Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Elaine Fowler Palencia  

Pen Name: Laural Blake


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1946 in Lexington, Kentucky

-- Website --
-- Elaine Fowler Palencia on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Elaine Palencia teaches at the University of Illinois, and lives in Champaign, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Elaine is a freelance writer and editor and also teaches creative writing.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Small Caucasian Woman: Stories
ISBN: 0826209432

University of Missouri. 1993

“Some people are born to gossip some people achieve mastery of it through hard work and some have gossiping thrust upon them, by being in the right place at the right time.”

Set in the backcountry landscape of Blue Valley, Kentucky, Elaine Fowler Palencia’s Small Caucasian Womanoffers a collection of related, short stories about a small-town fueled by gossip. Palencia describes hardships – such as alienation and depression – that accompany life in a largely overlooked region. Among these common themes are also stories of hope and change in an area that always stays the same. Palencia’s honest interpretation of country life will entice readers of all avenues, especially those who know what it’s like to grow up in a community where everybody knows everybody.

Taking the Train: Poems
ISBN: 0962366692

Green River Writers/Grex Pr. 1997

Palencia's first collection of poignant poems about being the mother of a son with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. Out of print rare.

Brier Country: Stories from Blue Valley
ISBN: 0826212794

University of Missouri. 2000

In Brier Country, Elaine Fowler Palencia returns to Blue Valley, the fictional locale in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky that is the focus of her highly acclaimed Small Caucasian Woman. Blue Valley is a small community—a town where little goes on "except what is left out of history books"—and most of its residents are "brierhoppers," as folks from Appalachia are sometimes known north of the Ohio River. Reuniting readers with characters from her first collection, Palencia continues to map her uniquely poignant territory in these sixteen new stories.

A criminal on the lam in "Waiting for Snow" tries to make up for past transgressions even as the police are closing in. Years later, in "Emus," the retired cop who was part of the chase clears his own conscience. In "Guard Your Man," a high school physical-education teacher works to bring back women's basketball, which was outlawed for forty years in Kentucky. Through the eyes and minds of these various characters, we learn that people in Blue Valley are far more engaging and complex than they originally appear to be.

We also learn that Blue Valley has a small college. It is here we meet Julia Bone, a haughty professor from Alabama who feels she is too good to live in Kentucky here we eavesdrop on the private journal kept by Fenwick Radnor, the dictatorial college president and here we search the science building for a set of embalmed fetuses that haunts the dreams of a former resident of Blue Valley. Throughout these new tales, the supernatural realm hovers behind the curtain of daily life, as in the stories of a nurse who performs a secret function in a city hospital, the eerie automobile journey of an aging salesman making his last trip, and the power of a grouping of trees known as the Three Graces.

Praised by James McConkey as "unique and yet part of an American tradition that includes . . . the fiction of Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor, and reaches back to Mark Twain," Palencia is known for her trademark wit, ear for dialogue, and sense of place—all of which make Brier Country a welcome addition to the folklore of Blue Valley.

Stormy Passage 66
ISBN: 051506677X

Jove. 1982

Stranger/paradise 154
ISBN: 0515072427

Jove. 1983

Into the Whirlwind 202
ISBN: 0515078182

Jove. 1984


Illinois Arts Council Finalist Award, 1989.

Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)