Monthly Archives: September 2011

Summer Reading: Microreviews

I read six books this summer.  I wish I had read more, but there it is.  And here they are:

Quiet Americans by Erika Dreifus

I absolutely loved this book, about the long shadow cast on twenty and twenty-first century Jews by the Holocaust.  I think what I loved most, beyond the writing, were the different human angles to this tragedy that the stories take. I even convinced my book club to read it and they seemed to enjoy it too.  So go read it; you’ll not regret it.  I promise.

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal  The whole family listened raptly to this book on our summer travels; in fact, our older son was so enamored of it that when we dropped him off at an academic camp in North Carolina for three weeks, we had to promise not to listen to it again until we picked him back up so he wouldn’t miss anything.  It is unquestionably a game changer (pun intended, I guess) and I highly recommend it.

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure  Thoughtful, fun and a must- read for anyone who loved the book series.

Composing Ourselves as Writer Teacher Writers Starting With Wendy Bishop Edited by Patrick Bizzaro, Devan Cook and Alys Culhane A wonderful tribute, overflowing with insightful looks at Wendy’s life and work from every conceivable angle.  Emotional too, though; (I’m tearing up just writing this) as I re-considered the indelible impact she had on our field I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if she hadn’t been taken from us so young.  It made me ache with missing her; missing her work, really, since I didn’t know her that well.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

This is a graphic memoir about growing up with a closeted gay father who committed suicide when the author was in college and was coming out herself.  I’d heard about it for years and finally got around to reading it.  Needless to say, it has only increased my admiration for the power of the graphic novel–the marriage of word and image–to tell these kinds of intense stories.

Alligators, Old Mink and New Money: One Woman’s Adventures in Vintage Clothing by Allison Houtte

Knowing I’d be without web access while on Nantucket, I downloaded a pile of books to my nook to ensure I wouldn’t run out of reading material.  I forgot about the Nantucket Library, though, and how much I love visiting their stacks; I always find books there my library doesn’t have.  This was one of them and it was a fun beach read.

The Architect of Flowers by William Lychack

I’m cheating a little because I finished reading this last April, and while I’ve talked about it a couple of times here I’ve never gotten to say how much I enjoyed it–it’s a truly incandescent (and I invoke that phrase rarely) and diverse group of stories.  Read them to see how it’s done.

Okay, so technically that’s seven if you don’t mind counting April as sort of the beginning of summer.  By the time you read this, though, I plan to be deep in a hotly anticipated new read, Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck.  The Invention of Huo Cabret changed everything in children’s literature about four years back; based on the reviews I’m reading, we should get  ready for it to happen again.

According to UPS tracking, it’s in Hodgkins, IL and will arrive Tuesday.  Tuesday!!! Argggh!

Bye y’all,

SV

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A Writing Teacher at a Writer’s Colony

Yay!  My essay, “What I Did On My Summer Vacation: A Writing Teacher at a Writer’s Colony,” is now up on the Fiction Writer’s Review.

Editor Jeremiah Chamberlin worked hard with me to get it ready and it looks like the efforts paid off.  And as always, FWR makes it look lovely with the photos and links.  The photos of Dairy Hollow, however, inside and out, come from my camera.

Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Bye ya’ll,

SV

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Climbing Back on the Wagon

To borrow a phrase from another blogger, Wordamour has fallen off the blogging wagon big time and will now attempt to scramble back on.  I’ve got a cache of posts I’m working on so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up.

It’s been a busy summer.  I finished the third draft of the novel at Dairy Hollow Writer’s Colony–you’ll get to read about my incredible week there soon when the essay comes out on Fiction Writers Review.

I wrote two more essays for upcoming collections and a forward for Joe Rein, David Yost and Chris Dew’s Dispatches From the Classroom: Graduate Students on Creative Writing Pedagogy, which is coming out from Continuum in November.  More when it comes out but it’s a great book, these three have got it going on.

Led the Great Bear Writing Project summer institute with Mike Rush, Jane Carpenter, Pam Bagby and Bri Spicer.  And got to take a two week vacation that included my family on Nantucket and featured the wonder twins–my godchildren Jake and Jessica–turning one in all their adorableness and my husband’s family in Cobb Island, Maryland.

Also, recently an electric utility power cord brushed up against our house, caused a near fire and fried every appliance large and small in the house except the computers (thank God) which were hooked up to power strips.  Fun times.

And now we’re back.  School has started, I have some amazing students and have started working on a project I’ll be able to tell you more about at the end of October.   Poet’s and Writer’s has published their MFA ranking lists and everyone is getting all riled up again, as they’ve done ever September for the past three years (or whenever the rankings started).  Pundits have started talking about the MFA degree again, briefly, but it will probably all die down again until next year.

My two cents: ranking, I’m not sure about.  I’m not a big rankings person–I’m not sure US News, Poet’s and Writer’s or anyone else has found a really fair way to do it.  I’m not sure a fair way exists.  But information–that’s what I do care about and a lot of programs aren’t providing enough information–or weren’t until Poet’s and Writers and Seth Abramson started the list.  They still don’t like to do it.  Why?  Because the information they have doesn’t always make their programs look good.  Or, they’re just lazy.   Either way, they could do better.

Which I talk about extensively in my book, Rethinking Creative Writing, which came out in library ebook form in May (it costs a small fortune this way, if you want an individual copy wait until the hardcover comes out).  We’re looking at January ’12 for the hardcover, with a possible early edition coming out in the UK in the fall (once again, my book is in the UK and I’m not; but that’s ok, as long as it’s having a good time).

Hopefully when it comes out in the US this winter, I can ruffle enough feathers to get the MFA conversation going again.

Bye y’all just for now, really,

SV

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