Women We Read This Week

A gathering of some of the best pieces by women we’ve read this week.

Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life

I asked for and received this book for Christmas and have been clinging to it ever since, carrying it with me everywhere like a baby’s talismanic blanket. My single biggest resolution for 2013 is to immerse myself completely in the book I’m writing: to get deep, deep into it, shut out the Internet and its myriad twinkly distractions, and think my way through. Do not hurry, do not rush, as the mantra in Dillard’s book goes.

Reading a book about the writing life written in the pre-Internet era is almost incredulous, like uncovering a message from some remote beyond in a bottle on the beach. Dillard writes about living on a tiny island in Haro Straight off the coast of Washington, where she and friends would gather on Sunday mornings to read a week-old New York Times delivered by boat. She talks about staying up late into the night scribbling on yellow legal pads, her only awareness of the outside world a popping she eventually realizes is distant 4th of July fireworks. This distance from the world is a covetable, rare adventure these days. Would it even be possible now to write a book about writing without addressing the Internet? For nearly every writer I know, the struggle to find balance between Internet and writing, online time and concentrated working time, is central to the writing process. I want to make it less central this year, and Dillard’s book is a reminder of writing as a completely immersive process necessarily apart from the world itself. I want that feeling of disappearing, and resurfacing.

And, at the end of the day, Annie Dillard is the writer who makes me believe in writing. I love her epic, unapologetic style, her way of seeing, her courage. She is the writer I return to when I begin to lose faith. — Sarah

Shannon Proudfoot’s “The Broken Promise Land” in Sportsnet Magazine

This is the bizarre story of the Lake County Fielders, a small-time baseball team who experienced what has got to be the strangest and most disastrous season in pro ball history. I’ve always been the type to root for the underdog in sports – I don’t get excited by stories about superstars or juggernaut championship teams – and this quirky, unexpectedly touching piece is exactly the sort of thing I’d like to read more of. — Eva

The Last Word on Nothing

I’d like to draw attention to not just one writer this week, but a group of writers who’ve created a science-writing blog called The Last Word on Nothing. I’ve been enjoying these posts for the past year (the title is taken from a Victor Hugo quote: “Science says the first word on everything, and the last word on nothing”), which range from such topics as eating eggs to technology to the cultural significance of tattoos. I also love the array of writers showcased here, and I especially love that the majority of them are women! The science is fascinating, and the writing is engaging. Take a look at this recent guest post from Emily Underwood called “Rendered Speechless.” We’re pulled in by a somewhat personal anecdote of a visit Underwood had with her friend who had recently suffered from a stroke, and then we’re brought to a mind-bending–if not stunningly beautiful–video of a simulated heart. The levels the reader is brought to in such a short post does the work that good science writing, to me, should do–we’re both captivated and fascinated. Some of the contributors have appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing series–this blog is certainly collaboration at its finest. — Amanda

Justine Kao’s “Roots and Leaves” in As/Us

“My grandparents from both sides were among those millions rushing from homes to trains rushing to boats, to harbors, to land. Stories are born and lost in that chaos, and among them were tiny bits of my parents whose stories carry tiny bits of me. I would have liked to say that I have tried to reclaim those stories just as Chiang Kai Shek tried to reclaim the Middle Kingdom. But the truth is that before a certain age you think the only stories that have anything to do with you are the stories you create, and it is not until you start losing them that you realize the only stories you own are those that created you,” writes Justine Kao in “Roots and Leaves,” her lyric meditation on her family’s migration from Mainland China, to Taiwan, to the U.S. And if you like Kao’s essay, keep reading: As/Us is a promising new literary endeavor that showcases indigenous women writers from around the world. This is NOT your mainstream magazine. — Molly


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