A Room of One’s Own, Swedish Meatballs, and a Love Letter ~ View From the Keyboard of Jessie Morrison

Today we get a glimpse of the writing space of Jessie Morrison, a recent MFA graduate from Columbia College Chicago’s Fiction Writing Department. This woman can write. Her stories are filled with Chicago–her hometown–and the things that make us ache and want. She has had quite a bit of success already in her writing life, among them having been selected for coveted spots in The Chicago Reader’s fiction issues. Jessie was also chosen by Writers’ Digest to pen their “MFA Confidential” blog in 2010-2011–a regular publication about what it is like to be a candidate for a Creative Writing MFA.

I was fortunate to have Jessie in one class during her tenure at Columbia, and I can tell you first had that she brought a sense of purpose and delight to her work. I can still remember a presentation Jessie did on Stuart Dybek, with whom she carried on a brief and (to her) embarrassing email correspondence to gather research for her report. If you read her work in the archives of Writers’ Digest, you will see how much she admires and respects writers and the writing life, and you will likely find a bit of inspiration from her friendly and accessible posts about her own writing life.

And now we get to see where it all happens.

Morrison: My writing space is in the second bedroom of my Old Irving Park apartment.  It’s the quietest room in the house, with only one narrow window, so when I close the door, I really feel like I am imprisoned or, at the very least, solitary.  I used to write at the dining room table, but last winter, my mom, aunt, and I made a pilgrimage to Ikea in Schaumburg.  None of us had ever been there (and by “there,” I mean both Schaumburg and Ikea), so we dressed in comfortable shoes, hooked up the GPS, and loaded the car with a cooler full of snacks.  My aunt, fearing the Christmas crowds and the Scandinavian efficiency, took an anxiety pill.  But it wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as we expected, although the Swedish meatballs in the depressing food court were cold and greasy.  We spent all day there, and the desk and chair you see here were one of our purchases, along with a napkin holder, toilet brush, tea candles, and a shoe organizer.

I thought if I bought a desk—if I created a “room of one’s own”, I would write better.  But like many visitors to Ikea, my enthusiasm for my new purchases evaporated when I came home and saw the assembly instructions.  My writing desk languished in its unopened boxes all through the winter, until one day I came home and saw that my fiancée had assembled it for me.  As a way to say thank you, the first thing I ever wrote at this desk was a love letter.

Excerpt from story-in-progress:

By the end of the reception, the bleeding was almost over and Frannie’s back ache was only a small wisp of smoke in her spine. For the last dance, the DJ cut the lights and turned on a strobe that spattered light across the floor and ceiling and gave the sensation that the whole wedding party had been moved underwater, the clear surface of the world undulating above them. The men in their dark suits were shadows, but the women were like bright fish flitting around the sea. On the perimeter of the dance floor, or crowded around the bar for last call, were the bachelorettes: eager and doing their mating dances in bright pinks and purples and blues, shiny satin and spiked heels. Turning around the center, like a perfect pearl in the oyster’s mouth, was the bride, her sequins diamond lovely, sparkling in the swaying light. Then there were the mothers, a little wilted in muted prints, some sitting at empty tables with sleeping children sprawled across their laps, others dancing with dutiful husbands. Frannie sat at a table of half-eaten cake slices and watched them all go by. The problem with being a woman, she thought, was that you were always trying to be one of these things: the maiden, the bride, the mother. There was no room for any other kind of fish.

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Thanks to Jessie Morrison for inviting us into her space. Looking forward to more writing to come from this talented, funny, and industrious new writer. As always, thanks for reading! -PMc←

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