Two former William and Mary Writers-in-Residence returned to campus Wednesday, April 20 to read both poetry and fiction for a small crowd in Blow 201. Rosalind Brackenbury is a British author who has also lived in Scotland and France. She taught at William and Mary in 2006. She selected a chapter from her newly-released work of fiction, Becoming George Sand. The novel tells the story of an academic researching the French novelist George Sand while attempting to cope with a disintegrating marriage. The novel is told partially through the eyes of the main character, Maria Jameson, and partially through the eyes of George Sand herself. She chose a passage that described George Sand’s difficult winder in Majorca with her two children and her lover, Chopin. Then, Maria Jameson’s passage describes her corresponding trip to Majorca and her thoughts and reactions upon visiting the small cabin where Chopin and George Sand lived.
Brackenbury is also a poet, and the prose of her fiction read like rich, descriptive poetry. Her descriptions of settings were especially vivid, making it easy to picture the isolated, freezing cabin in Majorca where George Sand spent the winter. The love story has earned a great deal of critical acclaim, and Brackenbury’s selected passage left the audience wanting to read more. She is also the author of Windstorm and Flood and currently lives in Key West.
Terese Svoboda was William and Mary’s writer in residence in 2001. She has written a poetry book called Weapons Grade and two novels, Pirate Talk or Mermelade, and Bohemian Girl, which will be released this year. She has also published a memoir, Black Glasses Like Clark Kent, about an her uncle who served as a military policeman in occupied Japan. The memoir won the 2007 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. Svoboda read from the novel Pirate Talk. Like Brackenbury, Svoboda’s prose were notable for their poetry. The novel, about piracy in Nantucket, was written in very impressive dialogue, which Svoboda brought to life when she read a short passage about a hanging. She also read a short passage from Bohemian Girl, which she described as “a cross between True Grit and Huckleberry Finn,” and a retort to Willa Cather’s My Antonia. The novel tells the story of the American West with eccentric characters and Svoboda’s talent for dialogue. She also read a short but powerful poem, “Bridge Mother,” from her poetry book Treason.
After the readings there was a brief wine and cheese reception and the chance for the crowd, mostly professors and some students, to chat with both Brackenbury and Svoboda. The reading was made possible by the Patrick Hayes Writers Series.