Sky Writer

Elyse Singleton has been supporting herself as a freelance writer for years. She's had articles and columns in the Denver Post, the Miami Herald, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune and Westword. She's done a lot of travel writing and also turned out pieces for women's magazines. But all that time, she was quietly working on a longer-term and more deeply felt project: engaging in the exploration of theme, plot and character that would result in her first novel, This Side of the Sky. The novel was published by Bluehen Books, an imprint of Penguin Putnam Inc., to excellent reviews, and chosen by Barnes & Noble for the Discover Great New Writers program.

Singleton doesn't regret the time spent freelancing: "It was surprisingly helpful and illuminating," she says. "It allowed me to encounter characters in the safety of my office, through the safety of my phone, that I would not have normally encountered."

This Side of the Sky tells the story of two women, best friends, who escape rural Mississippi and eventually find themselves in France during World War II. It is full of action and feeling, but the tone is lyrical and understated, and much of its pleasure can be found in Singleton's vivid and original use of language.

Like her characters, Singleton has always felt herself somewhat outside of the dominant culture. "In Denver, I feel my home is my apartment," she says. "I love my apartment, but the larger city is as much a foreign nation as any other foreign nation I've visited. I tend to be sensitive, and I do fear having some grating or unpleasant experience when I go out." Singleton has written satirically about the almost universal black experience of being stopped while driving and searched; she once wrote that if a group of minority students had hung around Columbine High School wearing emblematic clothes and making threats, they would not have been dismissed "as quirky individualists, unpleasant but harmless. In fact, dismissal would have taken place only in the form of their darker-skinned tails being dismissed right off that upscale suburban campus."

Join Singleton this week when she reads from her novel at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of a program organized by the editors of Many Mountains Moving magazine.