by David Valentin
Last Thursday night, Manhattan College had Meghan Kenny, high school teacher, short story writer and novelist, speak in Hayden 100 for a reading from her book of short stories “Love Is No Small Thing” and a glimpse into her upcoming novel “The Driest Season.”
Kenny read one short story from her collection titled “All the Lovely Boys,” which is about an Idaho father and his cross-dressing, sky-diving son finding common ground. Kenny revealed that parts of the story were created through a writing prompt.
Originally, Kenny wrote and published “The Driest Season” as a short story and it won the Iowa Review Award and was a Pushcart Prize Special Mention. She later turned it into a novel, which is being published by W.W. Norton and is being released in February of 2018.
“This novel coming out is totally different from these stories [“Love is No Small Thing”],” Kenny said. “Totally different voice and feeling. Some of these [short] stories are funny and quirky. I would say this novel is kind of just quiet and dark. Not a lot of funny going on.”
The plot of the novel, “The Driest Season,” comes from an old family myth, that Kenny’s grandmother had found her father hanged in the family farm’s barn while she was still a child. Her grandmother never confirmed these rumors. “The novel is a sort of what if. What if my grandmother Lucille had found her father hanging in the barn? What would that fall out be like for her?”
After Kenny finished writing the novel, she went back and investigated the story through old newspaper clippings and found out that her great-grandfather did hang himself. “It was really, really creepy. So, there may have been some ghost speaking to me on this book,” Kenny said.
After the readings, Kenny answered a few questions from the audience. When asked what advice would she give to aspiring writers who are too busy to write and are frustrated with how long it takes to produce a finished work, Kenny responded: “If you’re frustrated maybe you need to carve out some time and just say, well, I won’t watch “Stranger Things” this week, or I won’t get drunk on Friday night.”
Kenny also advised doing some informal handwriting during any spare time on small little notebooks or loose-leaf pad.
Compared to the previous MARS reading, Heidi Laudien, chair of the English department, said that Kenny’s reading “felt more conversational, as if she was talking with us, rather than speaking at us.”
Laudien also respected the advice Kenny gave to aspiring writers and said that she appreciates Kenny’s ability “to observe the smaller, finer details of life that seem to usually go unnoticed by most.”
Ryan Askin, a sophomore double majoring in education and English, has been to both MARS readings this semester. “I really enjoyed listening to the short stories. It was interesting to me how she wrote a story about fatherly acceptance from the father’s point of view as opposed to the son’s,” he said.
Kenny is the second speaker in this year’s MARS line-up, following the reading by English playwright Robert Greens, who visited campus in September and held a table reading of his original work.
The next MARS reading is Nov. 2, in Hayden 100 at 6:30 p.m. with author, founder of the MARS readings and former professor at Manhattan College, David Eye.