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White and Nelson to read April 1

Jessica Hendry Nelson

Jessica Hendry Nelson

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Gifted and persistent authors Jessica Hendry Nelson and Jacob White will team up to deliver the second reading for JSC’s Spring Author Series.

The two will read in Stearns Performance Space on Thursday, April 1 at 5:30 p.m.

Nelson is the author of a collection of memoirs, “If Only You People Could Follow Directions,” which was chosen as a best debut book by the “Indies Introduce New Voices” program and the “January 2014 Indies Next List” by the American Booksellers Association. She is the co-creator of Vermont’s new Renegade Writers’ Collective and the managing and nonfiction editor of JSC’s “Green Mountains Review.” Nelson’s work has been featured in various literary journals including The Threepenny Review, PANK, and American Essays 2012. Nelson has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

White is a former assistant professor at JSC and is the author of “Being Dead in South Carolina.” His work has been published in The Georgia Review, The Sewanee Review, Salt Hill, and other literary journals. White edits fiction for Green Mountains Review, and teaches at Ithaca College in New York.

Nelson is a writer who isn’t afraid to portray intimate and difficult characters. “I am proud of the essay in my book called ‘The Dollhouse,’ said Nelson. “Mostly, because I think I was trying to get at a really complicated character, my grandmother, and trying to convey of sort of modicum of her complexity and I think I pulled that off more or less . . . she was one of the most dynamic, strange, complicated people I have known,” she said.

Nelson will be reading from her collection of memoirs; she is excited to read some new, unpublished work as well.

Nelson began writing her recently published memoirs for the book during graduate school at Sarah Lawrence College in 2008. “It took years of working on these essays and then having other people say to me, ‘this is a book,’ for me to sort of reconcile myself to that . . . in hindsight it seems inevitable,” said Nelson.

Writing these memoirs was not an easy endeavor. “Everyday I hit walls . . . I can’t do it, I can’t move forward, this is all shitty,” said Nelson. “Then also feeling like I reached a new level of understanding of myself and subject matter and how structure was lending itself to making meaning . . . it’s like great despair and great glory coinciding,” she said.

“The book I’m working on now is a collection of novellas that take place on the Jersey Shore and the narrator is obsessed with invented languages,” said Nelson. “I think this character is mostly interested in the failings of the English language, and the way that some of these invented languages come out of a desire to fix what’s missing in existing languages, what is impossible, what we can’t accomplish and can’t convey in the languages we have,” she said.

Nelson is excited to be part of the JSC Author Series for the first time. “And to reading with Jacob,” said Nelson. “All of his students adore him, and he is a lovely person and writer,” she said.

White is looking forward to the reading as well. “I am excited to see my JSC family, from whom I’ve been away too long,” said White in an e-mail interview. White taught at JSC for three years before moving to Ithaca, a decision prompted by family considerations.

White wants to please the audience during readings. “I tend to go for the humane choice: something funny-ish and short-ish. Not so short as to be a flash in the pan, but nothing over 20 minutes,” said White. “Then again, I may read something new.”

“The visiting authors series has been, in a way (to borrow a metaphor suggested by Elizabeth Powell), the hub of just about all of the programming in and around the B.F.A. major,” said White. “These authors don’t just show up, read to an auditorium, and helicopter away: they engage students in substantive Q&A’s, craft talks, classroom visits. Moreover, they usually step out from behind the ‘author’ persona and reveal themselves to be struggling, fumbling, confused humans,” he said.

White included himself in being one who has stumbled and fumbled throughout his writing career. He offered three memories of his most memorable writing experiences.

In 2012, White wrote in silence. “At poet Julia Shipley’s writing retreat in Craftsbury (Writing on the Farm), where I spent an entire week at the end of summer . . . The only sound was the coyotes at night and someone passing down the gravel road now and then. I’ve never known such stillness,” said White.

In 1997, White lost all he wrote. “On a train in Wales, in the thrall of what I see now was a nervous breakdown, occasioned, oddly, by ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray.’ I filled up 45 notebook pages, which I subsequently lost,” said White.

In ’98 White wrote while high on cola and pestered by bugs. “On a slanted, gunship-gray porch in Charleston, S.C., where I drank too many icy RC Colas after working at an oven-hot door mill all day . . . listening to the plasticky rustle of palmetto fronds in the sea air and slapping away gnats,” said White.

 

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About the Writer
Travis LeClair, Staff Reporter

Travis LeClair joined the Basement Medicine staff in Spring 2014, assuming the position of staff reporter.

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