“If you’re having a good time writing, most likely your readers are going to have a good time reading. If you care for your characters, your reader will care for them too. If you learn something you didn’t know by writing, your readers may learn something as well.”

Ashley Davidson is a recipient of a 2017 Artist Research & Development Grant.

Artist Research and Development Grants are designed to support the advancement of artistic research, aid in the development of artistic work and recognize the contributions individual artists make to Arizona’s communities. For more information about the Artist Research & Development Grant, click here.

Davidson will complete a A Daring Undertaking, a comedic epistolary novel chronicling the experiment of introducing camels to the American West, from the procurement of the camels overseas by the U.S. Department of War in the 1850s, through the Beale Expedition, and running until the last wild camel sighting in Arizona. Through this story, she will examine Arizona’s frontier mythos, treatment of Native populations, and relationship to the land and its resources over 80 years of Arizona history.

Davidson believes this little-known camel history is fertile ground for the epistolary form-voyeuristic pleasure of reading other people’s mail aside—to explore the hubris, vanity, humor, and tragedy of this era. I think the project has the potential to both entertain and introduce people who aren’t familiar with this particular chapter in Arizona history. She intends to have a manuscript ready for submission to editors by January 2018.

Ashley Davidson earned her BA at the University of Arizona, thanks to the generosity of the Flinn Foundation, did an MA at L’ Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, worked for several years in human rights and refugee resettlement organizations, and eventually landed at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she completed her MFA in fiction writing and also taught creative writing as a Third-Year Fellow. She returned home to Arizona in 2014 and now works for a conservation NGO, the Grand Canyon Trust, as the communications director. She writes in the mornings and after work. Her fiction has appeared most recently in Copper Nickel, Nashville Review, Amazon’s new DayOne lit mag, and other journals.

Photo by Blake McCord