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November is Novel Writing Month. I have several friends participating, hell-bent on writing 150 pages before December strikes. They’re on strict word-count schedules and doing really admirable jobs sticking to them!

I, on the other hand, have been working on my collection of linked short stories since late 2007 and have barely cleared the 150 page mark. Hmmm. I could do the math, but I definitely do not want to know my words-per-day average.

Olive Kitteridge, a collection of linked short stories by Elizabeth Strout, was assigned to me by Sara, who saw structural similarities with my project and thought the collection could give me some technical help while I plugged away at mine. And–it worked! This is why Sara’s a super star writing professor.


Olive Kitteridge, the title character of the book, appears in each of the collection’s short stories, sometimes as the protagonist, sometimes as the antagonist, sometimes as a peripheral yet symbolically important character. She is a large, lumbering old woman with “the strong passions and prejudices of a peasant,” (264).  She is also the type of woman to characterize herself so. For the people of Crosby, Maine, as for the reader, Olive is a hard person to like. Opinionated, curmudgeonly, at times obnoxious, townspeople wonder how her saint of a husband, Henry, could stand her and think it’s no wonder her beloved son, Christopher, deserted her. Her seventh grade charges are terrified of her years after their tenure in her math class has ended. Read the rest of this entry »