Dodging Satan

I began writing Dodging Satan as memoir, but eventually discovered that I could be more truthful in fiction. And so Bridget Flaherty was born. She opened new possibilities for me to reconstruct the 1960s parish Catholic world in which I grew up. I could combine my own experiences with those of others and what I sensed lay underneath them.

Finding “The Holy” in Holy Water and performing an exorcism on one of her classmates are but two ways young Bridget displaces anxiety about her parents’ endless arguments and her fear of being abandoned if her mother ever learns to drive.

Her glamorous aunts, trapped in bad marriages, raise questions about sexuality, God-the-F’s enmity toward woman, and whether she should become a nun. Discovering 60s women’s lib, romance novels, and the Beatles, she stumbles upon hilariously inappropriate “practice boyfriends.”

Bridget ponders the metaphysics of virginity as the Blessed Virgin herself comes to her aid in the middle of a diocesan exam. Or could the BVM’s revelations really be signs of Bridget’s growing self-awareness and developing womanhood?


Essays

  • “Satan’s Snakes, Vanilla Cokes.” Calyx 25.2 (2009).
  • “I Always Felt Like I was on Good Terms with the Virgin Mary, Even Though I Hadn’t Gotten Pregnant in High School.” Phoebe: Gender and Cultural Critique 20.1 (2008); Kestrel 22 (2009); Tiny Lights 15 (2010). Awarded 2009 Tiny Lights first prize for personal essay.
  • “Holy Cards.” Witness 21 (2007); Rock & Sling 4.2 (2007).
  • “At the Kitchen Window.” Zone 3 22.2 (2007).
  • “Practice Boyfriend.” The Rambler 4.6 (2007).
  • “First Kiss, with Only Shakespeare To Protect Me.” The Dirty Goat 16 (2007); Westview 28.2 (2008).
  • “Why Did Sister Veronica Really Call?” Stringtown 9 (2006).
  • “Santa Anna and the Sewer Creatures.” Willow Review 33 (2006).
  • “Barfing in the First Grade.” Poemmemoirstory 6 (2006).
  • “Front Window or The Case of Bones and Bone China.” Compass Rose 7 (2005-6).
  • “Porridge.” Lullwater Review 15.2 (2005).
  • “Bishop O’Brien’s Child’s Guide to Avoiding Temptation and the Miracle of Sylvia DiStephano’s Rosary.” Italian Americana 23.2 (2005).
  • “Assignment 13: Compare And Contrast Two of Your Relatives.” Northwest Review 43.2 (2005).
  • “Staten Island Ladies of Cootras.” Fugue 7 (2004): 176-186.

Short Stories

Writing Awards

  • “In The Backseat of a Mustang Convertible on Memorial Day in the Rain.” Honorable Mention, New Millennium Writings competition, 2014.
  • “I Always Felt Like I was on Good Terms with the Virgin Mary, Even Though I Hadn’t Gotten Pregnant in High School,” staged reading performed by Petaluma Readers Theatre, Petaluma, CA, June 2012.
  • Tiny Lights Journal Annual First Prize for Personal Essay: “I Always Felt Like I was on Good Terms with the Virgin Mary, Even Though I Hadn’t Gotten Pregnant in High School,” 2009.
  • “Barfing in the First Grade” nominated for inclusion in the new Norton Best Creative Nonfiction Anthology, 2006.
  • The Culture of Reading and the Teaching of English. (Manchester University Press and St. Martin’s Press, 1994.) Mina Shaughnessy Award, 1995. Awarded annually by the MLA for an outstanding research publication in the field of teaching English language and literature.

Selected Readings

  • “I Always Felt Like I was on Good Terms with the Virgin Mary, Even Though I Hadn’t Gotten Pregnant in High School.” The Virgin Mary in Britain and Ireland Conference. York, England. July 2014. Our Lady of Walsingham Conference. Walsingham, England. March 2008.
  • “Satan, The Holy, and a Fart in a Mitten.” American Italian Historical Association Conference. New York, New York. November 2010.
  • “At the Kitchen Window.” Writing Grief and Death in the Italian American Memoir. Baton Rouge, Louisiana. October 2009.
  • “Holy Cards.” Walsingham, England. March 2008.
  • “First Kiss with Only Shakespeare to Protect Me.” Dirty Goat 16 Release Party. New York, New York. February 2007.
  • “Assignment 13: Compare and Contrast Two of Your Relatives.” Los Angeles, California. November 2005.
  • “Processes of Writing Creative Nonfiction: Analyzing Theme and Symbols in ‘Why is God in Daddy’s Slippers?’” Fordham University. New York, New York. October 2005.
  • “Barfing in the First Grade.” Purchase, New York. October 2004.
  • “Staten Island Ladies of Cootras.” Boca Raton, Florida. November 2003.