The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Picture of Tara Ison

Tara Ison

Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference Faculty, 2018

Tara Ison is the author of the novels A Child out of Alcatraz, The List, and Rockaway, the essay collection Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies, and the short story collection Ball. She is a professor of creative writing at Arizona State University. For more info, please see

Selected Media

"Boundaries of Choice: Tara Ison's Ball." Keith Watson, Slant (Nov 11, 2015).

"Tara Ison writes stories of love, sex, and abuse, but they’re all, in the end, stories of destruction. Ostensibly set in Los Angeles (and, in one case, St. Louis), the 11 short stories collected in Ball really take place in the vast, alienated expanses of the contemporary female psyche. Ison’s protagonists, who also typically narrate their own stories, may seem normal enough at first, but they’re invariably psychologically dominated by men—boyfriends, lovers, fathers, abusers. There’s no escape, only annihilation."

"Wild Women: Eleanor Duke interviews Tara Ison." Eleanor Duke, Los Angeles Review of Books (Jan 6, 2016).

"I grew up during the fading end of the myth of Hollywood glamour. I got a taste of that growing up, but those days are gone. I think I still hold some of that in my head and in my heart, but when I’m here, I’m hit by the reality of an Urban Outfitters and a Chipotle on every corner. Los Angeles is more generic now. As with everything, it’s louder and more crowded. I forget a lot of those things because I’m still nostalgic for the Los Angeles of my childhood. And I don’t live here anymore either, so I think I do get to see it all through rose-tinted glasses. So yes, it’s ambivalence. I love coming back here, and yet I don’t live here."

"Tara Ison Likes to Keep You Off-Kilter (Mature)." Brian Dunn and Robert Hoekman Jr., Spillers After Show (May 2, 2016)

"Tara Ison has amassed so many writing awards she should be talking to Charlie Rose, not us. After her Spillers No. 4 reading, the writer of everything from screenplays and essays to novels and short stories talks about embracing dark themes, how she drives her characters to their reckoning points, and why unreliable narrators are just the thing to keep readers turning pages."

"Bakery Girl." Tara Ison, Nerve (2007). 

"There are two kinds of women here: the old ones, wrinkled and chipper, with hairpinned buns or permed wisps, knobbed knuckles and grandmother names like Ruby, Esther, or Bess, who work the morning shifts and slice and bag marbled ryes with the efficiency of nuns. And then there are the girls, in their mid-to-late teens, who come in after school, if they go to school, to relieve the old ones. The girls work till closing at nine, and all day Saturdays and Sundays. The smell of their fruity lip gloss and gum competes with the cherry-topped cheesecakes and yeast, and they cinch their bib aprons tight around their waists, tug them low over their tank tops, lean far over the counters toward the rare male customer."

"How To Be A Slut: The Choices and Priorities of a Promiscuous Woman, and No, You Do Not Complete Me." Tara Ison, Electric Literature (Feb 5, 2016).

"Moscow, 1913: an icy Russian winter, the crystallizing Soviet chill. Gorgeous seventeen-year-old Lara has been secretly sleeping with her mother’s lover, Victor Komarovsky, an older, slimy opportunist — she has just introduced him to Pasha, her idealistic young revolutionary fiancé, whom she is still planning to marry. Now alone with Lara, Komarovsky is unimpressed

 There are two kinds of men, and only two,
 and that young man is one kind. He is
 high-minded. He is pure…. There is another
 kind. Not high-minded. Not pure. But alive….
 For you to marry that boy would be a
 disaster. Because there are two kinds of
 women, and you, as we well know, are not
 the first kind….

Lara gasps, slaps him. He pays no mind

 You, my dear, are a slut."