Salvatore Pane

Tag: Joyce Carol Oates

Course Sequences

Over the last month or so, I’ve tried really hard to blow up my workshop syllabus. Things were going really well, and I wasn’t motivated out of some fear that I wasn’t getting through to the students. I just wanted to keep things fresh for myself. I realize that you can’t let students graduate with a degree in creative writing without knowing about certain benchmark writers/stories/novels. But I think it’s healthy for teachers to switch up their course sequences so they don’t fall into the trap of making the same tired points about Tim O’Brien or Ray Carver or Joyce Carol Oates or whoever.

This semester, I’m teaching a multi-genre workshop for the first time which I’m really excited about. I’m pretty well versed in creative nonfiction, but I’ve never even taken a poetry class. I’m hoping to learn a lot as the semester goes on, much like last semester when I taught Written Professional Communications. I didn’t know much at the beginning about LinkedIn or CVs or resumes, but by the end I felt pretty comfortable.

Below are the two course sequences I’m using for my two workshop classes. The first is for Intro to Fiction at the University of Pittsburgh, and the second is Advanced Writing Workshop at Chatham University. Usually, I’d include the syllabi, but I’ve discussed them at length in earlier posts. I’ve made some modifications to my workshop syllabus this semester (most having to do with long form writing projects and genre fiction), but the core of the thing is intact. Let me know if you have any suggestions or if you’d like to share your own course sequences. I’m also interested in what other teachers are doing.

Course Sequence

Week One

Wed January 4
Syllabus
Introductions
Justin Taylor “Tetris” HANDOUT

Fri January 6
John Updike “A&P” 3X33
Lorrie Moore “How to Become a Writer” 3X33

Week Two

Mon January 9
Raymond Carver “Cathedral” 3X33
Alissa Nutting “Porn Star” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Wed January 11
Donald Barthelme “The School” 3X33
Etgar Keret “Fatso” COURSE DOCUMENTS
Roxane Gay “The Harder They Come” COURSE DOCUMENTS
Amelia Gray “Hair” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Fri January 13
Emma Straub “Pearls” COURSE DOCUMENTS
George Saunders “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” 3X33

Week Three

Mon January 16
Class Cancelled Martin Luther King Day

Wed January 18
Joyce Carol Oates “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” 3X33
Barry Hannah “Testimony of Pilot” 3X33

Friday January 20
Breece D’J Pancake “Trilobytes” COURSE DOCUMENTS
Patrick Somerville “The Universe in Miniature in Miniature” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Week Four

Monday January 23
Workshop 1
Workshop 2

Wed January 25
Workshop 3
Workshop 4

Fri January 27
Rick Moody “The Apocalyptic Commentary of Bob Paisner” 3X33

Week Five

Mon January 30
Workshop 5
Workshop 6

Wed February 1
Workshop 7
Workshop 8

Fri February 3
A.M. Homes “The Former First Lady and the Football Hero” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Week Six

Mon February 6
Workshop 9
Workshop 10

Wed February 8
Workshop 11
Workshop 12

Fri February 10
Ethan Canin “The Year of Getting to Know Us” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Week Seven

Mon February 13
Workshop 13
Workshop 14

Wed February 15
Workshop 15
Workshop 16

Fri February 17
Deborah Eisenberg “Twilight of the Superheroes” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Week Eight

Mon February 20
Workshop 17
Workshop 18

Wed February 22
Workshop 19
Brian Oliu “Gradius” COURSE DOCUMENTS
Brian Oliu “Punch-Out!!” COURSE DOCUMENTS
Brian Oliu “Wizards and Warriors” COURSE DOCUMENTS
xTx “Water is Thrown on the Witch” COURSE DOCUMENTS
xTx “Marci is Going to Shoot Up Meth With Her Friend” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Fri February 24
Matt Bell “His Last Great Gift” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Week Nine

Mon February 27
Richard Yates “The Best of Everything” 3X33
Tobias Wolff “Bullet in the Brain” 3X33

Wed February 29
Junot Diaz “Fiesta, 1980” 3X33
Andre Dubus “The Fat Girl” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Friday March 2
Don Lee “The Price of Eggs in China” COURSE DOCUMENTS
James Alan McPherson “Gold Coast” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Week Ten

Spring Break – No Classes

Week Eleven

Mon March 12
Workshop 1
Workshop 2

Wed March 14
Workshop 3
Workshop 4

Fri March 16
Seth Fried “Loeka Discovered” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Week Twelve

Mon March 19
Workshop 5
Workshop 6

Wed March 21
Workshop 7
Workshop 8

Fri March 23
Jonathan Lethem “Super Goat Man” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Week Thirteen

Mon March 26
Workshop 9
Workshop 10

Wed March 28
Workshop 11
Workshop 12

Fri March 30
Scott Snyder “Blue Yodel” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Week Fourteen

Mon April 2
Workshop 13
Workshop 14

Wed April 4
Workshop 15
Workshop 16

Fri April 6
Lorrie Moore “People Like That Are The Only People Here” 3X33

Week Fifteen

Mon April 9
Workshop 17
Workshop 18

Wed April 11
Workshop 19
TBA

Fri April 13
TBA

Week Sixteen

Monday April 16
Fiction Pod

Wednesday April 18
Fiction Pod

Friday April 20
Final Portfolios Due

Course Schedule

Week One

Wed January 4
Syllabus
Introductions
Justin Taylor “Tetris” HANDOUT
Nancy Krygowski “Heaven, As We Know It” The Autumn House Anthology
Writing Exercise (First Lines)

Week Two

Monday January 9
Kim Addonizio “Collapsing Poem/Onset/The Moment” The Autumn House Anthology
Lorrie Moore “How to Become a Writer” E-MAIL
Geoffrey Wolff from The Duke of Deception Modern American Memoirs

Wednesday January 11
Sheryl St. Germain “Addiction/Sestina for the Beloved/Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce” The Autumn House Anthology
John Updike “A&P” On Writing Short Stories
Sarah Vowell “Ike Was a Handsome Man” E-MAIL

Week Three

Monday January 16
Class Cancelled Martin Luther King Day

Wednesday January 18
Billy Collins “Consolation/Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes/Workshop” The Autumn House Anthology
Flash Fiction Tutorial Etgar Keret/Roxane Gay/xTx E-MAIL
Chuck Klosterman E-MAIL

