Laura Rhoton McNeal holds an MA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and is the author, with her husband Tom, of four young adult novels published by Knopf: Crooked (winner of the California Book Award in Juvenile Literature), Zipped (winner of the Pen Center USA Literary Award in Children’s Literature), Crushed and The Decoding of Lana Morris. Laura’s solo debut novel, Dark Water, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the San Diego Book Award in young people’s literature in 2010. Her most recent novel is The Practice House (2017).
Editor's picks of stories McNeal wrote for the Reader:
Eric Fletcher and his wife Beatrice had attended the dove hunt together three or four times. Eric hunted, and Beatrice read magazines, talked to the other women, played with the spaniels. They left their two children, who were eight and six at the time, at home not because the Fletchers were alcoholics but because Beatrice didn’t like them to be near guns. (July 17, 1997)
It attracts freethinkers who would call themselves spiritual, not religious. It attracts those who want alternatives to hospital births, circumcision, vaccinations, allopathic medicine (the kind prescribed by doctors), Ritalin, early weaning, disposable diapers, cribs, Disney videos, standardized testing, plastic toys, fast food, white flour, white sugar, and vegetables grown inorganically. (Feb. 21, 2002)
In Encinitas, the mother of the strawberry co-op’s accountant called to Bette, the Huscher family’s former employee. Bette had come to live with her as a companion when the Huschers let her go. She told Bette what had happened to Judy, the story that was spreading, person to person, house to house, town to town. Like everyone else, Bette couldn’t quite take it in. (Nov. 7, 2002)
So like any sane, flat-chested koala bear, I asked the doctor if he knew a lactation consultant in town, and he made a phone call that probably went something like this: "Hi, Lottie. This is Dr. S. I'm sending over a new mother in a few minutes." I imagined him lowering his voice. "A little worked up, yes. Remember Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction?" (May 11, 2006)
Saturday, June 16, was the eighth day that Eddy Tostado woke up in the same clothes. It was the eighth day that someone brought him a bucket to use as a toilet. But that afternoon, Asere and Morro let him come out of the closet, go into the living room, and listen, blindfolded and handcuffed, to the Copa Oro. (Apr. 7, 2010)
When we came to Fallbrook two years ago, we built our house on a hill above an acre of orange trees. They were planted in the 1960s by a man named Mr. Barr who, like us, was not a farmer. The leaves are green and eyeshaped, and beyond them to the north and south other hills are scored with avocado, lemon, lime, and orange groves, the distant rows curving in precise, parallel lines. (Jan. 4, 1996)