How I Fell in Love With Reading, Thanks to My Badass Grandfather
Happy Friday! It was my smart, funny, patient, kind, sexy husband’s birthday this week! He inspires my writing daily with his boundless love, unmatched sense of humor, life-giving energy, perpetual pragmatism, and cartoonish antics.
I also have a personal essay up this week on Three Guys, One Book about how and when I fell in love—with reading, not my spouse. That’s an entirely different personal essay, one that involves porch jumping as an avoidance technique, a betrothal over steaming cups of butternut squash soup at the Willy Street Co-Op East in Madison, and a pantsless, rooftop marriage proposal.
Dennis Haritou over at Litbreak Magazine invites all of his accepted submitters the opportunity to write a quick essay about When They Fell In Love with books. My essay focuses on who provided me with the books: my late grandpa, who died when I was 8, of esophageal cancer. He was only 52. Even though I didn’t get to spend more than those 8 years with him, he guided and influenced my life so much, most notably because he would bring me books with torn-off covers that he rescued from being pulverized or incinerated at a publishing company in Milwaukee. The publishing company tore off the covers due to printing errors, so they could not be resold. My grandpa, being frugal and fun-loving and disregarding of most rules, thought this was a terrible waste. He enlisted the workers at the publisher’s loading dock to save some middle-reader books for me, including the gorgeous and tragic Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.
You can read the essay here. And, if for some reason your version ends abruptly with a story about what I read while attending my all-girls’ high school, here’s the last paragraph—the complete version of the essay isn’t showing up in some browsers for me, despite some post-publication fixes and constant cookie clearing:
“To this day, now enrolled in an MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles where I design my own reading list, I tend to choose female writers or books with strong women protagonists. Ironically enough, I have graveyard-shift warehouse workers and my rough-and-tumble, Miller-drinking grandpa to thank for my passion for feminist lit. My grandpa’s greatest gift to me was not dolls or toys or other material possessions, but his unwavering encouragement of my endless reading.”
It’s all true. And yes, it still makes me cry. I consider this essay a birthday gift for my spouse, so he knows that I’m making some sort of use of my in-progress MFA degree. :-D
I’m Not Famous
Celebrity sighting/starf*cker fact: I finished writing and editing this essay while at a coffee shop in Echo Park in Los Angeles. I looked up when I heard a familiar voice, only to see Abbi Jacobson of Broad City talking to someone I presumed was a producer or director. My jaw dropped, and I think she feared for a second that I was a paparazzo, rather than a sweaty, typing fangirl in a jumpsuit. Being the latter, I tried to chill out my heartbeat while watching her have coffee with a pal out of the corner of my eye and editing the essay. My brush with fame!
That’s as close to famous as I’m feeling I’ll get this project period, which I dubbed The Hall of Rejections. I regret not submitting paper manuscripts to some of these publications. The form rejection emails languishing in my “Submissions – Rejected” folder in Gmail just aren’t the same as seeing a room lined with paper decline letters boasting handwritten scrawls of, “You’re good, but not great.”
That said, I’ve been focusing much more of my attention this semester on writing for Lunch Ticket, as well as editing my peers’ work. I’m excited to move forward with the journal for next issue—we had to turn our applications in for our desired positions already. I know it’s gonna be a killer team.
My foci this project period have also mushroomed (pun very much intended) to include my in-laws’ family farm. In several past lives, I was a warehousing and transportation “expert,” as well as a Human Resources Manager. I’ve been using some of these skills to help the family business with compliance, HR, and communications. We just returned from a six-day trip to Pennsylvania, particularly State College and Kennett Square, the mushroom growing centers of the universe. I learned more than I thought I ever would about mycology and the mushroom farming industry.
At this point in the semester, I have two packets left to turn in, but less than a month left in the project period. In November, right before turning in my final packet, I’m taking a trip to Utah with my dear friend Audre, and to meet some family members I never knew I had—a fateful and extremely heartwarming story that I’ll share later, when the time is right.
And I’ll be in L.A. again in less than two months! Maybe I’ll see Ilana Glazer this time. Those two are good for my productivity as an essayist…