The Hippo


Dec 6, 2019








Meet Allegra Hyde

RiverRun Bookstore: 142 Fleet St., Portsmouth, Friday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m.
Toadstool Bookshop: 12 Depot Square, Peterborough, Saturday, Nov. 19, at 11 a.m.
Toadstool Bookshop: 12 Emerald St., Keene, Saturday, Nov. 19, at 2 p.m.
Fitzwilliam Town Library: 11 Templeton Turnpike, Fitzwilliam, Saturday, Nov. 26, at 10 a.m.
The Monadnock Center: 19 Grove St., Peterborough, Saturday, Dec. 3, at 2 p.m.

Creating utopia
Of This New World explores the “perfect” societies

By Kelly Sennott

 It shouldn’t be surprising that Peterborough native Allegra Hyde’s debut book of short stories, Of This New World, contains tales linked by themes of utopia.

The 28-year-old author has seen so many different ways to live during her travels around the world. She’s taught in Singapore, the Bahamas and Greece, and backpacked for five months across New Zealand visiting its hippie communes. This summer, she returned to the states after a year-long stint in Bulgaria on a Fulbright teaching grant. 
Traveling sates her curiosity and eagerness to explore, but for these stories, the trips acted as research. 
“I’ve been really obsessed with utopian communities for a long time, so I really wanted to … see what it’s like for people living different from mainstream society,” Hyde said during a phone interview last week. “Whenever I can, I try to explore new places. So these settings definitely show up in my stories.”
The characters within Of This New World are pursuing different versions of ideal worlds, starting with a retelling of the Garden of Eden and ending with an imagining of what it would be like if humans tried to spread out to Mars. She wrote the book over seven years, while earning her master of fine arts degree in writing at the University of Arizona (where she also met her husband, Alex McElroy, another fiction writer) and afterward.
The short story allowed Hyde to flex her muscles as a writer; she could try different voices and experiment with different styles in a very short space. She got the book deal by winning a contest with the University of Iowa Press and received the news while in Bulgaria teaching English and literature and supervising a writing club she started there.
“A short story collection is definitely harder to publish. Literary agents are always asking if you have a novel,” she said. “It was pretty surreal hearing about it while I [was] surrounded by this foreign landscape.”
Sometimes she writes while on the road, but Hyde said the good stuff usually happens after she’s had the chance to soak a place in and reflect. She hasn’t written much about Bulgaria yet, even though she spent an entire year there, but when she does, she’ll do it the old-fashioned way.
“I write by hand, which I have discovered is actually becoming more and more uncommon. Most writers are working directly onto the computer, but I really enjoy writing things out and kind of thinking through my pen,” Hyde said. 
At the time of her phone interview, Hyde was in the midst of an artist residency on a Wyoming cattle ranch, working on her first novel, which expands on the world she started on with one of the stories in her collection, “Shark Fishing.” The writing, she thinks, is going well, but sometimes it’s hard to know with a longer form.
“A novel is so huge,” Hyde said. “I try to tell myself, I’m putting hours into it, so I’m making some kind of progress. A lot of it is about trying to stay positive and enjoy the work no matter what.”
Hyde comes home this weekend to celebrate the Oct. 1 release of her book with events at a handful of her old stomping grounds, including her childhood bookstore, the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough. Her home state isn’t a central place in her stories, but it did have an important impact in forming her values and fascination with nature and community. As a result, both are major themes in her work. 
“In Peterborough, we have so many amazing natural wonders, whether they be mountains or rivers — even our little bit of New Hampshire seacoast I think is gorgeous,” Hyde said. “I didn’t fully realize how connected I was to the natural world until I began to travel. When I was miles and miles away from New Hampshire, that’s when I realized how connected I was. … When you’re walking around Singapore in the busy traffic among skyscrapers, it’s really interesting and fascinating, but it can also make you miss the peacefulness and serenity of walking around a forest in New Hampshire.” 

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