Week Four

Monday January 23
Raymond Carver “Cathedral” On Writing Short Stories
Workshop 1

Wednesday January 25
Workshop 2
Workshop 3

Week Five

Monday January 30
Patrick Somerville “The Universe in Miniature in Miniature” E-MAIL
Workshop 4

Wednesday February 1
Workshop 5
Workshop 6

Week Six

Monday February 6
Tom Bissell “Grand Thefts” E-MAIL
Workshop 7

Wednesday February 8
Workshop 8
Workshop 9

Week Seven

Monday February 13
James Baldwin from Notes of a Native Son Modern American Memoirs
Workshop 10

Wednesday February 15
Workshop 11
Workshop 12

Week Eight

Monday February 20
Terrance Hayes “The Same City/Snow for Wallace Stevens/All the Way Live” The Autumn House Anthology
Workshop 13

Wednesday February 22
Workshop 14
Workshop 15

Week Nine

Monday February 27
Jim Daniels “Short-Order Cook/Where Else Can You Go” The Autumn House Anthology
A.M. Homes “The Former First Lady and the Football Hero” E-MAIL
Frank Conroy from Stop Time Modern American Memoirs

Wednesday February 29
Lynn Emmanuel “Dear Final Journey…/The Murder Writer/The Revolution” The Autumn House Anthology
Anton Chekhov “The Lady with the Pet Dog” On Writing Short Stories
Maxine Hong Kingston from The Warrior Woman Modern American Memoirs

Week Ten

Monday March 5
Toi Derricotte “Boy at the Patterson Falls/Bird/Not Forgotten” The Autumn House Anthology
Flannery O’Connor “Everything That Rises Must Converge” On Writing Short Stories
Zora Neale Hurston from Dust Tracks on a Road Modern American Memoirs

Wednesday March 7
Class Cancelled Spring Break

Week Eleven

Monday March 12
Class Cancelled Spring Break

Wednesday March 14
Workshop 1
Workshop 2

Week Twelve

Monday March 19
Alissa Nutting “Porn Star” E-MAIL
Workshop 3

Wednesday March 21
Workshop 4
Workshop 5

Week Thirteen

Monday March 26
Tobias Wolff “Bullet in the Brain” On Writing Short Stories
Workshop 6

Wednesday March 28
Workshop 7
Workshop 8

Week Fourteen

Monday April 2
Malcolm X from The Autobiography of Malcolm X Modern American Memoirs
Workshop 9

Wednesday April 4
Workshop 10
Workshop 11

Week Fifteen

Monday April 9
Workshop 12
Workshop 13

Wednesday April 11
Workshop 14
Workshop 15

Week Sixteen

Monday April 16
Writing Pod

Wednesday April 18
Writing Pod

Friday April 20
Final Portfolios Due

Fall 2011 Fiction Recommendations

One of my favorite aspects of teaching is recommending fiction to students. There’s almost nothing better than reading a student story and thinking, “This person absolutely needs to read Lorrie Moore!” Matching students with their established counterparts is an integral and rewarding part of the job. I vividly remember being an undergrad creative writer and going to meet with Tom Bailey or Gary Fincke. Their office shelves were lined with books, most of which I’d never heard of. They’d go over my drafts with me and then list off three or four writers I had to read right that very second. Most times, I’d walk straight to the library and take out every last book they recommended. Reading everything I could get my hands on helped me develop as a writer, and I try really hard to pass that enthusiasm on to my students.

That being said, I’ve decided to again share every fiction recommendation I’ve given out this semester. This term I taught two fiction workshops, one at the University of Pittsburgh and another at Chatham University. In total, there were 33 students, meaning 66 workshops and individual conferences. The same ground rules I set forth last spring still apply. This is by no means a comprehensive list of the writers I teach. In fact, most of the writers on this list don’t show up in my syllabus. I recommended them because students put up work that was in conversation with these established writers. There was something to be learned there, something we might not have covered in the classroom or maybe not in enough detail. Some of the writers who appear the most often were in the syllabus, and I kept recommending other work by them to remind students of the lessons we’d learned throughout the semester. And literary journals! There are a bunch of literary journals at the bottom of the list. I want all of my students to become active literary citizens in the vein of Blake Butler, and that means supporting (submitting AND reading) emerging and established literary journals.

The numbers alongside the names represent how many times I recommended a specific author. Please leave suggestions in the comments feed. I’m always looking to shake up my reading list. If you have certain writers you recommend to students again and again, share. If you’re a student and were truly impacted by a specific writer, share.

George Saunders 15
Alissa Nutting 14
xTx 11
Andre Dubus 10
Matt Bell 8
Patrick Somerville 7
Kirsty Logan 7
Amber Sparks 7
Etgar Keret 7
Raymond Carver 7
Lorrie Moore 6
Martin Amis 6
Wells Tower 5
Breece D’J Pancake 4
Tom Perrotta 4
Alice Munro 4
Emma Straub 4
Bobbie Ann Mason 4
Roxane Gay 4
Kelly Link 4
Brian Allen Carr 4
Cathy Day 4
Scott Snyder 4
Deborah Eisenberg 3
Tillie Olsen 3
Colson Whitehead 3
Don Lee 3
Joyce Carol Oates 3
Matthew Simmons 3
Donald Barthelme 3
Gary Fincke 2
James Alan McPherson 2
Tobias Wolff 2
ZZ Packer 2
Alice Munro 2
Paul Yoon 2
Richard Yates 2
Barry Hannah 2
Bret Easton Ellis 2
John Fowles 2
Benjamin Percy 2
Donald Ray Pollack 2
Blake Butler 2
John Minichillo 2
Steve Himmer 2
Rick Moody 2
Philip Roth 2
Trey Ellis 2
Tim Jones-Yelvington 2
Junot Diaz 2
Steve Almond 2
Jonathan Lethem 2
Justin Taylor 2
Tina May Hall 2
Tom Bailey
Stewart O’Nan
Sarah Gardner Borden
Deborah Eisenberg
Teddy Wayne
A.M. Homes
James Baldwin
Peter Bognnani
Jayne Anne Phillips
Rebecca Barry
Aubrey Hirsch
Joe Meno
Richard Ford
Seth Fried
Rick Bass
Sherwood Anderson
Jeffrey Eugenides
Brian Oliu
J.A. Tyler
Lydia Davis
Dennis Cooper
Douglas Coupland
Cormac McCarthy
Cory Doctorow
Mike Meginnis
Rachel Glasser
Kevin Wilson
Gregory Sherl
Dave Eggers
Jay McInerney
Miranda July
Scott McClanahan
Brock Clarke
Peter Mewshaw
Frank Hinton
Shane Jones
Aleksandar Hemon
Tim O’Brien
John Irving
Gary Shteyngart

