Spring 2011 has been nothing but high octane action and on Wednesday, April 27 at Saint Mary’s College’s Soda Center, your salonniere was pushed into full throttle for the Alumni Reading, as part of the Creative Writing Reading Series, which featured Professor and writer Rosemary Graham who’s books include Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude and her new novel Stalker Girl. Marilyn Abildskov, the program’s director, deemed this annual event a homecoming that, thankfully, doesn’t require football matches or awkward school dances. The SMC Alumni reading is that rare occasion when former students gather together after years apart, to celebrate one another’s accomplishments, and the list of accolades and publications for 2011 was quite impressive.
Many of your salonniere’s students came out in full force support, and I couldn’t be more grateful to see their radiant faces in the audience. Much appreciated!
Elizabeth Stark, current visiting faculty and author of Shy Girl, published by FSG, introduced the reading, and your Salonniere read from her story “Like Fish to Ginger” published in UC Riverside’s The Coachella Review Fall 2010 issue.
Rosemary Graham read from a short story “Urchin,” which is a sharp, witty, and painfully sweet story of a wry eighteen year-old girl, Julie Peters, who thinks she knows herself and her boyfriend until the couple are confronted by a baby who’s wandering their street alone. Peters believes, if you close your eyes and let your imagination go, you can have a really good time kissing almost any boy. “When its the right person, you know it, and your body will know what to do,” our main character argues, and believes that using the word “honey” is like a promise.
During the Q&A, Stark asked us where we got our stories from, and Graham answered that there was a period when the news kept covering stories of babies who were found alone on the street. Stark then asked about the experience of writing from a teen or young adult’s point of view. Graham confided that her current projects will be taking a break from “the teens.” She explained that when writing about teens, authors can’t rely on memory, since teens’ histories only go back by a a few years, so the writing is much more immediate.
Non-fiction writer and St. Mary’s alum Susan McCombs asked Graham how she captured such vivid and youthful voices on the page, and Graham replied that she’s been working with eighteen year-olds for decades now. Graham’s writing, as always proved inspiring, and your salonniere wishes there was a way she could bottle up some essence of her whiplash pacing and sharp dialogue, and sprinkle it over me.
After the talk, Kathryn Ma, visiting faculty and author of All That Work and Still No Boys, approached your salonniere with much appreciated words of praise and some much needed pearls of wisdom on how and where to tighten the narrative and be mindful of pacing. Reading work aloud in front of an audience is undeniably nerve-wracking though the most effective way to find faults and fissures in one’s work. I was absolutely honored by this experience and am so grateful for the opportunity to share this event with so many supportive souls.
Many thanks to all attended and a special thanks to Rosemary who guided me through my thesis in grad school and continues to lend counsel on the sometimes twisted and steep path of teaching. In honor of National Teacher Day, I am forever grateful for all her inspiration.