Great Writers and What They’re Reading: Jenny Belardi

By Alyssa Ennis


This interview series is meant to focus on the interactions between reading and writing through the lens of three Spring 2017 Windmill authors. The Windmill editorial staff hopes you enjoy this glimpse into the reading habits and writerly inspirations of our talented contributors.


Jenny Belardi is the Director of Development at Carnegie Mellon University’s top-ranked School of Computer Science. She earned her Masters in Literature in fiction writing from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland and is currently working on her first novel. Jenny’s piece, Diving, is a wonderful little fiction story about an unconventional trip— be sure to check it out when the issue arrives in May!

What book have you read recently that you would recommend to people who enjoyed your piece in Windmill?

Jenny Belardi: I’m always recommending books, so it’s hard to only pick one.  The last three truly great books I read are Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Is there a book or other piece of writing that inspired you to become a writer yourself?

JB: It was more a feeling of the amazing community of writers and readers and their ongoing and varied conversation.  I wanted to be on the writing side, not just the reading side.

Since Windmill is a literary magazine, what short fiction/nonfiction/poetry would you recommend? Do you have a favorite short literary work?

JB: Everything by George Saunders.  I also recently read a story that totally blew me away and I know will stick with me for a very long time: By Degrees and Dilatory Time by S.L. Huang.

What are you currently reading?

JB: I’m usually reading two books at once, a hard copy book (no e-readers here) and an audiobook for my commute.  Right now it’s The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

Is there an aspect of reading that you feel helps you improve as a writer?

JB: I still mostly read for enjoyment and try not to be too analytical about it.  That said, there are books I re-read to see how the author made me feel the way I felt, or how the structure works.  I’m working on a novel set in the near future and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel has really helped me with the structure.

Do you have a favorite book? What do you say to convince people to read it?

JB: Oryx and Crake.  Margaret Atwood tends to sell herself, so I tell them I’m jealous they get to read it for the first time.

What’s next on your to read list?

JB: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (admittedly re-reading in anticipation for the Netflix adaptation), and Get in Trouble by Kelly Link.

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