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“You have to trust whatever is compelling you to write and see what’s behind that.”
– Dr. Mary Elizabeth Pope
Ever been on a blind date? Or wondered what happened to the one who got away? Or turned to games of fortune with questions about love no one could answer for you?
Whatever the case may be, a new book called Divining Venus, written by Emmanuel’s own Dr. Mary
Elizabeth Pope, explores it all. It is a collection of short stories focusing on finding and understanding love. The characters in the book range in age from an eleven-year-old girl watching her friend’s parents get divorced, a middle-aged woman who decides to attend her high school reunion, and an elderly woman faced with the conviction that her husband is dead, all of whom are grappling with the complexities of love in its various forms.
We can all relate to what Dr. Pope brings forth in Divining Venus. Love is mysterious and cannot be explained in definitive terms. What inspired and motivated her to write was a lifelong love of writing and the demands of her job as professor.
“I’ve always wanted to write. I never had good grades in most subjects growing up, but I always did well in English. In first grade, there was this class project we did where we made books from cardboard and wallpaper, and I recently ran across my final and otherwise unremarkable report card from that year, in which my teacher wrote, ‘Keep writing your stories, Mary Beth’. My job is a good fit for me because I love teaching it and it’s lucky for me to able to write, teach and talk about writing all day long.”
The title of the book itself comes from the story “Divining Venus” in which an eleven-year-old girl named Venus and the narrator turn to an Ouija board in an attempt to figure out love and divorce. It’s a coming-of-age story, but as Dr. Pope explained, “The title worked as the title of the book because all the characters in the book—regardless of age or experience—are as clueless about love as the eleven-year-olds in the title story. Every story in the collection takes the reader through awkward encounters and what love means to each individual character.”
Getting stories right takes a lot of patience and hard work.
“It took me eight years to write the collection,” said Dr. Pope. “One of the problems with writing is trying to find sustained solitude in which to do it, which is hard to come by. Another is the amount of time it takes to revise. For the second story in the collection, entitled The Marionette Theater, I took twenty pages of my draft and after finally abandoning it for a couple of years; I was able to cut it down to five pages. The quality matters a lot more than the quantity and your first draft is just a first draft. You just have to trust whatever is compelling you to write and see what’s behind that.”
Dr. Pope will be launching her book at 7pm on October 17th at Newtonville Books, located at 10 Langley Road in Newton Center, MA. She will be giving a reading and then signing books, which will be available for purchase.
You can visit her website for more information and details at www.maryelizabethpope.com.
Colleen Moriaty ’14 is a staff writer for The Hub and Secretary. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @MoriatyColleen on Twitter.