Friday, June 27, 2008
Guest Blogger: Kathy Briccetti on a Reading Drought
By now you all know I am but a few weeks shy of finishing the MFA. Which is the same as saying that pieces of my mind have been drifting off with alarming regularity as I frantically go about completing the final requirements. With time and mental clarity in short supply, I've asked a half-dozen friends who happen to be very good writers, to do some guest blogging. So here goes.
My first guest is Kathy Briccetti, a year-and-a-half ahead of me on the "after the MFA" curve, having graduated from the creative nonfiction track at Stonecoast in January 2007. Since then, she's been shopping her excellent memoir, collecting awards and a Pushcart nomination, and publishing memoir excerpts all over, most recently in the edgy new anthology from Seal Press, The Maternal is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood and Social Change. She's got another in a 2009 anthology, Who’s Your Mama: The Unsung Voices of Women and Mothers (Soft Skull Press/Counterpoint). Kathy is also an editor, writing teacher, a school psychologist, and the mother of two sons.
"Before I was a writer, I was a reader. Make that Reader with a capital R. A bibliophile. Someone for whom reading is therapy. Bibliotherapy. Ever since I devoured the Nancy Drew series in fourth grade, I have carried a book with me wherever I go. But since my move to El Cerrito, California (a town I consider a suburb of Berkeley) in April, I’ve lost my lifelong reading habit. It’s been a time of personal turmoil, and anyone who has moved knows how time-consuming setting up a new home can be.
During the move, I put a freeze on my requests at the library, and my subscriptions—Poets & Writers; TIME; New York Review of Books; River Teeth; Bellingham Review; and Gettysburg Review—have piled up unread. I’ve ignored all the great book recommendations on Shelfari, and I even stopped reading the daily newspaper.
Reading is an addictive habit. The more you do it, the more you need to do it. At least that’s been my experience. And since I stopped—cold turkey—I haven’t quite figured out how to start again. After spending days scrubbing floors, hanging pictures, and planting a garden, I crawl into bed and collapse. No more bedtime stories for me. No lounging on the couch on Sundays and telling my kids I’ll see them at the end of the book.
But lately, I’ve made it a point to stop working on the house in the evening and instead plant myself in my oversized reading chair and look at a printed page. One night, I read the Sunday New York Times all the way through and the next, I made my way through the Author’s Guild Bulletin (and a fascinating article on book reviews and reading online vs. reading print which perhaps fittingly, I can't link to because it's not online!). When I took one of my kids to the bookstore the other night, I bought David Shield’s collection of essays, The Thing about Life is that One Day You’ll Be Dead, and put it on my To Read pile.
A couple of days ago, I picked up the July issue of Oprah’s magazine to check out her summer reading recommendations. While it’s frustrating to know I won’t be at a beach this summer or even lying around in my new (gopher-ridden) garden in a lounge chair reading a book a day (my usual and preferred reading pace), I still feel the familiar tingle of anticipation when I scribble out the list of books I want to read—the ones that will end my reading drought.
On top of my list is my friend Bunny Goodjohn’s novel Sticklebacks and Snow Globes. Yesterday, I unfroze my library requests and am eagerly awaiting Careless, a novel by Deborah Robertson; How To Build A House by Dana Reinhardt; Dreaming Up America by Russell Banks; and No one belongs here more than you: stories by Miranda July.
It won’t be a book a day, but if I can make room for these books this summer, I may be on the road to recovery."