A native of rural Wisconsin, Zlabek holds an MFA from Western Michigan University and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati, where she was a Taft Dissertation Fellow and a recipient of an AWP Intro Journals Award. Her story collection, WHEN, winner of The Journal’s 2018 Non/Fiction Collection Prize, is now out from The Ohio State University Press. Her stories and essays have appeared in Boulevard,The Kenyon Review, Ninth Letter, and other journals. Ricochet Editions published her chapbook, LET THE RIVERS CLAP THEIR HANDS, in 2015. She currently teaches writing and literature at Gannon University in Pennsylvania.
Zlabek’s writing is tender and haunting, wonderful and strange. She brings the Midwest, a section of the country often overlooked and underestimated, onto the page with dignity and wonder. The stories are full of surprises that make us question everything we thought we knew. A bull’s heart cooking in a crockpot, the head of a black bear cub wrapped up in a crate in an abandoned house, images that seem magical but that are utterly grounded in the real world of her characters’ fascinating lives. The normal here is anything but normal, and as we move through their various stories we find ourselves drawn into the mystery and beauty that is our shared humanity.