This year, AWP is in Boston, a short bus ride away from NYC, which gives me and Sona absolutely no reason not to go. I’ve never been to Boston, and the bits and pieces I do know of the City have made me want to go check it out: it has loads of bookshops (even one just for poetry), a subway system. Yep, that pretty much sums up the extent of my knowledge of the City. My instructor, Melinda Lopez, who I took an intensive playwriting workshop with at the Fine Arts Work Center last summer is from there and constantly raves about it, especially the Boston Play Marathon (come on, New York!). And my former creative writing professor, Steve Yarbrough, moved there a few years ago, so it’ll be nice to see him again.
He’s on a panel that I thought sounded quite interesting before I even found out he was on it, called, “Southern Writers in Exile,” on Thursday at 430 pm (see below). What makes it all the more intriguing is that every one of his other novels is set in Loring, Mississippi, and his latest one, which comes out this August, “The Realm of Last Chances,” takes a drastic leap from his distinctly Southern style of setting, but probably not the voice (I hope!). Here’s his website, with a photo that makes him look like an angry plumber: http://steveyarbrough.net. Trust me, he’s a fantastic writer. Just don’t let him handle any cutlery, and you’d probably be better off if you fixed that leaky faucet yourself. Read his books though.
All of the panels, without exception, sound great. There are three just on endings alone! And Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife, who I just started reading a couple weeks ago, has two panels that I’m definitely going to. One of them is on zombies and ghosts in literary fiction. Just my cuppa tea!
The last conference I went to was CLMP (Council of Literary Magazines and Presses) at the New School in NYC, which I thought was very insightful, especially the query writing clinic, agent discussion with Julia Barer, and the energetic Ira Silverberg – rock star of the NEA talking about funding and grants for writers (he will be giving a talk at AWP too). The CLMP conference was small, so very easily manageable, because most of the events were mostly in one place, with a couple here and there that were in the same time slot and you could just wing it, and decide on the spot which panel you’d rather go to. It was made even more manageable because the total in attendance wasn’t more than a couple hundred.
The Brooklyn Book Festival is something that needs planning, but still on a much smaller scale than AWP. AWP is a completely different beast with more than 10,000 people attending and what feels like hundreds of panels going at the same time. When I first took a look at the panels, I had to sit down because it’s really overwhelming just looking at the text; I can only imagine how overwhelming it will be trying to decide where to go on the spot. I’ve narrowed down the list of panels I think are interesting, which inevitably lead to having no breaks for lunch, so we’ll see how that goes. There are some panels, like the one on breaking into book reviews, food writing, and the art of the ending that I would kick myself if I opted to go roam around the book stalls, or grab lunch instead of attending. But there are others that I’d like to see, but I wouldn’t be that gutted if I missed it in favor of food.
Besides, I need to keep my energy going for the parrrrteeeee in the evenings with free beer and wine! To catch my live tweets, follow me on twitter @navdeep_dhillon under the hashtags #AWP2013, and hopefully I’ll see some of you at the #AWPTweetup on Friday. I’ll have other posts here on AWP, so keep checking back. See you in a few days!
R135. Words to Eat: The Challenge of Writing About Food. (Clara Silverstein, Kathryn Miles, Martha Bayne, Sherrie Flick) With elemental appeal, food writing has become an increasingly popular form of creative nonfiction. Yet, amid the sizzle and smoke, what constitutes literary quality? Drawing from contemporary examples, panelists explore the nexus between food and literature from the perspectives of journalism, blogging, teaching food literature, and cookbook publishing. They address the importance of applying principles of craft and narrative to a subject of interest to everyone. Room 209, Level 2.
10:30 – 11:45 am
R135. Keeping Track of Your Book. (Mary Kay Zuravleff, Hannah Tinti, Bich Minh Nguyen, Porter Shreve, Lan Samantha Chang) How do you chart plot and subplots, the passing of time, point of view, characters, and structure while working out a book? Participants reveal what methods they have devised, if any, to keep themselves on track. They will tell tales of the seven-foot outline, the illustrated injury map of a character, and other attempts to visualize the arc and architecture of a novel, memoir, or story collection. Room 109, Plaza Level.
