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Professor returns to SMC to share works

Megan Loney | Tuesday, February 24, 2009

With the support of the English Department and the Center for Academic Innovation, professor and author Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum returned to Saint Mary’s to give students a sample of her fiction reading Monday.

Lunstrum, who previously taught in the College’s English Department, read an excerpt titled “Familial Kindness” from her newly published short story collection “Swimming with Strangers” and an excerpt from the preface of the novel she has been working on for the past year.

Lunstrum, who is currently assistant professor of creative writing at Purchase College in New York, said she was glad to be back at Saint Mary’s.

“I am very homesick for Saint Mary’s often; it’s a treat to be back,” Lunstrum said.

Students listened intently as Lunstrum read excerpts from her short story about a woman whose daughter is getting married. In the story, her brother-in-law, whom she has not seen in 30 years, comes to visit.

A groan traveled through the audience when Lunstrum stopped the story short of the ending.

Lunstrum introduced her next reading, a preface of the novel she is currently writing, with a short summary of the story.

The novel, tentatively titled “Dangerous Girls,” is a novel about a group of 13-year-old girls at an all-girl high school who have a crush on one of their teachers, Mr. Ander, Lunstrum said.

She said she chose to write this novel in third-person plural voice from the point of view of other girls who have attended the same school and are passing the story of these particular girls to others.

The novel is a story of the relationship between the girls and the wife of their teacher. The wife is envious of the youth and their freedom, while the girls are fascinated with her because she is the ideal woman, Lunstrum said.

The setting for the novel is the Puget Sound in Linstrum’s home state, Washington.

“No matter how much I try to write about other places, Washington keeps popping up into my stories,” Lunstrum said. “I tried writing about the Midwest, but I couldn’t do it.”

At the end of the fiction reading, Lunstrum answered questions posed by students and gave advice to aspiring writers.

“Read,” she said. “I think you only come to writing if you love to read and you only become a better writer if you continue to read. While the workshop is essential for writers, I find that I learn the most from books.”

She encouraged writers to persevere with their writing, even if it is a lengthy process.

“The only way to get better is to wade through the stuff that is not good,” said Lunstrum.