Ann Hood is the visiting author this year at Southern New Hampshire University. I totally loved her novel, The Knitting Circle and am looking forward to her 2010 release, The Red Thread. On top of that, she is a totally fun person with great gusto for laughter. She is also a terrifically prolific writer — fiction, nonfiction and a zillion magazine publications. So this weekend, as I was reading about a blogger-become-book author in “More” mag, I was pleasantly surprised to see her now-familiar name at the byline. But then again, she’s the kind of woman with her keystrokes on a pulse-point. Welcome to SNHU, Ann!
It took two years of planning and committee meetings, but when Sunday, Oct. 25th arrived, the Friends of the Nashua Public Library were ready to host an afternoon with Chris Bohjalian. For those who wanted to chat with the author up-close-and-personal, we offered tickets to a private reception. It was a smashing success, as Chris graciously circulated among clusters of book club members and avid fans, many of whom were clutching copies of his most recent success, Skeletons at the Feast. Personally, I had a difficult time accompanying the characters as they survived the harsh conditions and cruel human acts of the winter of 1945. But Chris is a consummate story teller, both orally and on paper, and he did not disappoint us last Sunday. I was so transfixed during his 45-minute presentation that I barely bothered to adjust myself on the folding chair. Fantastic!
Every third-semester student in the SNHU MFA program is required to write a critical essay. The subject of the essay is to be on one aspect of the writing craft of an author (living or not) who writes in the same genre as the student is working in for their graduate manuscript project. The memoir author I have chosen for my essay is Augusten Burroughs. I am intrigued with his use of humor that has the reader laughing while at the same time choking or crying at the horror of the narrator’s circumstance. My email request for an interview went unanswered. But fortunately, his publicist has put together a tour for his latest book, You Better Not Cry. How lucky for me his tour included Boston! Tickets for his reading and Q&A were only $5, so if I couldn’t get an interview, at least I’d get to see him in action in the flesh. I was not disappointed — the reading was terrific and right in line with my thesis statement. As Augusten was leaving the stage, I mustered up the courage to approach him as he passed my seat. It was a brief but enlightening exchange. “No, I do not give interviews any longer,” he told me. That’s alright. I think I just had one.
And then this weekend it was time to get back to the keyboard and my own story. In the words of both Ann Hood and Augusten, the yellow post-it note now stuck to my desk reminds me: emotional truth. That’s what will resonate with the reader. Thanks, guys.