Saturday, July 13, 2019

Bourbon, Bluegrass, and Boyd Crowder

Everything I know about Kentucky, I learned from Justified and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I wish I could tell you that I was joking, but I'm not. I don't drink though both "moonshine" and "bourbon" are pretty words, and my husband (who's from Massachusetts and went to college in Tennessee--so he's a bit of an expert) regularly refers to me as a Yankee.

So I was, in all seriousness, super excited to attend the Bluegrass Writers Studio Summer Residency at EKU in Richmond, Kentucky! (It's still going on, but I was a Visiting Author this past week.)

And here are the secrets and facts . . .

I seriously just gave a craft talk on intimacy in writing, so I should come clean. Get ready, Julie and Bob. Julie Hensley, Robert Johnson, and I go back. Like it's already been twenty years (that's insane!). We got our MFAs together, and--truthfully--Julie was my first real friend (this is all true) after I was in a super horrible car accident in 1998, and I sort of thought I'd live without real human contact for the rest of my life. That was when I entered my MFA program. And then I met Julie! In all honesty, I wasn't prepared to make friends (my car accident was that bad). Julie was disarming. And, further, Julie was genuinely my kind of person. I could go on and on, but I won't.

I do want to say this, though (lest you think Bob and Julie invited me to BGWS because we're old friends). Julie and I were in the same year, and Bob (who I loved too) was one year behind us. Though others are more equanimous, I immediately felt this pressure to be a fabulous writer among my peers. I wanted to stand out--due, probably, to other feelings of inadequacy. I was, like, If there's one thing I do well, it's write.  So what I'm saying is that I wanted to be the best.

But it was like this: I secretly thought, Uh, Julie's the best.

And she was sane, not pretentious, not competitive, and kind. WTF??????

Life went on. Bob and Julie married (I do know secrets). Did you know that Bob is allergic to cats, and Julie made him "get used to them"? I got married. We all got jobs. My books came out. Julie's books came out. Bob's books came out. Seriously! Were we all the best??????

I'm staying here???? I stayed at The Bennett House. I wanted to take a photo of the breakfasts, but there were other guests and I felt weird about it because they thought I was this big professor and famous writer-type.
Too pretty to actually shower in

Just because I got all crazy about Julie doesn't mean that I don't love Bob!!!!!

"G" is also a friend, and I'll be thanking her for her friendship in my next book. Welcome to stay at my house any time!

So here's EKU!

I gave a talk on intimacy in writing. It was actually a tad madcap. I think I actually over-planned, instead of focusing it. If I can talk to this AWESOME group of serious writers, I'd urge you all (y'all) to be readers of writers who have mastered the skills. Here, again, is an awesome reading list (and some films too):
Sherwood Anderson:  Winesburg, Ohio
Douglas Coupland:  Life After God
Dave Eggers:  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Elena Ferrante: My Brilliant Friend
Elena Ferrante: The Story of a New Name
Elena Ferrante: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
Elena Ferrante: The Story of the Lost Child
Miscellaneous stories by Lorrie Moore
Jenny Offill: Dept. of Speculation
Philip Roth: The Plot Against America
Philip Roth: Sabbath’s Theater
J.D. Salinger:  The Catcher in the Rye
David Sedaris: Theft By Finding: Diaries 
Sex, Lies, and Videotape
Short Cuts
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
(maybe “The Office” on TV)
Future Famous People

I gave a reading here.

I ate insanely well on this trip. Indian with BGWS. I actually am inclined to pontificate on the virtues of a Low-Res MFA program, but my husband is literally breathing down my neck to do something today. One thing I will say: I like that people have outside lives. I think it's a virtue. 

This was one-lane, and it seriously made me think Boyd Crowder was waiting on the other end. 

Not flattering, but thank you for having me, BGWS!

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