Despite the pandemic, 2020 was an amazing year for Kelli Jo Ford, MFA Creative Writing ’07. In addition to being named to O Magazine’s list of “Native American Authors to Read Right Now,” Ford’s debut novel, Crooked Hallelujah, was named one of the best books of 2020 by Publishers Weekly and was on the long list for the 2021 Carnegie Medal for Fiction, among other accolades.
Crooked Hallelujah is a novel in stories that follows four generations of Cherokee women over five decades. Ford discussed her book as part of this year’s virtual Fall for the Book festival.
It isn’t easy to launch a book in a pandemic, but Ford has been able to find a silver lining in the many virtual book talks and readings she has given.
“My mom and aunts get to attend as many of these readings as they want,” says Ford. “And, on a normal book tour, I would have to be away from home.” Home is in Richmond, Virginia, where Ford lives with her husband and fellow MFA alumnus poet Scott Weaver and their 7-year-old daughter, Cypress.
Ford, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, says she has “always been a scribbler” and wrote a lot of “really bad poetry” as a young person, but didn’t start writing seriously until her late 20s.
The first in her family to graduate from college, Ford was a student at Loyola University New Orleans when one of her teachers told her she was better at fiction. She then found Mason’s MFA program.
Ford says that she really didn’t know a lot about get- ting an MFA when choosing Mason but found what she needed from her very first fiction workshop with author Richard Bausch, who was the Heritage Professor of Writing at Mason at the time. The world in Crooked Hallelujah is one that Ford found herself creating from that very first fiction class.
Published spring 2021