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Susan Stinson

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December 12th, 2014

01:48 pm: Stepping Down as Writer in Residence at Forbes in June
0144 300dpi (2)(Photo: Jeep Wheat)
I'm stepping down as Writer in Residence at Forbes Library in June. It has been an enormous pleasure to do this work for five years. After taking the summer off, I plan to keep running the writing rooms as a writer in residence emeritus(!).

This means, though, that the current season of the Local History/Local Novelists series -- an idea that I offered to the library when we started exploring whether it would work for me to be writer in residence there -- is my last. I won't be running the Writing Life discussion series in the summer any more, either. The library is in the process of developing a job description for a new writer-in-residence, and will be making an announcement about that, most likely in January. I'm not part of the process of finding a replacement. I'll be busy finishing this season, working on my new novel, working with writing coaching and editing clients, and taking on other opportunities, including teaching, as they arise.

Yay for all of the great writing and experiences over this five years! Thank you for being a part of it.  Yay for whatever comes next!

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December 7th, 2014

02:45 pm: The Blue Guitar
Cold, rainy last night, and who knew if the roads would turn slick. So, not a big crowd at the Blue Guitar, but it was such a good night. I love stories and music on a winter's night. This music, these stories were perfect for the moment for me. Bill O'Haire and Dan Levy were great. Jeep Wheat  took pictures (gift!), so I expect I'll post some later. I read new, new work, which, in some way, started to make the fact that I'm writing a new novel seem real to me. (That makes me take a deep breath.) Ended with a short piece about JE and a crow feather from Spider in a Tree which I've read many times. This time, though. Christie Svane, who organized the event, followed the short piece by doing a response to it in movement while folks from the audience called out images that had struck them from the piece. It was lovely, and for me, so emotional and moving, to see my work take on three dimensions in the body and voices of others.

Dan Levy Blue Guitar photo by Jeep WheatChristie Svane Blue Guitar photo by Jeep Wheat.Susan Stinson Blue Guitar photo by Jeep WheatBill O'Haire Blue Guitar photo by Jeep Wheat

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November 26th, 2014

12:28 pm: Mollie and Bill, Singing
My mom and dad have been married sixty years on Thanksgiving Day. I wrote this piece about them to read to the extended family at our family reunion last July, but the acoustics in the barbecue place made me think it would be impossible for folks to hear me read, so I just read it to a small group at our table. Marriage isn't a relationship model that works for everyone, but their marriage is a gorgeous thing. Here is the short essay in honor of them as they celebrate their life together for all of those years.

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November 17th, 2014

06:06 pm: December 6 Blue Guitar Reading
I'll be reading with Dan Levy, with Bill O'Haire playing guitar and Christie Svane dancing at the Blue Guitar in Easthampton at 7:30, December 6. Flyer after the cut.  More at the link.

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October 29th, 2014

11:41 pm: Galway Kinnell
I eat oatmeal alone almost every morning. Right now, I'm listening to a recording of Galway Kinnell reading with his grandchildren for Paris Press in Ashfield last summer.   It's an amazing gift of a reading. He reads so many amazing poems: Wait, Oatmeal, St. Francis and the Sow.  (Oh, I've loved that poem so much for so long.)  When he reads The Lake Isle at Innisfree by Yeats -- I will arise and go now, oh, the pull of that  bee-loud glade is so strong. And I will I will thinking of him, with him, inviting him and wishing him -- what? -- safe passage, what other times called a good death, over my oatmeal many mornings to come.

Oatmeal by Galway Kinnell

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October 23rd, 2014

04:59 pm: Lila by Marilynne Robinson
Lila, the new novel by Marilynne Robinson, is just so good. The long  first paragraph alone -- about a little girl on a stoop in the dark --  is a masterpiece.  Seriously.  I keep reading it over and over again.  This is her third book set in Gilead, Iowa, and it's from the point of  view of the young woman married to the minister whose point of view we  are with in the first book. I love both Robinson's willingness to go to  very deep, very troubled places and responses within a mind and soul,  and her restraint in how she evokes these things. She is brilliant about  love and hard-won skittishness and trust. She writes the lives of  people with little or no money, and, when the hard times come, little or  no food, with a sharp, unsentimental, lucid voice. This book struck me  so deeply, in part because I feel so influenced by Robinson's work, and  have a kind of inner trembling about whether I dare to try to be this  good. Love the river for washing, for baptising, for unbaptising.  Love  how naturally the theological discussions rise in this work, in these  lives, with what feels like their true weight, and their human  slightness, too.  Slightness might not be right, but these are not any  kind of saints on earth, these are people trying with such wrenched  emotions and gorgeous perceptions just to maybe, if possible, be good.  It is a book I love.

