On the afternoon of January 2, one day shy of the first anniversary of my graduation from Fairfield University’s MFA program, I stood at the same podium where I gave the student graduation address, & read from my new novel Carry-on. I’d been graciously invited to read by the MFA program’s director, Michael White, & the reading was made an official event of the winter residency. What an honor to be the first of many FU-MFA alumni to share his/her work at the place where we learned so much about the craft of writing.
Enders Island is a small island off the coast of Mystic, CT, connected to the larger Mason’s Island by a 50-yard causeway, but miles away from the mainland in spirit. It is the home of the Fairfield MFA program’s twice-yearly residencies, two intensive 10-day immersions in workshops, readings, & seminars, punctuated by 3 (generous) meals per day & plenty of extracurricular activities. It’s a spectacular setting for learning, & I’ve missed being there.
As familiar as the surroundings were, I was anxious about this reading. I hadn’t expected to read in the Chapel, a large venue with a notoriously boomy sound system & lots of wooden pews that could, potentially, remain empty. And while a very good crowd showed up, I remained nervous before, during & even after the reading. Should I have chosen a different section of the novel to share? Was I reading too fast? Too slow? Did the book suck? I’ve given dozens & dozens of readings, in all kinds of situations & venues, & I remain a nervous wreck each time, but this one was especially tense. These were my peers, not to mention my teachers. I felt a certain responsibility to them: this needed to be good. I was so anxious that I forgot to say several things I’d intended to say before reading from the book. I wrote it all down, then proceeded to ignore most of it, convinced that it would be self-indulgent. In retrospect, I should have ignored my written intro & instead spoken about how special it was to be there, in that room, with those people. I wish I had.
After the reading, Mystic’s famous independent bookseller Bank Square Books sold copies of Carry-on, which I was happy to sign. I was also thrilled that we sold 40 copies–all those that I brought!
Special shout-out to Travis Baker for his thoughtful, hilarious introduction.