Grab Bag: Missing AWP, George Saunders & Hilary Mantel

A few things on my mind lately.

photo (21)First, I’m sad and little jealous that I won’t be at the AWP Conference in March. I went in 2011 and 2012 and this year, for one reason and another, I’ll be watching from home. Or at least following the tweets about it.

It would be hard to top last year anyway. With Welcome, Anybody fresh from the publisher, I felt like the prom queen. This year, I fear I’d be that high school graduate who returns to a campus that had moved on without me.

So I will be home this year. But I will be writing and planning for Clockhouse Writers Conference this July!

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I’ve reluctantly begun reading through the stack of books from my trip to Portland. It took me a few days to understand why I wasn’t tearing through them.

I was – am – so looking forward to reading so many great books that, I realized, I want to continue to look forward. I want to savor that anticipation. That delight in not knowing, not yet reading, what I am about to discover.

I don’t want to HAVE READ them.

But I also can’t NOT read them.

So I began with The Bell Jar on the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s death. I’d somehow never read it before. It was depressing of course, but as someone who has lived with depression most of my life, I could relate to it better than I’d like to admit.

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 What next then, to read?

I love short stories, of course. And I love George Saunders. But I must approach his stories carefully. For even as they can be lively and surreal, there is devastation. When I read too many of his stories too fast, they clench at me like an ice cream headache.

So I’ve decided to intersperse Saunders’ new collection Tenth of December with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Just some light historical-novel reading (clocking in at 527). At least with Mantel, I know how the story end. And she makes the journey so enjoyable.

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I’ve come to a bit of peace with myself over writing stories vs. the novel. I am a short story writer. The novels that I envision are simply stories told together.

Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad is my north star.

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