Student’s rural past inspires award-winning story

Lindsay Sainlar

When Alex Taylor writes a story, he sits at a desk in his room, turns on the lamp and pulls out a pen and paper.

If he needs to, he can always type the story later.

The Rosine junior recently used his longhand technique to draft a short story that was published in a 13-page slot in the 2003 Allegheny Review, a prestigious national journal of undergraduate writing. ?

Taylor won the Allegheny Review Award and a $250 prize for “Dog Births,” a work of fiction which began in a class with English professor Nancy Roberts.

“For a young writer, winning the Allegheny Review’s annual contest is akin to pushing your boulder up and over the Sisyphean Hill,” English professor Dale Rigby said. ?

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus, a cruel king of Corinth, was condemned for eternity to roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down again just before it reached the top.

Too modest to echo such plaudits, Taylor likens the award to ascending a molehill.

“It’s nice to think that someone thought enough about my work to give me an award and publish it in an anthology,” Taylor said, blushing in his flannel shirt and camouflage hat. “Winning that award was kind of like a little kick telling me, ‘You’re on the right track.'”

“Dog Births” is an interwoven piece about a young nameless girl and a stray dog. Both are stuck in a no-name town with nowhere to go and no desire to strive for anything else. ?

They become pregnant by predators – the hound by an alpha dog and the girl by one of her two cousins who consistently had their way with her. ?

An aunt, with whom the young girl had been sent to live with, catches on to the girl’s morning sickness and sends her to the yard to abort the pregnancy with a rusted bicycle spoke.

Roberts said “Dog Births” is a story about the misbegotten creatures and dregs of society.

“He’s unsparing in his visions of lowlife men and people who are outcasts,” said Roberts, who was both shocked and intrigued by Taylor’s characters. “All impulse to be human is aborted in these people.” ?

The images and setting of “Dog Births” are clearly inspired by Taylor’s hometown of Rosine, a small Ohio County community about 45 miles north of Bowling Green. ?

“I think every story I write, not necessarily an event but a setting, spawns from a setting that I’m familiar with,” he said. ?

Taylor said that when he’s looking for inspiration, he’ll get in his Ford Ranger and take a slow drive around the back roads of Ohio County.

“When I was in high school, I heard people saying, ‘I hate this one-horse town, I’m getting out of here as quick as I can,'” Taylor said. “I don’t look at it that way.

“I think it’s one of the most culturally enriched places. I could start writing now and write to the day I die and never run out of things to write about.” ????

McHenry senior Sam Ford, who has known Taylor for several years, said that Taylor doesn’t need to see the world to have something to write about.

“He’s writing about where he’s from,” Ford said. “He can present you to the world of coon dogs and cockfights, and he’ll blow you away.”

A fifth-generation Taylor living in a small community without even a Wal-Mart, Taylor was raised on his grandfather’s farm and went fishing and hunting for fun. ?

Taylor’s father, a retired school teacher who later became a librarian, introduced his son to different literary works.

Taylor said it was his father who taught him to love reading.

“They say you should write a lot, but read even more,” said Taylor, who began writing horror stories when he was 6.

Taylor said that ideally he would make his living as a writer, but he acknowledges that writing doesn’t pay consistently enough to cover expenses.

Becoming a college professor is next on his list, but for now he works in tobacco in Rosine on the weekends for extra money.

Taylor recently moved to an apartment off the 31-W Bypass, ending his daily commute from rural Rosine.

Taylor said the urban environment of Bowling Green has bothered him.

“I think it’s even affected my writing,” said Taylor, whose goal is to build a two-room cabin deep in the woods that would only be accessible by mule, where no one could bother him.

“It’s so different than how I lived for the first 18 years of my life. There’s no place you can go where you won’t have people looking at you, and you can’t shoot a gun in your backyard.”

Reach Lindsay Sainlar at [email protected]