I don’t think that great writing thrives in an academic setting. I think it’s just like any other part of life. You have to go out and live it. And I didn’t learn who I was in an Ivy League institution. I learned by going out and making mistakes and trying things for myself.”
The positive reactions to “Shine of the Ever” seem to suggest those lessons have been learned.
“It’s such a weird little book,” Foster said, citing the fact that it’s short stories with queer themes set very specifically in Portland.
“Those are things that from an industry perspective can be very hard to sell. But something about this book really speaks to readers — and not just queer readers, either. My concern was that I would have a really dedicated fan base of people who are one specific type,” Foster said.
“But it’s been really, really gratifying to see heterosexual people reading and enjoying the book, and saying things like, ‘I now feel like I understand my grandchild better,’ ‘I understand my partner better,’ ‘I understand my friend better,’ and sort of bringing people to the table to have this fresh perspective on gender identity.”