An Identity of Her Own

An Identity of Her Own

“Swimming in the lake on warm afternoons, Ilsa sometimes imagined she saw his white head appear at the window of the house, watching her as he often had. She scissored her legs a moment, treading water and looking in a squint toward the house before deciding that her eyes were making a fool of her. ‘I am a ridiculous old woman,’ she said aloud, then slipped beneath the black surface of the lake, shaking off the illusion, and swam back to the dock.”
—“The House on the Lake” by Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum

These are just a few of English professor Kirsten Lunstrum’s eloquently and carefully chosen phrases. Lunstrum’s passion for fiction writing strengthened when she was a freshman in college. She received her undergraduate degree in English, with an emphasis on creative writing from Pacific Lutheran University. After teaching junior high school briefly, she pursued a master’s in fiction writing from the University of California at Davis. Her thesis evolved into a collection of short stories published in 2005, entitled This Life She’s Chosen. The short stories feature mainly women and their complexities, and Lunstrum explores the theme of mothers and daughters separating and forming their own identities. Lunstrum asks the question, “Where does the individual fit within the family?” The recurring theme of peeling an onion, and trying to understand its depth and complexity is present in all of her stories.

Lunstrum has taught at various colleges, though she finds teaching women at Saint Mary’s to be an entirely unique and positive experience. The dialogue is different (since the students are all women), and generally students are “most dedicated, and very hard workers.” She notes that there is a certain level of seriousness, and the courses tend to be rigorous and challenging. She also likes the freedom for faculty when choosing texts and themes.

“The Saint Mary’s students inspire me, and remind me why I love to teach and to write.”

In January 2008, Lunstrum released an anthology titled The Sincerest Form of Flattery: Contemporary Women Writers on Resemblance and Rebellion in Fiction. The anthology includes over 30 stories submitted by women writers from across the U.S. and Canada. She will soon have a short story, “Familial Kindness,” coming out in One Story (issue #101), and in the fall of 2008, Lunstrum will release a new book, Swimming With Strangers, about marriages and betrayals.

—Megan Stokes '09