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Ethel Rohan

Raised in Ireland, Ethel Rohan now lives San Francisco. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Potomac Review, and Los Angeles Review among many others. Cut Through the Bone was Long Listed as a notable collection by the 2010 Story Prize.


“Rohan’s stories are, more than anything else, about loss . . . and about the odd, endearing, and desperate ways that people fill the void or ignore it.”


“These stories create a sense of loss in the reader, an ache, but thankfully they avoid dull cynicism. Instead, they bear witness to the difficulty of living for oneself while sacrificing for others."

– Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine

“In this unforgettable collection, Rohan reveals her mastery in finding the danger of ordinary objects, the way they come alive when her characters hold them in their hands.”

– Kevin Wilson, author of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth

"This is a marvelous collection, filled with moments that startle and shatter."

– Laura van den Berg, author of What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us

" . . . beautiful and inventive, tender and absurd, quirky and heartbreaking, dark and strange and devastating."

– Michael Kimball, author of Dear Everybody,

"Ethel Rohan’s women, despite their wounds, are strong of spirit."

– William Walsh, author of Pathologies

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Cut Through the Bone

Let's Collaborate on an Interview


My plan for posting here at TLP is to post every MWF, but whenever something feels pertinent, you’ll see me pop up here on a Tuesday or Thursday. Like today.

I have an idea I want you to be a part of.

I intend to interview every author I feature here at TLP, but I wanted to involve the Lit Pub community in some way, so I thought, “What better way to involve the community than to solicit questions from them?”

So, TLP community, what is a question you’ve been dying to ask Ethel Rohan, about Cut Through the Bone, about any of her other work, about her life (no marriage proposals–I think she’s already got one), her writing ethic, thoughts about the lunar landing conspiracy?

Leave your questions in the comment section. I’ll do some curating of them, send them along to Ethel, and post the resulting interview here at TLP.

Stay classy, internet.

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  1. Kristina said on 06/02/11 at 3:26 pm Reply

    Okay, I have been thinking obsessively about MFAs for basically thirty thousand years now, and I know it’s been discussed to death lately, but I would love to hear about Ethel’s MFA experience and what her thoughts are on the whole “MFAs remove your brains and replace them with ROBOT BRAINS” debate.


    Chris Newgent said on 06/02/11 at 4:09 pm

    Ah, that is a good question. As someone who went the professional route rather than academic after undergrad, I’ve always seen that argument in a different light. I absorb it more objectively I think since it’s not targeting me. But, I look at people who have MFAs who are particularly innovative, interesting writers, and I think, “How do people justify that?”

    I’ll be sure to get that one in the interview!

  2. Molly Gaudry said on 06/02/11 at 4:10 pm Reply

    Ethel blogs a lot about her mother. If she’s willing, I would like to know more about what’s happening in her life. She is so willing to share a touch of the detail, the suffering her mother is going through, but I really want to know what Ethel’s going through . . . maybe for no other reason than to send her virtual hugs.


  3. Ethel Rohan said on 06/02/11 at 4:33 pm Reply

    Hi Kristina,

    Based on my personal experiences, I disagree that MFAs produce ROBOT BRAINS. I consider my MFA experience at Mills a good one and don’t regret doing the degree. That said, I don’t believe writers need an MFA, at least certainly not to write and not to get published and not to be brilliant, God knows all this has been proven over and over.

    Of course all MFA programs are not created equally and I can only speak to my experiences at Mills. Here’s what I consider I got out of my MFA:

    -The permission and opportunity to read and write.
    -The interesting and often provocative classroom discussions around books, writers, writing, and publishing.
    – The collective, creative charge. On the best days, sparks flew!
    -Validation from my peers and teachers.
    -The opportunity to read and critique my peers’ writing and thus inform my own.
    – The connection with my classmates.
    -The connection with my teachers, and two in particular: Amanda Davis and Victor LaValle.

    My degree at Mills took two years to complete and, despite a partial scholarship, cost so much money it still makes me ill to think about and I don’t think my MFA opened a single door or created a single opportunity.

    My MFA certainly didn’t help me get a single story published. Aside from some kick-ass support and praise and a generous blurb from Victor LaValle for CTTB that still makes me want to kiss and hug him hard and yet another painful life lesson handed down with Amanda’s tragic death, I feel a little empty-handed versus emptied-headed as a direct result of my MFA.

    I also don’t believe I especially benefitted from my MFA workshops.

    The decision to complete an MFA is a very personal one. My advice? With or without an MFA: write and read like someone demented and also take the time and effort to network and forge as many solid lit connections as you can. Get out in your literary community both virtual and real and meet other writers and artists and–as much as you can–buy books and shout for others, including all those superstar editors and booksellers, and support all art.

    Best of Luck!


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