The Emprise Review 5
Hobart 5
kill author 4
PANK 4
Metazen 3
Prick of the Spindle 3
Flywheel Magazine 3
Annalemma 3
Atticus Review 3
Monkeybicycle 2
Decomp 2
Gargoyle Magazine 2
Dark Sky 2
Barrelhouse
Pear Noir!
Parcel
The Collagist
Diagram
Weave
FRiGG
Caper Literary Journal
Elimae
Stoked!
Barrelhouse

Here’s Everything I’ve Recommended to Fiction Students So Far This Semester

So, I’m running this advanced fiction workshop and it’s all like woah. One thing I like to do in a classroom setting like this is meet individually with every student after they workshop. I remember very vividly going to see Tom Bailey and Gary Fincke in undergrad and how reassuring and empowering it was to know that writers I really respected were taking my work seriously (not that the students necessarily respect me in the same way I outright worshiped Tom and Gary). In my conferences, I always bring a marked up copy of their manuscript along with a one page note with strengths and prescription. But there’s also, usually, a note at the end with some writers and journals to read, and maybe even a few places to begin submitting to. At AWP, Amy Hempel said one of her favorite parts of running a workshop is putting an emerging writer with a published one, giving a young writer the book they absolutely have to read right this second. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job too, and I’ve kept track of what I’ve recommended so far.

Keep in mind, we read a lot of stuff in class. So I rarely touch on writers we’ve discussed ad nauseam like George Saunders or Lorrie Moore or Gary Shteyngart or Amelia Gray. Also, it’s only halfway through the semester. So there’s still a lot of time. Basically, what I’m trying to convey here, is this isn’t a list of the best writers for undergrads. It’s merely the group that this particular class needed to read at this particular moment. When there’s something lacking in student work that is absolutely nailed in a story collection or novel, students need to see that–in fact, there are a few writers on here I respect without actually enjoying their work. So, without further hand-wringing, here’s what I’ve recommended so far this semester.

Writers

Andre Dubus (5)
Ray Carver (4)
Wells Tower (4)
Alissa Nutting (2)
xTx (2)
Bobbie Ann Mason (2)
Emma Straub (2)
Sean Ennis (2)
Stewart O’ Nan (2)
Adam Levin
Michael Chabon
Trey Ellis
Tobias Wolff
Matt Bell
Don Lee
Ethel Rohan
Tina May Hall
Jayne Anne Phillips
Bret Easton Ellis
Jay McInerney
Douglas Coupland
Martin Amis
Cormac McCarthy
Joshua Ferris
A.M. Homes
Rick Moody
Jonathan Lethem
James Alan McPherson
Joyce Carol Oates
Deborah Eisenberg
Cathy Day
Richard Russo
Blake Butler
Miranda July
Aleksandar Hemon
Shane Jones
Jeanette Winterson
Philip Roth
Deborah Willis
ZZ Packer

Journals

The Fourth River (4)
Flatmancrooked (4)
FRiGG (2)
PANK (2)
Bluestem Magazine (2)
Weave (2)
The Emprise Review (2)
Metazen (2)
Hot Metal Bridge
Annalemma
Barrelhouse
Dark Sky
Fairy Tale Review
The Good Men Project
Wigleaf
elimae

Comics

Fables

2011 Guide to AWP

I ran into Eugene Cross last year at AWP. We were waiting in line for coffee at about nine in the morning, and we both looked bleary-eyed and terribly hungover. I’d spent the first night of AWP getting blackout drunk with Cross, Chris Lee and Kirk Nesset at some random bar where I apparently told some woman that she looked just like the Doozers from Fraggle Rock. Eugene ordered his coffee and nodded toward the hallways of highfalutin literary panels. “I want to give a panel next year,” he said, “where I just stand up in front of everyone and say, ‘the first mistake of AWP is coming to a panel.’”

AWP TIP OF THE CENTURY: Telling someone they look like this is *NOT* a compliment.

Last year, I wrote about my experience at AWP Chicago and how I treated the conference like a party and how, in the future, I would not treat AWP like some kind of demon spring break for hyper nerds.

I was completely wrong.

AWP is a demon spring break for hyper nerds. The mistake I made in Chicago was drinking mostly off-site where I was happy just to be on a trip with my buddies away from Pittsburgh. In Denver, I hung out in the hotel bar and attended a lot of readings (in bars!) at night. This is the way to do it my friends. This is the way to get the full AWP experience (whatever the hell that means). So yes, I stand corrected on nearly every “tip” I doled out last year. I’m pulling a George Costanza here. Do the opposite of what I said last year, and you’ll be right as rain.

Below, you’ll find all the panels I’m interested in. Keep in mind, this list has a total fucking bias towards my own concerns. This isn’t a best of. This is a list of the crap I want to go to meaning it predominantly deals with fiction, career shit, and readings. I think there’s only one poetry panel listed.

Also, keep in mind that I’ll do another off-site list when it’s closer to the actual conference. And of course, I have to do what I do best: shameless self-promotion. You should all come to my panel on Thursday at noon.

R160. The Future of the Book Review: How to Break In. (Salvatore Pane, Roxane Gay, Irina Reyn, Emily Testa, Lena Valencia) The rise of the book blogger has forever altered the traditional book review. But what is the state of the book review moving forward in a digital culture, and how do interested parties actually go about becoming reviewers? Panelists including the editor of PANK, the book review editors of BOMB and Hot Metal Bridge, and published writers currently working in the field will answer these questions and more.

Diplomat Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

Ok. Enough about that. Let’s talk panels.

Thursday

9am-10:15am

R109. Short Story to Novel. (Alan Heathcock, Heidi Durrow, Alexi Zentner, Téa Obreht, Marie Mockett, Eugenia Kim) Debut novelists often publish excerpts of their finished works as short stories before tackling a full manuscript. Yet the way from short story to published novel is not always smooth. Four debut novelists, who did publish parts of their books as short stories, will discuss the journey from short story to novel, with an eye toward helping other emerging writers.