R157. The Changing YA Landscape: A Reading with Jane Yolen and Ricki Thompson. (Anjali Sachdeva, Jane Yolen, Ricki Thompson) How has the world of YA literature changed over the last few decades, and what new challenges and opportunities face YA writers today? Jane Yolen is an award-winning author of over 300 books for children and adults, who has been publishing for over thirty years. Ricki Thompson is an emerging writer whose first book was published in 2010. Both authors will read from their work and engage in a short moderated discussion on changes in YA writing before answering audience questions. Room 101, Plaza Level.
R196. From Parts to a Whole: Turning a Bunch of Essays into a Unified Book. (David Giffels, Chuck Klosterman, Sean Manning, Chuck Klosterman, Meghan Daum) Why do some books of essays feel like collections of B-sides, outtakes and orphans, while others carry the thematic and narrative satisfaction of a good concept album? Drawing from their own experiences, this panel of successful authors discusses vital techniques for conceiving, organizing, developing, and enhancing a collection of creative nonfiction essays into a unified whole. We will address how to balance recurring themes, maintain voice and tone, how to build bridges, and other topics. Room 200, Level 2.
3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m
R216. How Far the Journey: Immediacy versus Distance in Narrative Travel Writing. (Rachel Friedman, Rolf Potts, David Farley, Colleen Kinder, Sarah Menkedick) Travel writers take many different journeys: voyages of expectation and imagination, physical expeditions, and journeys of process once back at the desk. We strive to render a sense of place in vivid detail, sometimes while still enraptured by our latest locale. Yet rapture is a dangerous mode in which to write because of the risk of romanticizing without reflecting. How do travel writers negotiate the need for both immediacy and distance? Panelists will discuss their various experiences. Room 101, Plaza Level.
R270A. Southern Writers in Exile. (Michael Croley, Richard Bausch, Michael Griffith, Steve Yarbrough, Brad Watson) Writers who identify as southern don’t often stray far from home, but as some have moved into teaching positions, they find themselves now living all over the country, out of their comfort zones. This panel explores how that distance has affected each writer’s approach to their craft and teaching, as well as what it means to be a southern writer no longer living in the South, and what role regionalism plays in the landscape of American literature. Room 309, Level 3.
9:00 – 10:15 am
F128. What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About War. (Catherine Parnell, George Kovach, Siobhan Fallon, Laura Harrington, Bob Shacochis) When writers address the subject of war, they face tough choices about what material to include and how to give voice to the unspeakable. The writer’s job, then, is to examine what drives nations into war and terrorism, and to focus on atrocities that are ignored or under-reported. This panel will discuss the roles that research, experience, and reportage play. It will ask how the choice of genre impacts the topic of war and what literature can achieve that journalism cannot. Room 309, Level 3.
10:30 – 11:45 am
F149. Art of the Ending. (Miles Harvey , Amy Hempel, Michele Morano, William Lychack, Scott Blackwood ) All writers struggle with endings—those heady, cumulative moments in which events, characters, and readers are ushered out the door, forever changed. This panel—which includes three fiction writers, an essayist, and a journalist—will look at pitfalls and possibilities of bringing a narrative to a successful conclusion. It will also explore the clash between the writer’s vision and the audience’s expectations about endings, and examine how ideas about narrative closure are continuing to change. Room 208, Level 2.
F176. No Way Out, Or Is There?: Innovations in Endings. (Elizabeth Poliner, David Huddle, Jean McGarry, Marjorie Sandor) The end of the story is often a problem for fiction writers. In our quest for the inevitable ending, for example, we don’t want to be predictable. By examining works of contemporary fiction, this panel will explore a variety of ways that writers such as Nabokov, Munro, and Taylor have avoided the problem of predictability by introducing innovative resolutions, including double endings and submersions and subversions of resolution. Room 206, Level 2.
