Heidi Julavits Kicks Off Annual Major Author Reading Series

By RikkiLynn Shields, Editor

Heidi Julavits, author and co-editor of The Believer magazine, was the first to speak at this year’s Major Author Reading Series here at Manhattan College.

Julavits was born and raised in Portland, Maine, and attended Dartmouth College for her undergraduate education. Later on, she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University. Julavits, along with holding the position of co-editor of The Believer magazine, is also the author of four novels: “The Mineral Palace,” “The Effect of Living Backwards,” “The Uses of Enchantment” and “The Vanishers.” She recently published a diary, “The Folded Clock,” in 2015.

At the MARS reading, Julavits read a few chapters from her novel, “The Folded Clock.” The novel is actually an old diary that she kept many years ago. Decades later, after digging through an old storage bin, Julavits decided to publish her diary full of stories from earlier in her life.

The passage she read from her book recounted a time when Julavits was stuck in an airport due to inclement weather. During this time, Julavits was impatient and in a rush to get home to New York. She decided to skip her flight, which didn’t board for hours, and rent-a-car to get home to New York. After encountering a man, she calls Tom, he offered to split the costs of the trip back with her.

Julavits and Tom spent the many hours driving home talking about everything from life to love to his career as a professional stunt diver, similar to a scuba diver. Julavits proclaimed that she was unaware how much work there actually was for a “stunt diver” in New York City, but Tom assured her that there was in fact enough.

Julavits’ witty style of writing and sarcastic sense of humor made this MARS event one to remember. She told the audience, “If you’re looking for something tedious yet enlightening to do, you could read a book or you could watch the Bachelorette. I prefer the Bachelorette.” she said.

Rather than strictly reading from her own works, Julavits cracked jokes the entire time she was at the podium. Even during her read-through of her book, she couldn’t keep herself from laughing at some parts, which made this even more enjoyable for the audience.

Towards the end of the event, Julavits was asked a very thought-provoking question from a member of the audience.

The young woman asked, “Sometimes I feel like my life isn’t interesting to write about. How do I get out of that rut and begin to write?” Julavits had some advice for not only her, but also for everyone in the audience that blew our minds.

Julavits, a writer, a wife and also a mother, told the audience that she noticed the more limited her life was, the more creative she became. While she was raising her children, Julavits realized that she became more observant to the boring times, and realized that she had to begin doing things to make her life more interesting.

“Do what you can with what you’ve got.” she told the audience.

Julavits proclaimed that as young people, we sometimes have too many options, too much time, too much energy, and maybe sometimes, our lives are even too interesting. One thing Julavits suggested is that all of us young, aspiring writers keep a journal. Who knows, maybe it will turn into a book like hers one day!

She also admitted to always working in her head. Then, she doesn’t always have to fill a page up with chaos and nonsense. Working on the first sentence to something in her head, whether it is an article, a proposal, or even a novel, is exactly what gets her started. Julavits admitted to taking on too much at a time every now and then, but as long as she gets the first sentence down in her mind, she knows that she can tackle anything, no matter how time sensitive. Julavits compared writing in your head to a form of interesting problem solving for yourself.

As a mother, a wife and a writer, Julavits success is shown not only in her successful career, but also her positive outlook towards everything in life. Next up for the MARS series, the English department welcomes Stephen P. Kiernan on Thursday, March 30 at 6:30 p.m. in Hayden 100.