Thurgood Marshall North Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

According to this little zine I know about called The New Yorker, Téa Obreht is the new “it” woman of literary fiction. This one could prove interesting, and I’m especially interested as someone who has published excerpts of his novel as short stories.

R112. CLMP Panel—So You’ve Made an eBook… Now What? (Ira Silverberg, Gloria Jacobs, Julie Schaper, Andy Hunter) A marketing-focused symposium for publishers about how small presses and literary magazines can make the most out of paperless publishing.

Virginia A Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Andy Hunter of Electric Literature and a panel about the small presses and little magazines? Sign me up.

10:30am-11:45am

R131. What They Didn’t Tell Us, We Will Tell You: Four First-Time Authors Discuss the Nitty Gritty of Publishing. (Michael David Lukas, Siobhan Fallon, Nomi Stone, Kevin Haworth, Rebecca Rasmussen, Alan Heathcock) This panel will feature four first-time authors discussing the publishing process, from submission to publication and beyond. Drawing from a wide range of personal experience—working with large houses and university presses on poetry collections, novels, and collections of short stories—the panelists will address and attempt to demystify the publishing process, from phoners to author questionnaires, book jackets to blurbs, and the elusive book tour.

Thurgood Marshall North Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

I’ve got two manuscripts. I’m sending them out. Hoping this one might be useful.

R132. Things That Go Bump When You Write: Monsters, Myths and the Supernatural in Literary Fiction. (B.J. Hollars, Bryan Furuness, Hannah Tinti, Laura van den Berg, Scott Francis) What do Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and ghosts all have in common? For one, over the past year, they’ve all managed to stomp, swim and haunt their way onto the literary scene. Join writers as they discuss their experiences implementing supernatural elements into their fiction. Panelists will offer tips on how to add credibility to the incredible and humanity to the inhuman. They will also explore the evolving definitions of gothic and grotesque in the 21st century.

Thurgood Marshall South Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

I personally love a bunch of these writers and the insertion of genre elements into literary fiction has become something I’m increasingly growing obsessed with. While drunk at a bar with other writer pals, I made the declaration that literary fiction needs more “robots and space ships and ghosts”. I stand by that.

R138. Creative Writing Fulbright Fellowship Reading. (Katherine Arnoldi, Katrina Vandenberg, Erika M. Martinez, Gail M. Dottin, M. Thomas Gammarino, Josh Weil) The Fulbright Program funds undergraduate and graduate students to study, conduct research, or pursue creative activities abroad for a year. The Creative Writing Fulbright Fellowship Reading is composed of past Creative Writing Fulbright Fellows who will not only tell of the application process, the experience and the professional, creative and personal benefits of having received this prestigious award but also read some of the work that they created while in such places such as Japan, Panama, the Netherlands, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, and Argentina.

Wilson A, B, & C Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

I put this one up mainly because of Josh Weil. His debut book is a must read, and I got the chance to see one of his panels last year. Really nice dude.

R139. Trends in Contemporary Flash Fiction: What Editors Are Looking For?. (Tom Hazuka, Todd James Pierce, Leah Rogin-Roper, Robert Shapard, Ryan G. Van Cleave) Flash fiction may be elusive to define (stories of 500 words? 750? 1000?), but there is no denying its widespread appeal to both writers and readers. What do editors want in the flash fiction stories they publish? Five editors of both recent and classic short short story anthologies (Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Forward, You Have Time for This, etc.), who are also widely published writers, discuss trends in contemporary flash fiction and what they look for in stories for their anthologies.

Ambassador Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

Flash fiction is a genre I absolutely love, so this one’s almost a must attend for me. Plus, I enjoyed Ryan G. Van Cleave’s memoir Unplugged.

R144. Beyond Print: Digital Directions in Literary Publishing. (H. Emerson Blake, Michael Archer, Jeffrey Thomson, Ram Devineni, Steven Lagerfeld) Digital media is often presented as a challenge for literary magazines and journals—an obstacle to be overcome. But digital media also presents dynamic opportunities for the world of good writing. This panel features the editors of five print, digital, or online-only publications—Guernica, Orion, From the Fishouse, Wilson Quarterly, and Rattapallax—that are using digital media to find new methods of expressing their missions and new ways of connecting with their audiences.

Palladian Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

One thing I noticed from this year’s events schedule was the dominance of digital-centric panels. While so many people are decrying the end of literature, I’m glad AWP and its attendees are recognizing this moment as one of historic opportunity to galvanize the reading public. Plus, Guernica!

Noon – 1:15PM

R160. The Future of the Book Review: How to Break In. (Salvatore Pane, Roxane Gay, Irina Reyn, Emily Testa, Lena Valencia) The rise of the book blogger has forever altered the traditional book review. But what is the state of the book review moving forward in a digital culture, and how do interested parties actually go about becoming reviewers? Panelists including the editor of PANK, the book review editors of BOMB and Hot Metal Bridge, and published writers currently working in the field will answer these questions and more.

Diplomat Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

YOU BETTER FUCKING COME TO THIS SHIT!

1:30pm-2:45pm

R177. A Different Kind of Hybrid: Race, Lyric, and Innovation. (Ruth Ellen Kocher, Sarah Gambito, Dawn Lundy Martin, Wendy S. Walters, Soham Patel) Norton’s Hybrid Anthology reveals the intersection of Lyric and Innovative poetry, but only slimly represents many writers of color. Are writers of color less often “claimed” as innovative writers, or traditionally lyric writers, regardless of form because they often utilize a privileged “I” or an emerging “freedom narrative” in the midst of experiment? This reading by innovative writers of color means to begin a dialogue about different approaches to Lyric, Hybridity, and Innovation.

Virginia B Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Gotta rep Pitt MFA student Soham Patel and Pitt MFA prof Dawn Lundy Martin. What what.

R179. CLMP Keynote—Size Matters: Big Houses, Small Presses, and the Literary Ecology of American Publishing. (Gerald Howard) The board co-chair of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, and the Maxwell E. Perkins Award-winning Doubleday executive editor and vice-president, talks about the coexistence and cross-pollination of independent and commercial publishing in the US.

Wilson A, B, & C Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

Always willing to see a panel about the future of the houses given by folks from the inside.

