By Sue Moore
Vicksburg’s Hadley Moore rises at 3 a.m. each weekday to write for four hours. “It’s a bit of a compulsion. I’m happier if I’m writing than if I’m not,” she said. She then leaves for her day job, which she said helps to “keep the lights on.” For another eight hours, she is editing other people’s work.
For 10 years, off and on while working on other projects, she wrote a book called “Not Dead Yet and Other Stories,” which won Autumn House Press’s 2018 Fiction Prize. Out now, and available wherever books are sold, “Not Dead Yet” is a collection of nine short stories, all previously published in literary journals, about the vagaries of personal loss – undergone and anticipated. With humor and honesty about the more ignoble aspects of coping, it ranges in form and point of view to explore our existential reality.
The judge for the writing contest, Dana Johnson, praised Moore’s writing in her assessment: “What an astounding collection. The emotional depth and beauty of these stories is a wonder and puts this writer in a category all of her own. In “Not Dead Yet,” Moore takes readers on an emotional journey, insisting on illuminating our profound human connections and the mysteries of life. Her characters stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page and are penetrating reminders that life is full of endless chances, missed opportunities, and grace. Moore’s insight and compassion are the triumphs of this collection, signaling the arrival of a brilliant writer.”
“It’s hard to pick a favorite out of this group of short stories. Each could stand proudly on their own, ripe for conversation. I have no problem calling “Not Dead Yet” a must-read, as I finished it wanting to hug everyone I’ve ever met. And I think that’s a pretty good thing,” wrote Jaylynn Korrell for Independent Book Review.
Moore began her writing journey when she enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College near Asheville, North Carolina. She was 29 and had graduated years earlier from Kalamazoo College with a degree in psychology. The Warren Wilson MFA is a low-residency program in which students travel to the campus twice a year for 10 days and then work closely with a master writer and teacher during the intervening semester, in an apprenticeship-like setup.
Moore’s husband, Dusty Morris, is the middle and high school choir teacher at Vicksburg Community Schools and the first reader of her writing. “He gives me honest feedback. We met at Kalamazoo College when we both sang in the choir. My mom was an English teacher in Grand Rapids and Manistee, where I grew up. I don’t have hobbies but I read a lot, mostly literary fiction.”
Moore recently visited the Vicksburg Middle School Writers’ Club to read from her work and answer questions from Chris Laaksonen’s students. “The kids were in awe of the time she had invested in compiling the story collection – nearly 10 years,” Laaksonen said. “They were also intrigued by the whole publishing process, especially how she picked a cover from the mock-ups the publishing company had sent. Of course, the kids were especially tickled that Mr. Morris had been a big help in picking the cover that did end up on the published book. In addition to questions about her writing, the kids loved asking Hadley about her cats. And, of course, telling their own cat stories.”
“Before the meeting ended, students jumped at the chance to read their writing to a ‘real’ writer,” Laaksonen said. “She gave encouraging feedback and listened with genuine interest. Hadley was approachable and inspired students during our time together. She also shared her process as a writer and offered feedback to our middle school writers as they read their own creative writing.”
“Through Dusty’s Facebook posts, I learned that Hadley’s collection of short stories was being published. It was just released at the end of August, and Hadley has made a couple book tour appearances, including a talk at This Is A Bookstore [in Kalamazoo]. I texted Dusty and asked him if he thought Hadley would be willing to stop by after school to visit our Writing Club,” Laaksonen explained.
“The book is for an adult audience, but she was easily able to find an excerpt to read aloud to the students that held their interest. The small group of about 10 budding writers then asked her questions about the writing process. They were amazed to learn that the collection of stories had taken almost 10 years to complete and compile. They asked her about her most productive time to write, about how she chose the cover for her book, and what inspired her stories,” according to Laaksonen.
Moore is at work on a novel and another collection of stories. Visit her website: http://www.hadleymoore.net for more information on her writing and events.