This week I'm working on my thesis statement. During these last few months in my MFA classes, I haven't had the time nor chance to read the books that I put on my to-read list. Novels chosen for class and texts take precedence. I was about a third of the way into Sharon Kay Penman's When Christ and His Saints Slept, when classes began and I'm anxiously awaiting uninterupted time to finish it so I can move through the series. However, this detour hasn't kept me from the library and bookstores!
Today during a trek through a local used bookstore, I came across Life Sentences by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, a book that marks an interesting and special moment in my life.
In my senior year of high school, I went to an information session to learn more about one of the colleges on my list. It was at the Sheraton Hotel in Richmond near Glenside and Broad (which has since been demolished). My mom and I had gotten there really early, so I piddled through the gift shop. Naturally - as I do - I wound up spending time at the circular book rack, thumbing for something. I ultimately chose Life Sentences. Not long after that, I read it. It was a very intense story, more than I had expected, but I remember how it had maintained my interest.
Before I'd read the story, I'd chosen to attend the college that had offered the information session. And I remember learning after I'd finished the book that Hailey was an alumnae of that same college! That fall, I began my years studying at Hollins College, following her footsteps to become a writer.
It was a lovely coincidence. I later read two of her other books, including Joanna's Husband and David's Wife (I still love that title) and her bestselling A Woman of Independent Means, which became the basis of an acclaimed mini-series with Sally Field.
Unfortunately, I'd misplaced my copy during a move ages ago. I decided to purchase the copy in my hand and continued to walk around the bookstore for a little while. Usually, I'll look through my Goodreads app for something specific, but today, I just meandered along. Then I thought about The Art of Time in Fiction by Joan Silber, one of my textbooks, and how I wanted to read her latest book, Fools. So in search for that, I went. The bookstore didn't have it, but her novel, Household Words, was there. I thumbed through it and as I was about to set it back on the shelf, I noticed that Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey's blurb for the book was on the front cover. I got it.
Another lovely coincidence.
Since returning to grad school for my MFA in Creative Writing, my desire to write fiction for a living (yes, I said it) is just as strong as it was when I was a teen and undergrad. After that, life - kids, jobs - took over and I didn't know how to mesh it together. Now I am. I have to. It's me. Making these tiny connections with Hailey today reminded me.
One of our texts in my last class was A Writing Life by Annie Dillard... in another post I'll explain the emotions that ran through me during that class. That too, was a lovely coincidence...
by Tonya Rice