R182. Agents & Editors: Best Practices for Securing Your Publishing Partners. (Mary Gannon, Julie Baer, Robert Lasner, Corrina Barsan, Greg Michalson) Agents and editors will give an overview of the literary market and their places within it, as well as providing a behind-the-scenes perspective on how they acquire clients or books and offering specific guidance to authors on the best practices for each step involved in partnering with publishing professionals.

Diplomat Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

Lots of great agents here with really interesting client lists–Kevin Wilson and Joshua Ferris just to name a few. Recommended.

3:00pm-4:15pm

R193. What’s Normal in Nonfiction?(Steven Church, Debra Marquart, Ander Monson, Bonnie J. Rough, Bob Shacochis, David Shields) Moderated by editors of The Normal School, the panel will feature a discussion of the polarizing questions concerning the ethics and aesthetics of nonfiction writing today. Is the nonfiction writer’s obligation to the art or to the subject? The audience? Can you conflate time, use composite or fictionalized characters, or borrow material from other sources without citing it? Panelists will consider what the role of the nonfiction writer is today and how that role is defined by ethical concerns for subject and audience, and/or aesthetic concerns for art, genre, form, and technique.

David Shields on what’s “normal” in nonfiction? Really? Ok. Let’s do this.

Maryland Suite Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

R195. Beyond Bagels and Lox: Jewish-American Fiction in the 21st Century. (Erika Dreifus, Andrew Furman, Kevin Haworth, Margot Singer, Anna Solomon) Jewish-American fiction has long been seen as a literature of emigration from the shtetl, assimilationist angst, and overprotective parents. But what’s nu? How do Americans born decades after the Holocaust and the birth of the State of Israel deal with those complex subjects in fiction? Who are the new Jewish immigrant characters? How does American Jewry’s more than 350-year history inspire plot/setting? And how are writers today influenced by Judaism’s rich multilingual and spiritual legacy?

Thurgood Marshall East Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

This one sounds great, plus it has Erika Dreifus of the awesome Practicing Writing blog. Check it.

R198. Honoring Robert Coover. (Maya Sonenberg, Robert Coover, Kate Bernheimer, Mary Caponegro, Brian Evenson, Ben Marcus) Through fiction and nonfiction, panelists will celebrate their continuing fascination with the ever changing and always challenging work of Robert Coover, meta-fictional master, myth-breaker and myth-maker, and one of the founders of hypertext. Coover, author of over 20 books, including The Origin of the Brunists, The Public Burning, Pricksongs and Descants, Ghost Town, and Noir, will close the panel with a reading.

Thurgood Marshall West Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

Everybody loves Robert Coover, right?

R200. The Urban MFA: Why it Makes a Difference. (Michelle Y. Valladares, Linsey Abrams, Joseph Lease, Jan Heller Levi, Richard Schotter) There are a few MFA programs in the US located in the heart of cities and urban neighborhoods, where students and faculty commute, attend part time and at night. How do these programs represent a difference to the “more traditionally collegiate” programs on suburban or rural campuses? What are the benefits to attending an urban MFA program? Why would students choose such programs? How can urban environments benefit new writers and American writing?

Virginia B Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

This one immediately caught my eye. I did my MFA in Pittsburgh, and I guess I never thought about how different an experience that was compared to people who went to programs in more collegiate towns like Kansas City, Tuscaloosa, Iowa City, and so on. I’m curious as to what this group’s got to say about the matter.

4:30pm-5:45pm

R213. Understanding Comics as Creative Writing. (John Woods, Matt Madden, Gary Sullivan, Luca DiPierro, Joseph Young) While the critical study of comics has been fully embraced by English Literature departments, Creative Writing programs have been slower to create a place for the practice of comics in their own curricula. Similarly, independent literary presses rarely publish comics, leaving that work to comics-specific houses. This panel features teachers and practitioners of the medium who will discuss ways to open up the Creative Writing field to the practice of comics (and other image-text literature).

Hoover Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES!!!!!!!!!!!!

R214. Ploughshares 40th Anniversary Celebration. (Ladette Randolph, Eleanor Wilner, Kathryn Harrison, Colm Toibin, Elizabeth Strout, Terrance Hayes) This roundtable features six recent guest editors of Ploughshares magazine and celebrates 40 years of the journal’s founding commitment to showcasing diverse literary voices with each issue. Former guest editors read and discuss how they made choices for their issues.

Marriott Ballroom
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

I had the opportunity to catch Terrance Hayes read in the Hill District awhile back, and it was one of the best poetry readings I’ve ever gone to. Plus, it’s fucking Ploughshares, man.

R221. Fiction’s Future. (Tom Williams, Lance Olsen, M. Evelina Galang, Roy Kesey, Debra DiBlasi, Steve Tomasula) This panel invites five aesthetically diverse authors brave of foolish enough to respond to think aloud about fiction’s future. What might in fiction look like, read like, and why? What forms are we apt to see in the next five or fifteen years? What changes in publishing, distribution, media, and the sociohistorical landscape might impact what we mean when we say “fiction,” “journal,” “book,” “conventional,” and “innovative?” Should writers even concern themselves with such questions?

Virginia A Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

There are a lot of these future of the book type dealies at this year’s AWP, and I’m going to try and attend as many as I possibly can.

R224. A Screening and Discussion for The Times Were Never So Bad: The Life of Andre Dubus. (Edward Delaney) A screening of The Times Were Never So Bad: The Life of Andre Dubus with the filmmaker Edward Delaney, and others who participated In the fim. The documentary features interviews with Andre Dubus III, Tobias Wolff, Richard Russo, Christopher Tilghman and others, and has been an official selection the Rhode Island International Film Festival, the New England Film & Video Festival, among others, and has toured the country at many colleges and universities. The screening will be followed by a discussion and Q&A with the filmmaker and others who participated in the film. The film is 86 minutes long.

Wilson A, B, & C Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

I wasn’t aware this movie existed, but I’m extremely excited about seeing it. Like many who write short stories, Dubus’ collected volume is a huge text in my writerly development.

R226. Creative Writing and the University: A Conversation with Mark McGurl. (Mary Stewart Atwell, Mark McGurl, Eileen Pollack, Tracy Daugherty, Dean Bakopoulos, Nathaniel Minton) This panel will analyze the effects of the institutionalization of creative writing on American literature through a conversation with Mark McGurl, author of The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing. Other participants, well-published fiction writers and teachers of writing, will join McGurl in assessing the particular ways in which MFA programs have influenced the content, structure, and style of postwar American novels and short stories.

