Friday, May 15, 2015


Sarah Elizabeth Schantz grew up in a bookstore named The Rue Morgue—one of the first mystery bookstores in the US. She is an accomplished short-storyist, with many awards under her belt. Schantz holds an MFA in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University. She currently lives with her family in an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Boulder, Colorado, where they are surrounded by open sky, century-old cottonwoods, coyote, and screech owls.

Schantz applied the Page 69 Test to Fig, her first novel, and reported the following:
In this scene, Fig has been called into the principal’s office for crucifying a Barbie at school (she nailed it to the back of the playground shed and used lipstick for the blood). Her mother has recently been released from the hospital after a schizophrenic episode (for which Fig was present) and a subsequent suicide attempt. Fig, who has just turned seven has not only fallen to the wayside of the family’s concerns, she is also beginning to figure out that Mama might not be getting better.

In many ways, she crucified the doll to get her mother’s attention—to impress Mama with her own feminist inclinations. Fig is sitting in the office with the principal and her teacher waiting for Mama so they can discuss the incident. At the top of the page, the reader learns that Fig has a photographic memory, another component of her high IQ, but toward the bottom, as Fig messes with a scab, it becomes evident that her need to pick is escalating into a form of self-harm that will only get worse.

The manifestations of Mama’s mental illness have only happened at home, and just the one night. Until now, it’s always been a private affair, but now the problem is about to become public knowledge. In the next few pages, Mama will not only walk in, she will rudely dismiss the principal and the teacher. Acting like “an actress playing herself” (72), Mama will sit in such a way that the principal can’t help but see her underwear through the rip in her jeans, deeply embarrassing Fig. When Mama drags Fig out of the building, the “acting” doesn’t stop. Mama stands in front of Douglas Elementary looking at the principal’s window, and then “Mama does something” Fig has “never seen her do before” (72). She lights a cigarette, and Fig sees her mother as a monster for the first time: “She smiles, but her lips are shut tight. And . . . two thin clouds of gray come twisting out of each nostril, and . . . [she] is a fire-breathing dragon” (73).

Despite the humiliation and horror Fig endures, she will never give up on Mama. Fig will ferociously defend Mama for the next eleven years. She will do anything to bring Mama back, even if it means sacrificing her own needs.
Visit Sarah Elizabeth Schantz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue