What I’m reading: Blackout by Sarah Hepola

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“Not taking a drink was easy. Just a matter of muscle movement, the simple refusal to put alcohol to my lips. The impossible part was everything else. How could I talk to people? Who would I be? What would intimacy look like, if it weren’t coaxed out by the glug-glug of a bottle of wine or a pint of beer? Would I have to join AA? Become one of those frightening 12-step people? How the fuck could I write? My livelihood, my identity, my purpose, my light–all extinguished with the tightening of a screw cap.”

Thurber House

I’m super excited to be teaching another workshop at Thurber House this fall!

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This class will be on creative nonfiction. They’ve got a great line up this season, including workshops with Lisa Lopez Snyder, Gigi Morgan, Tom Barlow, and others. Check out the whole schedule here!

Review: There’s Something I Want You To Do

I have a new review up at Heavy Feather Review of Charles Baxter’s There’s Something I Want You To Do, a new collection of stories.

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I didn’t say this in the review, but it’s not my favorite cover in the world, mainly because I kept setting it on the coffee table and then wouldn’t be able to find it. Other than that, I really liked it. At this point Charles Baxter could write a grocery list and I’d want to read it.

What I’m reading: The Wife, Meg Wolitzer

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You sound bitter, Bone would say.

That’s because I am, I would tell him.

Everyone needs a wife; even wives need wives. Wives tend, they hover. Their ears are twin sensitive instruments, satellites picking up the slightest scrape of dissatisfaction. Wives bring broth, we bring paper clips, we bring ourselves and our pliant, warm bodies. We know just what to say to the men who for some reason have a great deal of trouble taking consistent care of themselves or anyone else.

‘Listen,’ we say. ‘Everything will be okay.’

And then, as if our lives depend on it, we make sure it is.”

Summer reading so far

As if it’s not apparent yet, I’m a lover of lists. I made one at the beginning of summer of books I wanted to read, and here’s how it’s going so far:

Get in Trouble, Kelly Link
Ghosting, Kirby Gann
There’s Something I Want You to Do, Charles Baxter
Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, Hallie Ephron
Faith, Jennifer Haigh
This is a Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett
Thunderstruck & Other Stories, Elizabeth McCracken
Loitering, Charles D’Ambrosio
Burying Water, K.A. Tucker
Lexicon, Max Barry
I Can’t Complain, Elinor Lippmann
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
Landline, Rainbow Rowell

As much as I love a list, I’m also a bit resistant to doing exactly what I’m told so I read these instead:

I Was Told There’d Be Cake, Sloane Crosley
Cycle of the Werewolf, Stephen King
Duma Key, Stephen King
The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin (even better the second time)
The Wind Through the Keyhole, Stephen King
Joyland, Stephen King
The Winter of Our Disconnect, Susan Marshart
Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America, Linda Tirado (I’m on a nonfiction kick)
Finders Keepers, Stephen King (the last of the SK novels!)
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett (lovely)
The First Bad Man, Miranda July (hilarious and weird!)
The Hour I First Believed, Wally Lamb
Everything’s Eventual, Stephen King (starting on the short stories and novellas now)

What have you been reading this summer??

 

Review: Get in Trouble

I have a new review up at Heavy Feather Review: Kelly Link’s story collection Get In Trouble.

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In some ways it made sense for me to review this book (I love short stories; I have a Ph.D. English) and in some ways it was a stretch (I am very much a realism girl), but there’s something so captivating and odd about Link’s work that makes me love to sink in and enjoy the weirdness as I work it through my head.

If you haven’t read her stories yet, I highly recommend them!

Word’s Worth class

I’m super excited to be teaching a Word’s Worth Writing Center class tomorrow, Tuesday, August 4. They are known for great writing instruction and chocolate, and I promise no matter what, there will be chocolate. I’m relatively confident about the other thing as well, because if there’s one thing I love to talk about it it’s the short story, so imagine how happy I am that’s my topic. For more information on their one-time classes and longer-term classes, check out their website!

http://wordsworthdayton.com/

Lots of great stuff going on here in Dayton!

It’s the house that matters

After Barry moved in, he put his previous house on the market. My soon-to-be-husband’s soon-to-be-ex house is a great house: craftsman style, lots of oak flooring and touches, a renovated kitchen, big workspace in the basement. It’s also an older house, and even though it’s in a great neighborhood with wonderful schools, it took about a year to sell. The biggest thing we heard from potential buyers was that they were disappointed it didn’t have a garage, and the second most cited disappointment? The master bedroom was too small to accommodate a current bedroom set.

I admit, this baffled me: the idea  you wouldn’t buy something as huge and permanent as a house you love because it couldn’t fit your dresser. But a few years ago in a hail-Mary the day before a Thanksgiving we were hosting, Barry and I had to run to Sears to buy a dishwasher and ended up getting white to match the current, dying appliances. Since then we’ve made plans to renovate the kitchen in a few years, so when the fridge went kaput a month ago there was much debate between white to match the dishwasher or stainless steel. I figured since we’d already bought the dishwasher we should get white to match, and I was disappointed to think I’d have to get white then when we did the renovation. And then it struck me: oh my cripes, was I really debating changing my mind on a super-huge renovation project to match our $500 dishwasher?

And then it really struck me: this is so much like revision. All too often, I’ll spend hours trying to get around cutting one sentence I love or trying to reason my way into a plot point making sense, and always, it would be easier to just cut my losses (or paragraphs) and start fresh. I need to keep in mind the big picture–the story overall, or the house I love, or the version of the kitchen I want despite the money or time investment that’s already happened. There’s always a cousin who might need that old bedroom furniture or a dishwasher, or a charity that would love the donation, or that file marked “deletes” that you think you’ll go back to someday but never do but that somehow makes you feel better in the middle of the night.

Always remember: serve the story. Do what has to be done. Better to have lost that time and those words than lose more before you inevitably do what needs to be done.

Keep checking back around 2018 for news about a great deal on a dishwasher.

To-read pile

Everyone I know has a to-read pile either on their nightstands, in their kindles, in their planners, or in their heads. And many, like me, have all the above. Here’s what’s up next until something else distracts me, or as my friend Sharon likes to say, “Squirrel!”

Get in Trouble, Kelly Link
Ghosting, Kirby Gann
There’s Something I Want You to Do, Charles Baxter
Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, Hallie Ephron
Faith, Jennifer Haigh
This is a Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett
Thunderstruck & Other Stories, Elizabeth McCracken
Loitering, Charles D’Ambrosio
Burying Water, K.A. Tucker
Lexicon, Max Barry
I Can’t Complain, Elinor Lippmann
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
Landline, Rainbow Rowell

What about you? What’s next on your reading list, or what’s something you’ve read and loved that I should add to mine?

Local events

I had a great time at the Antioch Writers’ Workshop spring one-day seminar yesterday! The keynote speaker was Dara Marks, author of Inside Story: The Power of the Tranformational Arc, which I’m very much looking forward to reading. Other presenters were Brad Riddell and Michael London, and I’m only sorry we were presenting at the same time so I wasn’t able to attend their talks.

I did my best to live tweet just a few of the highlights from Dara’s talk, a challenge for someone my age with thumbs the size of bananas. You can follow me at @erinlflanagan if you’d like to see some of the highlights.

Tonight I’m going to be at Thurber House from 6:00-8:00 for another talk on short stories and how to make it as easy on yourself as possible to write them.

What a great time to be a writer and reader in Ohio with so many great events and like-minded folks with which to geek out!