MFA Students on winter break

January 7, 2009

I’d like to think I would spend the entire break writing 8 hours a day, but the truth is I was first innundated (in a good way) with family for Christmas.  First came my sister who came early to help me get ready:  trim the tree, clean the house, shop…  Then came the rest of the family.  

Now that the holidays are over, I have been getting back to writing, but also working as well.  And reading!  It’s so wonderful to be able to read books purely for pleasure.

I started with a mystery by one of my favorites, Sue Grafton.  I know she’s not the most literary authors out there, but I’ve been reading the Kinsey Milhone mysteries since A is for Alibi.  It’s been fun to see how Grafton has improved as a writer.  In this last book, T is for Trespass, Grafton actually writes some chapters in third person, switching point of view. I’m not sure I like the third person for these mysteries, but I did enjoy the fact that Grafton is trying new things and expanding her literary toolbox.

Next up was a book that I won at the end-of-semester book swap and pot luck party for our Creative Non Fiction workshop.  I gave up Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi and in return got Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett.  This book is about the friendship between Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy (author: Autobiography of a Face). They became friends while attending the Iowa Writers Workshop. The book is a brutally honest (and not always flattering) portrayal of Grealy, and an examination of their love and friendship.  Read it with a box of tissues handy.

I’m currently reading Joan Didion’s Where I Was From.  It’s an interesting exploration of the contradictions that are California (where I am from).  I’m not sure I love this book, but I am respecting and paying close attention to the techniques Didion employs in the writing…. the repitition of images and phrases and the layering of the history of the state with her personal family story.

Wondering how other MFA students are spending their winter break…  what are you reading?



  1. Hi Jennifer. I, sadly enough, have been doing a very good job of falling asleep every time I go to read. That said, these are the books that are sitting with barely moving bookmarks–through no fault of their own: Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle. Natalie Goldberg’s Banana Rose. Miranda July’s collection No One Belongs Here More Than You (my favorite so far if you are looking for some quirky voice driven short stories.) If you like her, check out her movie, Me You and Everyone we Know and her website, which gives you a good sense of her. I love her btw. http://mirandajuly.com

    And oddly enough, the book I am reading through is Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate events. Done with nearly two so far. Why it is that I read children’s books on breaks, I have no idea. Maybe its the equivalent of brain break; also maybe because I’ve been reading them aloud to a friend as we drive around town.

  2. the reading children’s books while driving, by the way, is kinda revolutionary in terms of radio alternatives. I also am quite the nerd and when I was a probably eight or nine, I did a report on Abraham Lincoln and learned that he used to sit on fence posts and read aloud to practice his oratory skills. I went home and read Tom Sawyer to my kid sister. I’ve been thinking a lot of Abraham Lincoln lately. And Harvey Milk. If you haven’t seen Milk yet, one word: Go.

  3. saw Milk. Made me sad, especially watching the groundswell of support that defeated the Proposition 6… and contrasting that with how many Californians (myself included) were asleep at the wheel regarding Proposition 8.

    and BTW quirky nerds rock!

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