The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Picture of Alix Ohlin

Alix Ohlin

Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference Faculty, 2018

Alix Ohlin is the author of four books of fiction, most recently Inside and Signs and Wonders. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, The New York Times, Best American Short Stories, and many other places. She lives in Easton, PA and teaches at Lafayette College.

Selected Media

"Casino." Alix Ohlin, Guernica (May 1, 2012).

"When Trisha comes to town we have to go out. She’s the bitterest soccer mom of all time and as part of her escape from home she wants to get drunk and complain about her workaholic husband and over-scheduled, ungrateful children. No one appreciates how much she does for them. All she does is give, give, give, without getting anything back, et cetera. I don’t really mind—I enjoy a good martini, and while Trisha rants I don’t have to worry about getting sloppy, given that she’s always sloppier—except that even her complaints are part boast."

"A System from the North." Alix Ohlin, The Walrus (Nov 18, 2016).

"It was snowing the day the boy walked away. She was standing outside with the Tadpoles—they went outside every day, regardless of the weather; it was part of the Philosophy—preparing to herd them back inside the building. She counted three, four, but not five. The child had a blue coat that ought to have stood out against the blankness of the snow. She didn’t see him anywhere. She closed her eyes, teary with melt, and tried again. Three, four. Not five. He was gone."

"Quarantine." Alix Ohlin, The New Yorker (Jan 30, 2017). Includes an audio recording from WNYC. See also "Alix Ohlin on the Casual but Genuine Intimacy of Social Media" from The New Yorker.

"Bridget lived in Barcelona for a year. First she stayed with her college friends Maya and Andrew, who were trying to be poets, and then she sublet from a man named Marco, whom she’d met at a grocery store. She had a fling with a woman named Bernadette, who was from New Zealand and shared a flat with a Scot named Laurie, whom Bridget also slept with, and that was the end of things with Bernadette. Bridget smoked Fortuna cigarettes and wrote furiously in her journal about people she’d known and slept with, or wanted to sleep with, or had slept with and then been rejected by. She was twenty-three years old."

"On Not Letting Go: An Interview with Alix Ohlin." Dean Bakopoulos, Fiction Writers Review (July 30, 2012).

"My first book was a coming-of-age story narrated by a single person, set in one place, over the course of a single summer. I chose these confinements as a way of coping with my intense, heart-racing anxiety over writing a novel, thinking it would make the project more manageable. For this second book, I wanted to try something different, and the larger canvas, fractured chronology, and multiple story lines felt like an intriguing (at times impossible) risk to take. And I liked how the ideas in the book, which are about helping and connection, were configured and reconfigured by their various appearances in the lives of all the different characters. It seemed to turn the novel into a kind of echo chamber, and I liked that"

"Fiction in the Age of Social Media." Alix Ohlin, AWP Writers Notebook (Dec 2016).

"Perhaps what’s unique in our era is the degree to which the activity of constructing a public self consumes us, its encompassing status as a hobby, passion, or chore. Online selves can feel both public and intimate, emotionally intense but carefully curated, and you can’t always tell where the artifice and omission lie. These vexing qualities of contemporary selfhood are at the heart of a number of recent autobiographical novels. Books like Tao Lin’s Taipei and Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station court confusion between reality and fiction, writer self and character self, perhaps because the boundary between the two feels more arbitrary and fluid than it ever has before. In these autofictions, the experience of living in a socially mediated world leads to emotional exhaustion; the self feels not so much artificial as affectless, detached in a way that’s pinned to our particular moment."

"Embracing the Gap: An Interview with Alix Ohlin." Tess Wilson, The Fourth River.

"All writing begins and ends in failure, and that embracing failure is the most important step a writer can take. I always have this vision in my head – this idea that “Oh, this book is going to be amazing!” – but the distance between what I wanted to do and what I wanted to accomplish is vast. And I can work on the draft as much as I possibly can but, inevitably, it never gets close to where I wanted it to be. You never finish, you just abandon and move on to the next thing. So, for me, another crucial part of the writing process is reading, because it reminds me of what great writing can be and can do. When I look at my own work, all I can see are the flaws and all the things that didn’t come through. But when I look at someone else’s work and see what they were able to do, I try to write back to that, or write an imitation of that, or write out of love of that."