Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock by Hillary Leftwich


ISBN: 978-1-948700-07-8
132 pages
Release Date: October 7, 2019

Civil Coping Mechanisms

Publicity Interest
Read Excerpt

“Early mornings and a slow sun rising won’t guarantee an arrival. The men are more than yellow. Roosters crow and still birds blanket their clutch of dotted eggs. Forgotten dynamite in blistered buildings. The canaries are humming. Their ghosts are still where they left them. The dogs are watching. Listen, the eggs are cracking. They are told to stay, don’t run.

They once were told yellow is the color of happiness.”

Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock is a multi-genre collection that examines grief, violence, heartbreak, and the universal challenge of living in a body that is always vulnerable. In this greyscale kaleidoscope of the familiar and the uncanny, muted voices shout, people commit to devastating choices, and mundane moments are filled with silent hauntings. A sleep paralysis and a séance of voices long dead, this collection’s characters illuminate both our own darkness and our strength, revealing how love can emerge from the most impossible of conditions.

These vignettes travel through a life—young, urban, domestic, mother-making, myth-making— and at turns contain cursed images, hilarity, and tender moments of sincere vulnerability. Leftwich’s characters curve out of what is expected: they surprise you, they confess, they hide, they snark, they love and long. Each character feels unique and new, but together this collection becomes a protean whole of the many faces of hurt, complete and glittering. Leftwich shows us them, flaws and all, unable to escape their rawest moments.
Elle Nash, author of Animals Eat Each Other

Hillary Leftwich’s Ghosts are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock is comprised of seventy-two brief narratives that jab & gesture at intimacy, not the comforting fantasy of it, but the bewildering state at the core of intimacy, where all is lawless, collapsing boundaries between right & wrong, self & other, truth & fantasy. The pieces feel like pages ripped from the diaries of lost souls, sometimes deadpan & direct, sometimes fluttering through fever dreams & teetering realities in which intimates reveals themselves to be a hole, or to be pieced together of broken seashells, or cleaning up strangers’ used sex toys at a Motel 6. Through the book’s often-bleak experiences, the repeated form of the vignette shows a way of, if not transcending, at least progressing out of life’s traumas & confusions. No matter how bad it can get, Leftwich tells me, we can get through it.
–Mathias Svalina, author of The Wine-Dark Sea

For years I’ve heard aloud, and read in multiple journals, pieces from Ghosts Are Strangers Who Knock. After each reading or listening I wrote down these haunting and caring images on receipts, bookmarks, coffee sleeves. What made me write these things was their honesty—the things that are hard to say but need to be said. Hillary Leftwich has written something special where vulnerability is a form of resistance. Where vulnerability drags shame and guilt from their shadows and sets them on tables as centerpieces so we can view them from all angles.

–Steven Dunn, author of Potted Meat

This wonderful book is made of lightning bolts and thunderclaps. Each page is a different kind of human storm. Some carry you up into the sky, others send the moon careening down to you. Hilary Leftwich is an extraordinary talent.

–Bud Smith, author of Calm Face and Work


HILLARY LEFTWICH is the poetry and prose editor for Heavy Feather Review and runs At the Inkwell Denver, a monthly reading series. Currently, she freelances as a writer, editor, writing workshop instructor, and guest instructor for Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash Workshop. She lives in Colorado with her partner, her son, and their cat, Larry. Find more of her writing at