Diplomat Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

Not only do I love Dean Bakopoulos, but I’m very invested in the back-and-forth battle that’s erupted online in the wake of The Program Era‘s publication. Looking forward to this one.

R227. Why Don’t They List Agents on Match.com? Demystifying the Author/Agent Relationship. (Britta Coleman, Matt Bondurant, Alex Glass, Marcy Posner, Jenny Bent, Ann Cummins) Finding the perfect agent takes more than a pithy profile or even a well-written query. Join literary agents Marcy Posner, Alex Glass, and Jenny Bent, with authors Britta Coleman, Matt Bondurant, and Ann Cummins, for a lively discussion about finding the right agent, snagging the right agent, and living happily ever after. Topics will include when to approach an agent, how to pitch your work, common pitfalls to avoid, the contract process, and where you can find agents in their natural habitat.

Empire Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

I once stupidly told a non-writer friend that tracking down an agent, giving them your manuscript, and getting a response would probably take “a  few weeks”. So basically, I’m a fucking moron. Teach me, o wise ones!

R230. PEN/Faulkner’s Writers in Schools: Building the Next Generation of Readers. (Richard Ford) Acclaimed author Richard Ford will lead a panel of teachers and students from DC public schools in a discussion of the PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools program, which brings contemporary literature and notable authors into public high school classrooms. Participants will highlight the ways direct author-student conversations make reading vibrant and relevant. The program is a wonderful resource for educators who seek to ensure that the next generation of readers connect to the written word. The success of the DC initiative can serve as a model for other literary communities that wish to provide these transformative experiences within their local schools.

Palladian Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

I’ve never had the chance to see Richard Ford in person. Will probably end up taking this one.

8:30pm-10:100pm

R232. Keynote Address by Jhumpa Lahiri, Sponsored by George Mason University. (Jhumpa Lahiri) Jhumpa Lahiri received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Interpreter of Maladies, her debut story collection that explores issues of love and identity among immigrants and cultural transplants. Published to great acclaim in 2003, Lahiri’s novel, The Namesake, expands on the perplexities of the immigrant experience and the search for identity. Lahiri’s most recent book of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, received the 2008 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Vallombrosa Von Rezzori Prize, and the Asian American Literary Award. Lahiri is also the recipient of the PEN/Hemingway Award, an O. Henry Prize, and the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and has received grants from the Guggenheim Fellowship and The National Endowment for the Arts.

Marriott Ballroom
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Look. I like Jhumpa Lahiri and everything, but I’m reading during this time–details to come in the next AWP guide post–with a bunch of badasses like Brian Oliu and Amber Sparks. Plus, at our reading you can get wasted.

Friday

9:00am-10:15am

F104. The Good Review: Criticism in the Age of Book Blogs and Amazon.com. (Jeremiah Chamberlin, Charles Baxter, Stacey D’Erasmo, Gemma Sieff, Keith Taylor) This panel examines how criticism is changing in a literary landscape increasingly dominated by new media. In this era, who is a critic? What is a good review? Whom does it serve? And what is the impact of criticism on literature and culture? Editors of both online and print publications join writers of fiction, poetry, and criticism to address these questions, as well as to discuss how books get reviewed and by whom, why vigorous reviewing is necessary, and ways to write reviews that matter.

Delaware Suite Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

This is sort of like my panel, except it has Charles Baxter. You know, THE Charles Baxter. To reiterate, CHARLES MOTHERFUCKING BAXTER!

F109. Raymond Carver in the Workshops. (Carol Sklenicka, Bret Lott, Maura Stanton, C.J. Hribal, Douglas Unger, Dagoberto Gilb) Writers who knew Raymond Carver will examine Carver’s profound influence on late 20th-century short fiction and his legacy to the genre.

Thurgood Marshall East Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

I’m not really convinced the stereotypical and reductive view that all workshop stories are Carver stories hold true anymore. I’ll be interested to see the panel’s take on this.

F117A. Potomac Review Celebrates Best of 50. (Julie Wakeman-LInn, Kirk Nesset, Sandra Beasley, Jacob Appel, Jennine Capó Crucet, Marilyn Kallet) To celebrate its fiftieth issue, Potomac Review offers a sampling of its history with readings by Kirk Nesset, Sandra Beasley, Jacob Appel, Ethelbert Miller, Jennine Capos Crucet, and others. Based in the Potomac region, PR has always had concern for the environment at its heart, but over the past two decades, its focus has evolved nationally and internationally and culturally; the reading represents the diverse voices and styles who have appeared in the pages and taps our Best of the 50 issue.

Diplomat Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

My boy, Kirk Nesset honors the Potomac Review. What’s not to like here?

F117B. Starcherone Books 10th Anniversary Celebration Reading. (Donald Breckenridge, Sara Greenslit, Joshua Harmon, Janet Mitchell, Aimee Parkison, Nina Shope) Featuring Donald Breckenridge, Sara Greenslit, Joshua Harmon, Janet Mitchell, Aimee Parkison, and Nina Shope.

Empire Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

I love Starcherone. With an author lineup that includes Lily Hoang, Blake Butler and Alissa Nutting, I’m not sure what sane human being wouldn’t like Starcherone. Check it, peeps.

10:30-11:45am

F124. The Future of Creative Writing in the Academy. (Terry Ann Thaxton, Joe Amato, Philip Gerard, Nigel McLoughlin, Lisa Roney, Kass Fleisher) Creative writing as an academic discipline is relatively new, with the strongest push forward in the 1940s with Paul Engle’s Iowa Writing Workshop. And now, with budget restraints and the consumerist culture in the academy, creative writing courses, in the US and abroad, are receiving directives from administration to increase enrollments in smaller classes, which cuts at the very core of creative writing pedagogy. How can we afford to remain stagnant in our pedagogy if our studio workshop courses have thirty, forty, fifty students in them? Should we reform our pedagogy? What strategies can we adopt to protect good practice where necessary? Are there pedagogic methodologies which can be applied which will allow us to successfully integrate the workshop model into a more mixed methods approach? This international panel will explore proactive, theoretical, as well as pragmatic ways in which creative writing can survive in academe amidst budget issues and other pressures.

