Tag Archives: David Sedaris

Make Reading Part of Your Christmas Tradition

5 Dec

The holidays seem to have crept up on us this year, the unseasonably warm weather masquerading the approach of December.  Yes, there’s lots to do, between gift shopping and making travel arrangements and attending holiday parties, but I’ve been slowly learning and relearning that it’s not the doing that matters most.  It’s the people we’re with and the moments we share.

Instead of rushing from mall to mall, pepperspraying each other, what if we slowed down and carved out quiet moments of reflection with the ones we love most?

I have so many great childhood memories associated with the holidays.  My parents really knew how to make the holidays special.  It wasn’t all toys and games.  We had special rituals, decorations, foods, and traditions.  One of my favorite was when my mom would read to my sister, brother, and me Barbara Helen Berger’s The Donkey’s Dream.

Later this special Christmas story tradition continued when I went to college.  I had a wonderful pastor who read us Angela Elwell Hunt’s The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale.

There are so many great Christmas stories out there for people of all ages and interests, and I truly believe that staying in with a hot cup of cocoa and a good book is more memorable than rushing out to get the latest Tamagotchi, Tickle Me Elmo, Cabbage Patch Kid, Poggs, Wii, or whatever this generation of kids is into.

Here are my Christmas book recommendations:

For the little women in your life, there’s Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas Tales and Stories

For anyone who could use a good laugh, there’s Laurie Notaro’s An Idiot Girl’s Christmas: True Tales from the Top of the Naughty List

For someone who loves twisted tales of holidays run amuck, there’s David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice

For anyone who loves a classic, there’s Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

For the nostalgic, there’s Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales

For those who love the South, there’s Truman Capote’s Christmas Memory

There are too many great children’s Christmas books to list.  What are your favorite Christmas books?

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MFAism: Hosting Summer Writing Workshop

22 Jun

Even though the MFA writing program is officially on summer break — whoo-hoo! — some of us from the creative-nonfiction writing workshop decided we were having so much fun (or something like that) that wanted to keep on meeting.  Last Tuesday we had our first informal workshop.  It was so nice to catch up with everyone and to chat about our writing.

As I’ve alluded, everyone in my classes always recommends I read David Sedaris when they find out I write about growing up Greek American.  I do get a kick out of David Sedaris, but it’s his sister Amy Sedaris who captured my heart with her book I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. There’s just something about us Greek women — we love hosting and feeding people.  I barely had anyone over during the semester so I was super-excited to volunteer hosting the writing workshop in my apartment.

Since my classmates have been giving me feedback all semester on the Greek American memoir I’m writing — and since I’m the Queen of Theme Parties — I of course prepared Greek meze for them.  I served feta cheese (imported from Greece!  I’m stimulating the Greek economy!), sliced tomatoes with sea salt, pita, red pepper & eggplant dip, dried apricots, and almonds.  The other writers graciously brought delicious homemade (!) scones and sumptuous red wine.  I pretty much gorged!

We had a great conversation about nonfiction vs. fiction writing and talked about the role of blogging in our writing.  Then we spent some time critiquing each other’s works.  I got helpful feedback on a short reflection I’d written about my experience at the 2011 Gabby Awards.  I really enjoyed reading their new pieces too.  Everyone has such interesting stories to tell!

Now I’ve got to get to work on the next chapter to submit!

In the meantime, if anyone has any tips on how to run a writing workshop, please post in the comments section.

Writing Wednesday: Who Is the Patron Saint of Your Writing?

23 Mar

Detail of Turf One's painting "Holy Ghost."

“Who is the patron saint of your writing?” my lit instructor inquired.

I’m taking a class that looks at how classic works of literature inspire contemporary works.  We look, for example, at how Evan S. Connell’s Mrs. Bridge informed Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife.  It seems natural that great authors would inspire other great writers to write either in the same style or the same theme.  And yet, my instructor’s question has had me thinking for days.

I’ve never thought of my own writing as being inspired by another writer.  I don’t try to write like my favorite authors, though I’m sure I must’ve done it subconsciously many times.

In a way, this rejection of sameness is reflective of my life in general.  I was the English major in undergrad who hung out with all the premed students.  I was the Greek kid in middle school with all the Korean and Japanese friends.  It never occurred to me to hang out with people who had my identical interests and culture, and it never occurred to me to try to write like another writer.

Except maybe Gregory Corso.

When I was 22 I wrote an homage to Corso’s “I Am 25.” It was pretty much a rip off of Corso’s poem, but it was meant to be.  Corso writes about stealing the poems of Shelley, Chatterton, and Rimbaud, and I more or less swapped out the names of these “old poetmen” for those of Corso, Kerouac, and Ginsberg.

Along those Beat Generation lines, one of my favorite writers is Jack Kerouac.  Read these lines from On the Road:

“Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”

“The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death.”

It pains me how beautiful these words are.  While so much has been made of Kerouac’s subject matter and improvisational style, I find that it is his lyrical descriptions and, yes, the rhythm of his prose that captivate me the most.

I have zig-zagged across the country, visiting places Kerouac visited, and I’ve written short travel articles, but I don’t write road-trip novels.  I would like very much to write about America, though.  I’ve written about Kerouac, sure, but I haven’t (consciously) attempted to write in his style.  I love punctuation rules too much.

I would probably choose Jack Kerouac to be the patron saint of my writing, but in reality, my writing voice comes out more like Sue Monk Kidd or, as my mom has pointed out, Donald Miller and Anna Quindlen.

Others tell me to read David SedarisHe’s Greek!  He writes about his family! And indeed, I do see his humor sometimes creeping into my personal essays.  One time, right after reading David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, I will confess I conjured up his style for an article I wrote, but I fear that was only similar to off-key humming of a song that just played on the radio.

Must I choose just one patron saint?

I admire great writers, and I love to reference them and turn other readers on to them, but I don’t think I could ever choose just one to be my patron saint.  I’m way too much of a schizophrenic writer for that.

Who is your patron saint of writing?