Friday, September 4, 2009

The High of A Great Read

I think I'm starting to get something akin to that runner's high on reading something so good it can give me goosebumps. It's a rush, you know? That quickening of pulse and sitting up straight and feeling that tingle throughout and reading so fast you feel like you're devouring the work. I love that feeling. I love the stories and the kind of writing that can do that to me.

During my six years of college at Mills (BA and MFA) I couldn't get any enjoyment out of reading. I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, but looking back I see of course that I was stressed, depressed, and run ragged. I was the over-achieving straight-A student, had two complicated pregnancies spaced three years apart, and at last delivered two daughters that I breastfed, the first for a year, and the second for fifteen months.

I felt sucked dry, literally and figuratively. I'd read stories and novels and for the most part felt nothing. It was a slog to get through the pages. I wondered where all the good stories and writers had gone? What the hell was I doing writing if I couldn't even find anything I cared about reading? Desperate, I returned to Raymond Carver and Flannery O'Conner and found solace, remembered why I was in this crazy game. Although, at that time, the solace was all too fleeting.

I graduated from Mills in 2004. After graduating, I mothered and I battled depression, my demons. Both were full-time jobs. I'm in a much better place now. I'm in the best place of my life. My writing's back, and so is my love of reading. My smile comes from deep inside now, you know?

That's a long-winded way of explaining just how excited I feel having started my day with yet another terrific story from one of our very own: Roxane Gay. Read her story "Gravity at the End of the World" over at Knee-Jerk Magazine. I'm just coming down from the rush of that read. Congratulations yet again, Roxane.


  1. Ethel, you make me blush. But I'm so glad that you were able to have such a reaction to my story. I want people to feel the things I write and to know that happens makes me very happy.

  2. I tried to read the story, but the site is having a problem. I look forward to them getting back up so I can get a reader high as well!

    I had no such excuses for being stressed at Mills, but I always was in awe of you having your girls in tow on top of everything else. Well done, you, for getting ANYTHING out of the whole experience!

  3. Tanita, I hope you know how much your friendship and wry, killer sense of humor helped get me through those days.

  4. Ethel--how did you do grad school with little people?! though I get grumpy wondering what I did with all that free time back then (arranging my colored pencils?! meditating?!) I am grateful to have survived grad glad you did too. Maybe you've already talked about this author, so forgive if you have--but a story that lit me up was Retreating Light by Melanie Rae Thon...came across it in Five Points and I'm sorry I'm not as fancy as you with links! From the first sentence she had me. I'll be watching for her.