Harding Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

Workshop pedagogy is something I’m thinking more about every day, as I run a workshop three times a week. I’m invested in the future of these courses.

F134. To Tell You the Truth: Strategies in the New Nonfiction. (Jeffrey Shotts, Nick Flynn, Eula Biss, Ander Monson, Stephen Elliott) Creative nonfiction has never been more exciting, as writers from multiple genres explore and define new modes of writing essay, memoir, journalism, and cultural criticism. Four writers at the forefront of the new nonfiction discuss strategies for writing and reading these new forms of “truth-telling.”

Wilson A, B, & C Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

Nick Flynn, Ander Monson and Rumpus overlord Stephen Elliott? Yes, please.

F136. Jets vs. Sharks? (Michael Croley, Richard Bausch, C. Michael Curtis, Elizabeth Cox, Jill McCorkle) In a recent article, essayist and author Elif Batuman stated one of her reasons for not attending a writing program was her aversion to the idea of craft: “I realized that I would greatly prefer to think of literature as a profession, an art, a science, or pretty much anything else, rather than a craft.” The panelists discuss the value of craft, what it means, and how we pass this knowledge onto our students while also addressing the concerns Batuman raises and their legitimacy.

Diplomat Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

As previously mentioned, I’ve been following Batuman-gate as much as the next online lit blogger person. But the real reason to see this panel is JILL MCCORKLE! My love for Jill is pure and true. I had the opportunity to one on one workshop with her about six years back and she told me how honest and true my short story sex scene was. It was the greatest moment of my life.

F139. The Art of Rejection: Giving and Receiving. (Diana Raab, Wendy Call, Kevin Morgan Watson, Geeta Kothari, Molly Peacock, Philip F. Deaver) Rejection is part of the literary life. Rejection of your manuscript is not a rejection of you as a person or a writer, but of one piece of writing. It says nothing about your potential. It’s equally difficult being an editor turning down work, as being a writer receiving the rejection. These panelists of writers, editors, and publishers will discuss how to establish boundaries between yourself and your work, what we learn from rejections, and how feedback makes us better writers and editors.

Hampton Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, East Lobby

Not only is Geeta Kothari Pitt faculty, but she’s also an editor of the Kenyon Review. You can’t get advice from folks this well-connected every day.

Noon-1:15pm

F146. A Reading by Joyce Carol Oates. (Joyce Carol Oates) Evocative and transformative, as novelist, poet, dramatist, and essayist, It is no wonder that Joyce Carol Oates has become one of the most celebrated and honored writers of our time. Recipient of the national Book Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, the 2005 Prix Femina, and the 2010 national Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandorf Lifetime Achievement Award, Oates has been a dedicated teacher of creative writing at Princeton University since 1978 and is the author of the forthcoming A Widow’s Story: A Memoir and Give Me Your heart: Tales of Mystery & Suspense.

Marriott Ballroom
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

You just can’t pass up a chance to see JCO read, right? I saw her in 2004, and she was a delight. Hoping to fit this into my conference schedule somehow.

F147. Local Poets With National Reputations. (Linda Pastan, Carolyn Forché , Fanny Howe, Jonetta Rose Barras) A poetry reading of local writers with national reputations.

Maryland Suite Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

I’ve always had a soft spot for the work of Carolyn Forché. Damn. This is one extremely tight spot on the schedule.

F151. Riders on the Storm: Strategies for Getting (and Surviving) the Tenure-Track Job. (Hadara Bar-Nadav, Miles Harvey, John Struloeff, Irina Reyn, Simone Muench) In these difficult economic times, many colleges and universities across the United States are in financial crisis, which has led to hiring freezes, furloughs, and even firings. As recent tenure-track hires, we will present strategies for securing tenure-track jobs. We also will discuss ways junior faculty can survive and succeed in these precarious economic times, while balancing academic responsibilities with our creative lives.

Thurgood Marshall South Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

Irina Reyn, Pitt MFA guru and my fellow AWP panel-mate, breaks down the ins and outs of landing the tenure track job.

F155. Get Shorty: Readings from The Kenyon Review’s Short Fiction Contest. (Cara Blue Adams, Megan Anderegg Malone, Christopher Feliciano Arnold, Mika Taylor, Nick Ripatrazone, Megan Mayhew Bergman) The KR Short Fiction Contest for Writers Under Thirty is entering its fourth year. This reading is an opportunity to hear work from younger writers recognized as winners or runners-up by judges Alice Hoffman, Richard Ford, and Louise Erdrich from the first three years of the contest. Submission to this contest must be 1,200 words or fewer.

Virginia C Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Nick Ripatrazone is another graduate of the Writers Institute at Susquehanna University. We never met, as he graduated right before I arrived, but since then we’ve appeared in a bunch of journals together. But even if you don’t know Nick you should check this out. Short fiction AND the Kenyon Review? Come on. Come on!

F156. A Tribute to John Haines. (Bruce Guernsey, Dana Gioia, Steven Rogers, John Haines, Sheryl St. Germain, Baron Wormser) A tribute to the noted writer, John Haines of Alaska, the author of nine books of poetry such as Winter News and The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer: Collected Poems, plus six collections of nonfiction including the memoir, The Stars, the Snow, the Fire. His awards include two Guggenheims, an NEA Fellowship, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Congress. Each participant will speak about a specific aspect of his work and life, and following, Mr. Haines himself will read.

Wilson A, B, & C Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

A shout-out to Sheryl St. Germain, director of the MFA program at nearby Chatham University.

F160. Memoir, Spirituality and the Self in the Narcissistic Culture of Our Time. (Elizabeth Kadetsky, Rodger Kamenetz, Farideh Goldin, Julia Spciher Kasdorf) If one believes the detractors, memoir bears responsibility second only to reality TV for fomenting this “narcissistic” age, in Christopher Lasch’s term—an era of therapeutic jargon that celebrates not so much individualism as solipsism, justifying self-absorption as “authenticity” and “awareness”. Here, we consider quests for self-knowledge as linked, rather, to a spiritual project. How can memoir point to places beyond the self—to transcendence, insight or affiliation with human community?

Executive Room
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

E-Kadets taught at Pitt for a bit while I was in the program, and although I never got to take any of her nonfiction-centric classes, I’ve heard nothing but good things from the cnf folks here. Plus, I got to see her read in Denver last year and she hit the crowd with a cool post-apocalyptic story. Big ups for that.

