dancing to go on

Patty Somlo

Patty Somlo’s most recent book, Hairway to Heaven Stories, was published by Cherry Castle Publishing, a Black-owned press committed to literary activism. Hairway was a Finalist in the American Fiction Awards and Best Book Awards. Two of Somlo’s previous books, The First to Disappear and Even When Trapped Behind Clouds: A Memoir of Quiet Grace, were Finalists in several book contests. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Gravel, Sheepshead Review, Under the Sun, the Los Angeles Review, and The Nassau Review, among others, and in over 30 anthologies.

She received Honorable Mention for Fiction in the Women’s National Book Association Contest, was a Finalist in the Parks and Points Essay Contest, had an essay selected as Notable for Best American Essays, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize multiple times, as well as to Best of the Net.

Fiction

Dancing to Go On

written by Patty Somlo

A former dancer and about-to-retire choreographer is surprised to receive a letter from a foreign country. The short, handwritten note rekindles memories of a passionate love affair, and a separate friendship, decades before in Nicaragua. Her recollections spark a surprising insight that hadn’t been apparent to her so long ago.

 

 

© 2022 Patty Somlo  | Recording © 2022 Rivercliff Books & Media. All rights reserved.

The letter arrived on a February morning that was unseasonably warm. Folded twice and sealed, the thin blue paper barely weighed more than air.

My eyes went straight to a man wearing one of the loose white cotton shirts many Nicaraguan men preferred. He had black hair, a matching mustache, and dark eyes that drilled right through mine.

I tried not to obsess about the tragedy. But as everyone knows, trying not to think about something practically guarantees you’ll do just that. As I yanked up dozens of young blackberry vines outside, countless baby thorns pierced my hand. I wondered if Julia had even tried to defend herself?

I felt alive in Nicaragua. Yes, I was in love, and love affairs made me happy. But it was also the country, its sultry weather, friendly people, and the hope they had of creating a better life.

dancing to go on

Patty Somlo’s most recent book, Hairway to Heaven Stories, was published by Cherry Castle Publishing, a Black-owned press committed to literary activism. Hairway was a Finalist in the American Fiction Awards and Best Book Awards. Two of Somlo’s previous books, The First to Disappear and Even When Trapped Behind Clouds: A Memoir of Quiet Grace, were Finalists in several book contests. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Gravel, Sheepshead Review, Under the Sun, the Los Angeles Review, and The Nassau Review, among others, and in over 30 anthologies.

She received Honorable Mention for Fiction in the Women’s National Book Association Contest, was a Finalist in the Parks and Points Essay Contest, had an essay selected as Notable for Best American Essays, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize multiple times, as well as to Best of the Net.

Q&A with Patty

Tell us about your story...

Anna De Niro, a former dancer who is choreographing her final piece, is surprised to discover a letter in her mailbox that appears to have come from a foreign country. The short, handwritten note sparks memories of an affair, and a separate friendship, decades before in Nicaragua. As Anna thinks about that time, new insights emerge that hadn’t been apparent to her decades ago.

 

What was the inspiration for this story?

I worked as a journalist for ten years before focusing on more creative writing. I spent part of that time reporting in Nicaragua. For weeks, I had been attempting to get an interview with a top government official who had written and published a best-selling memoir. One night, who should take a seat across from me, at a communal table in a café, but this official? My story was inspired by this encounter.

What are you most looking forward to, post pandemic?

My husband is immunocompromised, so it is difficult to know when – or if – anything close to normal life will be open to us. In the meantime, we will continue to take walks on the beautiful Sonoma Coast, a short drive from our house in Northern California.

What have you read recently that you enjoyed?

I am an obsessive reader, often enjoying several books at the same time. Most recently, I loved the novel, The Stationary Shop, by Marjan Kamali, and will soon finish another terrific novel, Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh.

 

 

 

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Well, I don’t feel guilty about this (usually) but I love to shop for clothes. The pandemic has changed that, though. I’ve hardly bought any clothes the past two years, since we’ve mostly been stuck at home.

Coffee or tea? Whiskey or Wine?

Coffee, specifically Peet’s French Roast, and wine. I write early in the morning, with my first cup of coffee. Happiest time of my day.

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