23. The Turner House: a Conversation with Debut Novelist Angela Flournoy


ANGELA FLOURNOY is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received a Dean’s Fellowship, and the University of Southern California. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa and Trinity Washington University, and has worked for the District of Columbia Public Library. She was raised in Southern California by a mother from Los Angeles and a father from Detroit. The Turner House is her first novel [23.33].



On writing about Detroit…

“For me, I think of Detroit as a place of warmth. My experiences are obviously colored by the fact that it’s like a reunion when I got there…I don’t necessarily think of Detroit as a city of blight.”

“I had people immediately saying: this book needs to be grittier. It’s so light. It’s so happy. It’s so funny. This book needs to be darker. You know, basically like–kill some dogs in this book.”

On the paranormal…

“I think people incorporate all sorts of beliefs in the paranormal or supernatural. But for some reason in the fictional world, if you mention a ghost and you give it some sort of seriousness, all of a sudden it puts you in some kind of other sort of category. I don’t necessarily think it pulls your book out of the realm of realism.”

On first pitching her novel to agent Ellen Levine…

“I was going to meet with her even if I had nothing. So I wrote the first scene…and told her: ‘Oh, I have 100 pages of this thing.'”

On her experience at Iowa…

“A writing program is not the best proving ground for everyone, but for me, it helped me be able to explain to myself why I [make the decisions I make in my writing].”

“One of the things I learned in Iowa…is that you cannot hang your hat on criticism.”

Who’s Who

Marilynne Robinson, Edward Carey, & Paul Harding — Authors and Angela’s teachers at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop

Ellen Levine — Literary Agent with Trident Media

Ayana Mathis — Author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

Closing Quote

Mouths don’t empty themselves unless the ears are sympathetic and knowing. — Zora Neale Hurston, from Mules and Men

00. Prologue


Lacy Arnett and Audrey Camp

In this episode, Audrey & Lacy make introductions, explain what the podcast is all about, and otherwise try to charm you into listening to future episodes.

Hello! Welcome to the Prologue of The Postmasters Podcast. This is just a short introduction. (We’re writers, but we don’t want to be too long-winded!) Listen in to find out who we are, what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and why you should tune in each month to listen to us.

Lacy Arnett

lacy_mayberry_bwLacy writes in El Paso, TX, where she lives with her husband and two young children. After graduating with her Bachelor’s from the University of Arizona in 2001, she bounced around the country performing alternately fascinating and menial jobs in places like South Dakota, the Grand Canyon, and New York City.

She is a graduate (2012) of Lesley University’s low-residency MFA program, where she studied fiction.

Lacy’s stories and essays have appeared in Mirage, Better: Culture & Lit, and Literary Mama. She is the fiction editor at BorderSenses Literary Journal and volunteers with the ForWord Project, which offers creative writing workshops to teens in the El Paso area. She is currently working on a novel.

Occasionally she blogs about writing, reading, rejection, and motherguilt at: lacymaybe.wordpress.com.

Audrey Camp

audrey_camp_bwAudrey (30) is a freelance writer and American expat living in Oslo, Norway with her husband. Originally from California, Audrey graduated from UC Davis with her BA in English in 2006. She then spent six years working in an insurance office before remembering that her vocation was supposed to be writing. She graduated from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her MFA in Creative Writing in June 2012.

Audrey is a nonfiction writer, which means she specializes in personal essays, journalism, travel articles, and some technical writing. Her essays have appeared in a variety of literary journals, including Forge and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine (where she received a Best of the Net nomination). Her travel pieces have been published by The Oslo Eye, the Expat Explorer blog, and CheapFlights Canada. Audrey is also a member of the Oslo International Writers’ Group, and her essay, Orientation, was recently published by Holland House as part of a new book, North of the Sun, South of the Moon: New Voices from Norway, a multi-genre anthology of work from members of the OIWG. She is currently working on essays on travel and expat life, as well as a novel.

As an active blogger, Audrey has been writing about writing, travel, expat life, and marriage for more than eight years at The Girl Behind the Red Door. You can find out more about Audrey both on the blog and at her website, audreycamp.com. And you can follow her on Twitter: @audreycamp.

Books featured in this episode:

The Living by Annie Dillard

The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg

But of course, in those days nobody thought about a writer being famous, or failure or success… Nobody thought in terms of failure or success in selling books. We thought of writing as, I would say as a pastime, or as a kind of destiny. ~ Jorge Luis Borges