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Author Archive: "Elissa Minor Rust"

Luke, I Am Your Father

My kids learned a hard truth yesterday after lunch: Darth Vader is Luke's father. They've been dying to see Return of the Jedi for months. After spending the morning in my daughter's kindergarten class (twenty-six five- and six-year-olds in the same room equals migraine), I finally relented and put the movie on so I could take an Imitrex and nurse my headache. I don't know why I've been so reluctant; my son Elias has only seen Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, say, thirty times or so.

He took it hard. At three and a half, he is absolutely in love with "bad guys." He spends more time each day ransacking our house, hunting for Darth Vader with his lightsaber, than I do sitting in front of this computer. Elias doesn't want Darth Vader to "turn into a good guy." He wants the bad Vader. Bad Vader is so much more fun. It's a lot harder to play Luke now: who wants the complexity of having to hate your own father?

So now they know. It's not the same story once you know the truth about Luke and Leia's biology. Surprising plot twists make us ...


The Green Monster

I came across an article yesterday written by one of my graduate school peers, Papatya Bucak, in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It's a funny piece about the role of jealousy in the writing world, and the fact that it does have its upside: it can spur you to work harder and accomplish more. Simply put: everyone needs a nemesis. Seinfeld had Newman. I need a Newman.

So, in the spirit of jealousy, I thought I'd list the top five books I wish I'd written. Ron Carlson used to paraphrase Edward Abbey and assert that if you want to read a good book, you're going to have to write it yourself. As much as I admire both Abbey and Carlson, I'm not sure I agree: there are plenty of good books out there, most of them I'd love to have written. Without further ado:

1) Plainsong, Kent Haruf: I shouldn't have to explain this one. A novel that takes my breath away, almost literally, every time I read it.

2) Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen: I love this book, but it doesn't hold a place on my list of favorites. The reason I'd ...


The Plight of Short Fiction

I ran into an acquaintance today at the grocery store (clichéd, I know; you could never write that scene into good fiction) who had seen some of the recent reviews of my book. His comment? "You'll be rolling in the dough soon, right?" Um, yeah. This is clearly not somebody who understands the state of the current publishing industry in this country. When it comes to money-making books, a collection of literary short stories is pretty much on the bottom of the heap. This has me thinking today about why, exactly, that is. Truly, it seems to me that short fiction fits the modern American lifestyle almost better than anything. Don't we have shorter attention spans? Hasn't the television industry shortened the length of the average television scene and commercial because of our complete inability to stick with one thing for too long? At a time when blogging has gained massive momentum and handwritten letters have become all but obscure in the face of email, one would think the popularity of other short forms of written communication would follow suit.

Who among us hasn't complained that we don't have time to read as much as we like? A good friend

...


Insomnia

It's late Monday night and, in keeping with my current modus operandi, I'm wide awake. There isn't much more frustrating in this world than lying sleepless in bed next to both a snoring partner and a snoring pug. Tonight I blame widdershins. The word has been running laps in my head since early evening; longer than that, really — I've been obsessed with it since I came across the word in something I read about a week ago. (I can't even remember what it was I read. That's the mark of a good word, isn't it, if the word sticks but the piece in which it appears does not?) My head hits the pillow and the only thing I can think about is how to appropriately work widdershins into a good sentence in my novel-in-progress. Counter-clockwise, it means, though when I've heard it in the past, it held connotations of witchcraft, of menacing magic. A quick Google search tells me that walking widdershins three times around a church is a great way to summon a demon.

None of this is good fodder for my current project, of course. It's a lovely word, but in the case of ...


Reading, Writing, and Mothering

Although I spent the last few days reading Joan Didion and David Maine (loved them both), I have to be honest and say the best literary experience I had all weekend took place in my daughter's pink canvas playhouse. It's just large enough for two people to fit snuggly, and we have it permanently positioned above one of the heating vents in the living room, so it's like a wonderful little sauna. My daughter, Chloe, had stockpiled her favorite books into the sauna, and she invited me in (along with the cat and the pug) so we could do some reading. We read all of Horton Hatches the Egg before she pulled from her stack her favorite series of all time: Junie B. Jones.

Okay. A little on Junie B. Anybody who shares a home with a kindergarten-aged girl is probably also intimately acquainted with Junie B. Jones. She's your typical five-year-old protagonist, cute and endearing on a first read, but by the time you've progressed to, say, books ten and up in the series, all the books start to feel exactly the same to an adult reader. Chloe has

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