My love for the fantastic drove me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English, but I’ve always struggled to find myself in the urban fantastic. These stories take place in large cities or in locales that I never had the opportunity to visit growing up; in response, many of the short stories and writing projects I have completed in my undergraduate and graduate career have focused on the Midwest, exploring specifically what it means to be a Kansan. I’m excited to be bringing together both my love for the fantastic and this exploration of Midwestern identity for my M.A. project, the beginning of a contemporary rural fantasy young adult novel that focuses on building suspense while also discussing topics such as rural identity, class, and familial relationships.
The story takes place one summer in a small fictional town in western Kansas that carries a fantastic secret. Addison Fischer, the story’s protagonist, thinks she’ll have very little to do the summer her parents send her to stay with her aunt and uncle in Hobson, Kansas. But Addison soon realizes that Hobson has more to offer than lazing away the hot days on her uncle’s front porch. First she notices the multicolored dragon statues dotted throughout the town, and then she meets Maize, her uncle’s yellow hatchling dragon. Addison finds herself in a completely new life filled with heights and raw meat as her uncle attempts to teach her about dragons and dragon racing. And as soon as Addison hears about the dragon races that occur each Saturday night on the outskirts of town, she quickly hatches a plan to enter Maizie and win the Astra Cup, the biggest and longest race of the summer.
— Molly James (B.A. ’20, M.A. ’22)