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Projects

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The Kindness of 
Terrible People
(Short story collection)

In this geographically and culturally diverse collection of fifteen stories, women’s bodies—living on the wide spectrum of ability and disability and the liminal space between—are objectified for their competence or viewed as social commodities. Stephanie Dupal deconstructs kindness so readers might consider the values of unlikability and self-preservation. In this work, a paraplegic teenager and her father are stranded in a Utah desert; a couple travels to India after the loss of their baby; a lonely widow is on the hunt to kill a raccoon; a renowned cellist lies to be hired at a performing arts school; an inebriated mother fears detachment from her son; an art restorer lives in the shadow of her elusive mentor; a girl with a rare deformity becomes an unlikely heroine in Napoleonic France; and a Marine veteran and her husband face infertility treatments amid growing concerns over the gender of their future child. These are some of the characters inhabiting The Kindness of Terrible People. They defy conventions of goodness to find their place in a world that so easily dismisses the validity of their choices.

A previous draft of this manuscript was named a finalist for the 2021 George Garrett Fiction Prize and the C&R Press 2021 Fiction Award. Individual stories won the TNVR Best Prose Award, and were finalists for Broad River Review’s 2019 Ron Rash Award in Fiction and the New Letters Publication Award in Fiction. Two were nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

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The Moth Foot
of Denis Sartor

(Novel)

Not much alters Denis Sartor's ways, until he loses three toes and part of his foot in a feed mill accident. During his recovery, a painting of Olga Khokhlova orders him to change, which leads him to rescue a shelter dog and to befriend Berry, a former Old Order Mennonite, and her young daughter Georgie; Victoria and Rosalba, women who operate a safehouse for undocumented workers; and the Salvadorean men with whom he works at the mill. Denis experiences hallucinations of past events, further complicating his life when the ghosts of Civil War lovers implore him to be reunited. While he tries to balance his relationships with the living and the dead, his sister Diane, nephew Jesse, and best friend Rick each question his sanity and disclose significant news that will test his egotism. The Shenandoah Valley, the 1985 film Vision Quest, and a dilapidated octagonal house become rightful characters in this novel that examines the repercussions of gratification and sacrifice.

Estimated completion date: July 2023.

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In This Age of Hard Trying
(novel)

Beaumont, Missouri, 1935. Uneducated beauty Ruby Batten is about to lose her farm. Her husband Roland abandoned her and their six children four years earlier, the very week former heiress Catherine ‘Kitty’ Cornelissen moves into the derelict rental next door, the very week William Cornelissen, Kitty’s husband, is found dead on Main Street after journeying to and from New York City in an attempt to regain their wealth.

Husbandless, penniless, and soon-to-be homeless, the two women form an unlikely friendship and dream of starting their own business to save their families from destitution. Yet their success is challenged by several men, one of whom resorts to a variety of schemes to ensure only he can save Ruby.

Shenandoah National Park, 1935. Roland Batten has worked as an itinerant laborer for nearly four years until he enlists, as a Great War veteran, in the Civilian Conservation Corps, sending the heft of his pay to his family back in Missouri. He’s written letters to his wife, sent checks and cash in envelopes, but only twice does she respond and, on both occasions, she doesn’t seem herself.

 

While Ruby’s stubbornness pains him, he begins to suspect the betrayal of an old friend. Unable to leave his service, Roland and his fellow Cees discover under devastating circumstances the terrible truth behind parkland acquisition and the Virginia Eugenics Program.

 

Based on true historical events, In This Age of Hard Trying weaves two storylines—the first, of a sorority of desperate women, and the second, of a fraternity of disillusioned men—that converge when the revelation of what happened that fateful week in July 1931 leads characters to abandon hope, to court revenge, and even to die.

Estimated completion date: December 2023. Stephanie won her college's Presidential Sabbatical Award for the fall semester to do research, write, and revise.

The chapter titled "Peter" in the novel was previously published in Eastern Iowa Review as "A Death in the Lord's Country" in 2020.

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In the Province of Tiny Fish
(Memoir)

This is a work in progress. In the Province of Tiny Fish is Stephanie's memoir of growing up in northern Quebec, amid the briny river breezes and dense forests of the St. Lawrence coast; of being uprooted to Montreal and then to Utah; of leaving the continent at age twenty-one for Italy; and, always, of finding her family among the tiny fish of these various seas. Written in non-chronological episodes and often detailed with unwavering honesty, she paints a portrait of a life sometimes touched by tragedy, yet never without humor.

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