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October 15th, 2014

09:28 pm: October Farmshare
Sing a song of salad greens. Greens from my friend's farmshare! Still. Again. After some days without greens, greens! Sing a song of fennel. Fennel! Plenty of fennel for a pretty salad with apples and lemon. Sing a song of a great big round, light green squash with a little pearshape happening on top. Oh, squash, you're not a gourd, are you? Squash I don't know, are you a melon? Mysteries of the farmshare can be so pleasing. Like fennel! That turned out so well. Song of broccoli. Song of brussel sprouts, pleasing little cabbages. It is fun to slip off their smudged up outer leaves. Beautiful brussels sprouts, cooking slowing now. Your smell calls out: cabbage! But you are your own little melty brassica selves. I learned the category "brassica" when I lived with my first big New England garden. That's your winter greens, your kales, your cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, the ones that sweeten up when it gets cold, the big, curly leaves you can shake snow from and eat like popsicles. Summer bitter, winter sweet, you've grown on me. But does anybody know this squash?

(I just wrote this on fb, but why should it have all the fun?)

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October 13th, 2014

05:20 pm: October 8 Grace Church reading
Lovely to read from Spider in a Tree at Grace Episcopal Church last Wednesday. The conversation was so warm and engaged. Jeep Wheat generously took photos. My mother made this blouse for me. It has been a year since the novel was published, and Oct 5 was Jonathan Edwards's 311th birthday. Made it especially sweet to have a reading last week.  Susan Stinson Grace Episcopal Amherst 10.8.14 photo Jeep Wheat

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September 16th, 2014

06:47 pm: Local History/Local Writers 2014/15 Season!
I've been curating this series for the last five years. Please come if you can!

Forbes Library, Northampton, MA

Oct 1 Strange Stories of Science! Bugs! Scandal! Fiction!
Faith Deering, entomologist, Historic Deerfield
Peter Kobel , author, The Strange Case of the Mad Professor
Brian Adams, novelist, Love in the Time of Climate Change

Nov 5 Paradise Found: A Walking and Biking Tour of Northampton, Massachusetts through poetry and art.
Tom Clark, Lori Desrosiers and Oonagh Doherty, editors. Various readers.

Dec 3 Celebration of Local Novelists
M.P. Barker, novelist, Mending Horses
Suzanne Strempek Shea, novelist, Make a Wish But Not For Money
D. Dina Friedman, novelist, Escaping into the Night
Karen Shepard, novelist, The Celestials

Jan 7 Engaging Young People with History: An Evening with YA and Middle Grade Novelists
Jeannine Atkins, novelist, Becoming Little Women: Louisa May at Fruitlands
Burleigh Muten, novelist, Miss Emily
Ellen Wittlinger, novelist, This Means War!
curated by Naila Moreira

Feb 4 Remembering Those Gone
Lesléa Newman, poet, I Carry My Mother
Mark Hart, poet, Boy Singing to Cattle
Elise Bernier-Feeley, Forbes Special Collections and Genealogy Librarian,
on Bridge Street Cemetery

Mar 4 Crime Fiction*
Dean Flower, professor of English, Smith College
Michael Ponsor , novelist, The Hanging Judge
Susan Kelly, novelist, Out of the Darkness
* in conjunction with All Hamptons Read The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Apr 8 Shay’s Rebellion
(2ND Dan Bullen, poet and author, The Dangers of Passion: The Transcendental Friendship
Wed.) of Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson
Contance Congdon, author and playrwright, No Little Rebellion
Richard Colton, historian, Springfield Armory

May 6 Celebration of Local Novelists
Ellen Meeropol , novelist, On Hurricane Island
John Clayton, novelist, Many Seconds Into The Future
MB Caschetta , novelist, Miracle Girls
Alex Myers, novelist, Revolutionary

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August 19th, 2014

04:25 pm: The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Just finished The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. It's one of the best novels about the over-the-top human mess of history that I've ever read. It's about the famous John Brown -- white,Christian -- who took up arms to try to end slavery, told from the point of view of Onion, a bi-racial slave whose father is killed as John Brown snatches the child from a tavern and declares him a girl. The narrative reads as if Onion is hiding in his dress, not choosing or uncovering part of an identity -- well, except for, maybe, sometimes, and there is intense emotional complexity around that, along with wild, antic humor; along with the violence. Harper's Ferry is in Virginia, but much of the early part of the book takes place in Missouri. As I read, the story has been echoing in painful, illuminating ways -- so painful and illuminating that at times I wasn't sure I could do it -- against all that's been happening in Ferguson. Onion has a fantastic voice. The way John Brown bumbles and writes letters and is obtuse and presumptuous and oblivious and early or late, on the way to trying to start armed resistance to slavery. It's told like folk lore, but it also kind of flat-out rings true.Also, John Brown was a man inclined to long prayers, and, as someone who has struggled with how to write about long prayers and sermons for the impatient contemporary reader, I thought James McBride earned his National Book Award with the hilarious way he handled the prayers and biblical quotations, alone.

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