Meet ‘Self-Portrait with Boy’ Author Rachel Lyon at March 6 Writers Speak

Novelist Rachel Lyon
Rachel Lyon, Photo: Christopher Stella

Novelist Rachel Lyon will be the next guest in the spring 2019 Writers Speak Wednesdays series of free author talks and readings open to the public at Stony Brook Southampton. Lyon will read from and talk about her work on Wednesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. in Duke Lecture Hall on the ground floor of Chancellors Hall at the Southampton campus.

Lyon’s debut novel Self-Portrait with Boy (Scribner 2018) was long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and her shorter work has appeared in Joyland, Iowa Review, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and McSweeney’s, among other publications.

A cofounder of the reading series Ditmas Lit in her native Brooklyn, Lyon has taught creative writing for the Sackett Street Writers Workshop, Catapult, the Fine Arts Work Center, Slice Literary and elsewhere. She publishes a Writing/Thinking Prompts newsletter; subscriptions available at, and readers can also visit her website,, to learn more.

In the Los Angeles Review of Books, author and screenwriter Diana Wagman described Lyon’s Self-Portrait with Boy as “lyrically written, emotionally complicated, and surprising in many ways, it is hard to put down,” adding, “It explores what constitutes success and fame and art. A single chance occurrence creates something out of nothing, and someone out of no one—but at an enormous expense. Rachel Lyon has given us much to think about.”

About Self-Portrait with Boy:

Called a “compulsively readable and electrifying debut,” Self-Portrait with Boy tells the story of Lu Rile, an ambitious young female artist who accidentally photographs a boy falling to his death. The provocative image could jumpstart her career, but would also devastate her most intimate friendship.

Lu is working three jobs, caring for her aging father, and worrying that the crumbling Brooklyn warehouse where she lives is being sold to developers. She is at a point of desperation when she takes a self-portrait and inadvertently captures the harrowing photo of the boy falling past her window to his death. The photograph is beautiful, the best she’s ever shot. It’s an image that could change her life, if she lets it.

But this is no easy choice. The boy is her neighbors’ son, and the tragedy brings all the building’s residents together, especially Lu and his beautiful grieving mother, Kate. As the two forge an intense bond based on sympathy, loneliness and budding attraction, Lu’s anxiety and guilt grows. Will she decide to launch her career or protect a woman she has come to love?

Other programs scheduled for the spring Writers Speak series: MFA faculty members Cornelius Eady, Amy Hempel, Susan Scarf Merrell, Paul Harding and Roger Rosenblatt in a panel discussion on revision, “The Art and Craft of the Redraft,” moderated by Associate Provost Robert Reeves on March 13; Poet Gary J. Whitehead on March 27; Amy Hempel and Julia Slavin on April 3; Poet Sharon Dolin and writer Chloe Caldwell on April 24; and a showcase reading by Stony Brook Southampton MFA students on May 1.

Writers Speak Wednesdays programs are free and open to the public. The evenings begin with a brief reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by readings at 7 p.m. and a Q&A and book signing. Until completion of renovations in the Radio Lounge, all programs will be held in Duke Lecture Hall on the first floor of Chancellors Hall at Stony Brook Southampton, 39 Tuckahoe Road in Southampton.

For more information, call 631-632-5030 or visit You can also visit Writers Speak Wednesdays on Facebook or Twitter @WritersSpeakWed.

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