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Fiction

A Friend Loves At All Times

I am hunting you, Elisabeth. I pack a small bag and leave home before the sun’s up. I go down to the lake where we swam as children and perch nibbled our toes, mistaking them for stout worms. I go back to the field where we found you, take off my gloves, and trace your imprint in the snow.

Spring 2016 in Paycock Press’s Abundant Grace: Fiction by D.C. Area Women

Warm and Disloyal

Laurie never used anything she learned in home ec until she dumped Neil. Now she’s sewed a voodoo doll—back stitch, overcast stitch, running stitch. Two days ago she cut up Neil’s gray Old Navy hoodie that he gave her after the homecoming dance . . .

Nominated by Gargoyle editors for a Pushcart Prize.

Feb. 2015 @ Gargoyle 62. Reprinted Jan. 2016 @ Eunoia Review ⟶

The Rip

 Bethany’s little sister asks for an omelet. From beneath her pile of down and crocheted blankets, Gloria requests eggs with cheese, chorizo, and potatoes. She lifts her bloated hands, holds them seven inches apart, and says, “Make it this big.”

Nominated by WhiskeyPaper editors for Best Small Fictions of 2015.

Sep. 2014 @ WhiskeyPaper

A Good Body

A rusted mess of barbed wire nearly stripped Debbie of her torso in her first and only car accident.

Selected by BookPeople as a recommended weekend read.

“Virgie Townsend’s Flash Friday on the Tin House blog shows the power of a very few well-chosen words.” — Rob Spillman, Tin House editor.

Feb. 2014 @ Tin House’s Flash Fridays ⟶

Because We Were Christian Girls

 Because we were Christian girls from fundamentalist churches, we wore our dads’ old, floppy t-shirts to the pool at our co-ed Christian camp.

Included in Bartleby Snopes, Issue 11 as a staff selection.

Available on Kindle.

Jan. 2014 @ Bartleby Snopes, Issue 11

The Freeze

 Michael heard once that the stars used to be so close and bright that his ancestors could see the shape of a spoon hanging in the sky. On nights like this one, when he’s walking home from work with his nose buried in his coat, he looks up and tries to find that mythological constellation. He never does—his eyes are too weak and the stars are too distant.

Selected by SmokeLong Quarterly editors for inclusion in SmokeLong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years.

Dec. 2011 @ SmokeLong Quarterly

The Crunch

 Marcella’s foot bounces forth and back, forth and back, as she unlearns middle school math. With her right hand, she unscrawls her name– the curling ‘c’ and looping ‘ls’– from the desk, and then sweeps her red hair out from behind her ear.

Selected by Pif editors for inclusion in Best of Pif, Volume One.

May 2011 @ Pif Magazine

Seventeen

 Your mother called me after you went missing, asking if I knew anything they should know. There aren’t a lot of places to hide in Victorsville, and she was worried because no one had seen you since the night before.

Voted by readers as one of Every Day Fiction’s top 10 stories of 2011.

Jan. 2011 @ Every Day Fiction

Nonfiction

I’ve known two convicted child sex offenders. But I refuse to parent by fear

On two occasions, I’ve worked with men who were later convicted of child sexual abuse offenses. One of them shocked me; the other didn’t. Now, as my husband and I prepare for the birth of our first child, the question I’ve asked before has become more demanding: How can we help our child navigate a world in which it will inevitably meet people who want to harm it?

Jul. 2016 @ The Washington Post

Why Flash Fiction? It’s a Not-Quite Accident

I’ve known since I was a kid that I wanted to be a writer. I was shy and uncoordinated, but writing made sense to me in a way that little else did. I could hear a rhythm to language, and I wanted to put it to paper.

Mar. 2016 @ SmokeLong Quarterly’s blog ⟶

North Dakota Races to Address Housing Inspection, Facility Needs Following Oil Boom

North Dakota’s shale oil boom made it the state with the lowest unemployment as new workers poured into its Western region in search of high-paying jobs in the oil patches.

Mar. 2016 @ StatePublicHealth.org ⟶

‘I Cried for Weeks’: Volunteering With ISIS Escapees in Kurdistan

 I could tell you 100 stories and it wouldn’t cover what the people I’ve met have to say,” Sindy writes to me, shortly before 1 a.m. her time. She has spent the past year in Kurdistan, where she works with individuals who have escaped the horrors of ISIS.

Oct. 2015 @ Jezebel

Teaching Flash Fiction to Developing Writers

 On my first day of teaching flash fiction writing to high school students, I overheard some of my students wonder aloud: What is flash fiction?

Jul. 2015 @ SmokeLong Quarterly blog ⟶

Solving a Family Mystery 68 Years After a Death on D-Day

Since my childhood, my mom has told me, “Your grandfather’s best friend was killed beside him on D-Day.” She uses the same phrase every time: “killed beside him.” As a child, I understood this meant my grandfather and his friend were heroes, but it also explained why Grampy struggled to talk about it.

May 2015 @ The Huffington Post

What Doesn’t Kill You Doesn’t Necessarily Make You Stronger

 When I was 15, I attended a writing workshop with a girl who had been sexually abused by a family member, trauma that she explored in her poetry. She said she was offended when people told her: “I’m really sorry that happened to you.” She felt like they were saying they wanted to change her, so she’d reply: “Don’t be. It made me who I am today.”

Jan. 2015 @ The Washington Post

Multistate Measles Outbreak Drives Up State Health Agency Costs

 With the Disneyland measles outbreak up to 87 cases in seven states as of Jan. 26, state health departments are responding to the disease by educating primary care providers and the public about measles and conducting contact tracing.

Jan. 2015 @ StatePublicHealth.org ⟶

At the Gynecologist’s Office

 I was sitting in my gynecologist’s office, waiting to get my IUD removed so my husband and I can have a baby, when the woman across from me began telling a nurse about her daughter who killed herself the previous year.

Aug. 2014 @ The Toast

On the Front Lines: A Look at How States are Preparing for an Ebola Response

 Before Ebola dominated U.S. news media or the first American citizens contracted the disease in West Africa, state and territorial health departments were mobilizing to respond to imported cases. For months, they’ve been creating Ebola guidelines and algorithms for their healthcare facilities and providers, collaborating with their West African populations, and communicating with the public about the disease and how to prevent an outbreak.

Oct. 2014 @ StatePublicHealth.org ⟶

Protective Orders in Pretrial Discovery Phase Keep Journalists Unplugged

Millions of pages of documents have been hidden from the public in a high-profile federal court antitrust case between two computer giants, illustrating how parties are able to essentially secretly litigate disputes in public courts.

Sep. 2008 @ The News Media and The Law. Republished by redOrbit ⟶

Misc.

This episode of Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon features Virgie’s story, “The Freeze.”

Featuring Rae Bryant and Theodore Carter, authors, respectively, of The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals and The Life Story of a Chilean Sea Blob and Other Matters of Importance.

This episode of Every Day Fiction’s podcast features Virgie’s story, “Seventeen,” read by Folly Blaine.

Nancy Stebbins, former editor at SmokeLong Quarterly, interviews Virgie about her story, “The Freeze.”