F192. How to Break into Book Reviewing. (Stephen Burt, Dan Kois, Karen Long, Eric Lorberer, Parul Sehgal) Who gets to write book reviews, and where, and why? This panel of reviewers who are also editors will explain and demystify the ways that book reviews come into being. They’ll describe how established writers, new writers, editors, periodicals, and book publishers interact; how assignments get made; and who (if anyone) gets paid. They’ll consider what makes a review—and a reviewer—stand out, and how writers new to this kind of work might discover in it a vocation or even a profession. Room 103, Plaza Level.
F266. Bring Out Your Dead: Writing Ghosts (and Zombies) in Literary Fiction. (Rebecca Makkai, Tea Obreht, Lauren Groff, Tim Horvath, Alexi Zentner) The ghost story thrives in literary fiction as well as the oral tradition, defying genre. How do we keep these compelling tales fresh? How do we frighten without resorting to cheap tricks? How do we navigate the borders between spirituality, science, doubt, and a reliable narrative voice? And why are we drawn to these themes again and again? Five writers introduce you to their ghosts and tell you how they summoned them. Room 206, Level 2.
10:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight
F287. AWP Public Reception & Dance Party, Sponsored by Columbia College Chicago Fiction Writing Department & Story Week. A dance party with music by DJ Neza. Free beer and wine from 10:00 to 11:00 p.m. Cash bar from 11:00 p.m. to midnight. Sheraton Boston Hotel, Constitution Ballroom, Level 2
9:00 – 10:15 am
S109. Other Worlds: Writing Between Genres for Young Adults. (Liza Ketchum, Kelly Easton, Mark Peter Hughes, Swati Avasthi) When writers create a world, they include culture, language, politics, belief systems, and the historical aspects of the fictional time and place. They bring into being a cosmology and an ethos. This panel will explore the invention of what John Gardner termed a vivid continuous dream in fantasy, dystopian, historical, and realistic fiction written for young adults. We will analyze the plasticity of form and content, and we will explore the tools needed to create new worlds. Room 107, Plaza Level.
10:30 – 11:45 am
S150. If These Walls Could Talk… Oh Wait, They Do! (Eleanor Henderson, Stewart O’Nan, Tea Obreht) The whole world is a stage, but as fiction writers we get to choose where and when to set a story. That decision can influence everything else in the novel, for better or worse. Four novelists talk about the pressures that settings, both urban and rural, can place on our fiction, and how and why to make choices about landscape. Room 306, Level 3.
S206. Changing the Sheets: How Best to Get Sex on the Page. (Nicole Louise Reid, Michael Griffith, Melanie Abrams, Dean Paschal, Jim Grimsley) We all know (or think we know) what constitutes a bad sex scene, but what is a good one? What do we mean when we declare a sex scene good, and what are we looking for, as readers and as writers, from this maligned genre? Five fiction writers known for their often controversial and always riveting sex scenes will explore the special lures and perils of writing sex, and the work of some writers we think have succeeded at it. Room 310, Level 3.
S236. How to Keep a Story Alive When All Your Characters Are Dead: Finding the Contemporary in Historical Fiction for Young Adults. (Jacqueline Davies, Jeannine Atkins, Pat Lowery Collins, Sarah Lamstein, Padma Venkatraman) Are today’s teens interested in stories from 1710, 1867, 1911, 1918, and 1942? Five writers of historical fiction and narrative poetry discuss how they create stories that feel relevant in the 21st century without sacrificing accuracy in reporting true events. Following the panelists, a group of teenagers will share their thoughts on the books discussed, describing what feels real and current to them in these stories of the past. Room 101, Plaza Level.
10:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight
S266. AWP Public Reception & Dance Party, Sponsored by Columbia College Chicago Fiction Writing Department & Story Week. A dance party with music by DJ Neza. Free beer and wine from 10:00 to 11:00 p.m. Cash bar from 11:00 p.m. to midnight. Sheraton Boston Hotel, Constitution Ballroom, Level 2
Short link: http://ow.ly/iiOhO