Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Star Tribune
Essayist Mardi Jo Link read to a standing-room-only crowd (your correspondent showed up five minutes early, yet had to sit near the front) in the Wege ballroom at Aquinas College at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15, as the third event this year of the nineteenth season of the Contemporary Writers Series.
Link read four excerpts from her work, three of which were passages from her first memoir, “Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm,” published in 2013, which was her fourth book (after three volumes of crime reportage). The memoir is a record of the immediate aftermath of what Link called her “surprise divorce,” which left her an unemployed single mother of three young boys on a farm in Traverse City.
The first passage she read, set against the background of Traverse City’s National Cherry Festival, described a coming-of-age experience of her middle son. The next passage dealt with her and her children’s quest for wood to keep their home heated in winter; the third passage showed her trying her hand at chicken farming. Link brings a light touch to her writing — even to relatively darker material, such as that of the second of these three passages — and that light touch came across well in her reading, so that the audience laughed out loud several times throughout the evening. The final passage she read is a new, yet-to-be-published piece that showed her life as a remarried empty-nester.
Link’s reading style fits the stereotype of a writer — just a writer, a glass of water, and a pair of eyeglasses, devoid of showmanship — and the event was genuinely a reading, as opposed to a performance. At the end of the evening, she took questions from the audience, and we learned that she had originally planned to be a veterinarian, but switched to journalism in college, and that writing nonfiction feels natural to her because of her training (and subsequent work experience) in journalism. When asked for tips for writing good nonfiction, her advice was to strive to achieve an original voice.
For the final event of this season of Aquinas College’s Contemporary Writers Series, poet Edward Hirsch will read in the Wege Ballroom at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 14. Also, stay tuned for a stellar lineup of past favorites returning to read to celebrate the Series’ 20th anniversary next season. The readings are free and open to the public.
About the Writer…