1:30pm-2:45pm

F167. National Book Critics Circle Celebrates East Coast Fiction. (Jane Ciabattari, Edward P. Jones, Jayne Anne Phillips, Elizabeth Strout, Colson Whitehead, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award Winners and Finalists Edward P. Jones, Jayne Anne Phillips, Elizabeth Strout, and Colson Whitehead read from their award-winning fiction; the geographic range covered in their work evokes various regions of the East Coast, from Maine to Brooklyn to Virginia to West Virginia.

Marriott Ballroom
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

You know those tracks on rap albums where every famous person on the label is carted out to do a verse? This panel is like that AWP style.

F178. Thinking Beyond the Book: The Future of Authorship and Publishing in a Transmedia World. (Jane Friedman, Seth Harwood, Guy Gonzalez, Kevin Smokler, Al Katkowsky) According to publishing futurists, we are now experiencing the late age of print. Publishers are beginning to see the print book as the last stage of author development, rather than the first step. A new model is emerging for stories and content distribution, with publishers and authors experimenting with mobile apps, podcasts, and multimedia approaches. This panel discusses the changes underway, what innovations are coming, and how writers can adapt no matter what the future of reading holds.

Wilson A, B, & C Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

Another future/tech panel I hope to attend.

F181. Responding to Disturbing Undergraduate Student Creative Writing. (Joseph Bathanti, Susan Weinberg, Peter Blair, Kim Carter, Derek Davidson, Lynn Doyle) When students submit work that raises fears for their wellbeing, teachers may wish to focus on craft, yet feel compelled to intercede. Being thrust into roles for which teachers are untrained is daunting, so what approach is best in conferences and workshops? How do we offer help, and what happens when it is rejected? What barriers might we encounter from our college, and what innovations might we propose? Experiences and ideas will be shared, with input from a Counseling professional.

Empire Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

Oh jeez. Oh jeez, oh jeez, oh jeez, oh jeez. See you in Empire Ballroom, folks!

F182. Politics in the Novel. (Andrew Scott, Chuck Wachtel, Debra Monroe, Margaret Lazarus Dean, Steve Yarbrough) Serious novelists who allow politics to enter their novels must make difficult decisions about how the two meet. Readers bring their own politics to the experience as well, so how do authors negotiate these concerns to craft meaningful work that endures? How does an author reckon with the politics of an issue of central concern to her audience without slipping into didacticism or propaganda?

Executive Room
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

Andrew Scott’s an internet pal of mine. Check out his shit!

3:00pm-4:15pm

F191. Hollins Graduate Program 50th Anniversary Reading. (Jeanne Larsen, Madison Smartt Bell, Karen Salyer McElmurray, David Huddle, Jill McCorkle, LU.K.e Johnson) Is it something in the (mineral spring) water? Some noted graduates of Hollins’ one-of-a-kind program in creative writing read their work, and sample more by a variety of other alums. Join us as we look back at our first 50 years, charge on into the next half-century, and celebrate the inauguration of the Jackson Center for Creative Writing, established through the generosity of John and Susan Jackson. Come figure out what makes the Hollins program what it is. Or just come and enjoy.

Maryland Suite Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Since I already gushed about my writer crush on Jill McCorkle, I will now gush about my writer crush on David Huddle. I usually hate books about writing, but The Writing Habit is pretty solid. Also, Madison Smartt Bell. Right? Right.

F197. Bodies Politic. (Barrie Jean Borich, Judith Barrington, Kekla Magoon, Ann Pancake, Ira SU.K.rungruang, Brian Teare) The literary body is beloved, is bared, is captive, is container, is hidden, is habitat, is dissenting, is taboo, is pleasure, is change. We make literature out of the body’s clashes and communions, and our bodies together create a social mesh we write to maintain and sustain, remake or escape. This panel—a diverse body politic of poets, novelists, and essayists gathering in the political belly of America—will grapple with corporeality, community and claiming the body for the page.

Thurgood Marshall West Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

Ann Pancake is one of the best. If you don’t know her work, get Given Ground. If you’ve never met her, go to this panel.

F198. Ask Not What the Internet Can Do for You: Shifting Our Perspective on Internet Publishing as an Alternative to Major Market Publishing. (Ralph Pennel, Justin Maxwell, Ravi Shankar, Anmarie Trimble, Lizzie Stark, Max Magee) This panel will discuss electronic publications as central to the needs of 21st-century writers and readers, and not as entities serving as secondary iterations of preexisting publications. We will focus on how the electronic medium is advantageous to editors, and to the editorial and publication processes. We will also cover how the medium allows for a new nexus between writer and user by permitting a more diverse discourse with current and emerging literary modalities.

Virginia A Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

We living in the 21st century, doing something mean to it.

F199. Hint Fiction: Stories that Prove Less is More. (Robert Swartwood, Randall Brown, Michael Martone, Daniel Olivas, Roxane Gay) The editor of the recent Norton anthology and its contributors examine stories of extreme brevity. They will discuss whether these stories are considered actual stories, and whether they hold substance, focusing on these questions: Do works of this length help or hinder writers? Can these tiny stories have just as much impact as stories of traditional length? The panelists will share their own hint fiction and discuss its role in the ongoing evolution of literature.

Virginia B Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Roxane Gay, my PANK and panel pal, teams up with Michael Martone and others to discuss hint fiction. This one has the potential to be great.

F203. A Tribute to Ontario Review: Raymond Smith and Joyce Carol Oates. (Douglas Unger, Jana Harris, Richard Burgin, Sheila Kohler, Albert Goldbarth, Joyce Carol Oates) Founded in 1974 and edited by Raymond Smith and Joyce Carol Oates, Ontario Review and its press bridged literary/artistic cultures. It is known for introducing new and emerging writers, and maintaining established writers in print for three and a half decades. Forced to suspend publication in 2007 due to the death of Raymond Smith, Ontario Review and Ray Smith’s contributions to letters, and the continuing generous energies of Joyce Carol Oates, are honored by Jana Harris, Richard Burgin, Sheila Kohler, Albert Goldbarth, Doug Unger, and voices from the audience.

Diplomat Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

Again, JCO.

4:30pm-5:45pm

F212. A Reading by Mary Gaitskill and Sapphire, Sponsored by Wilkes University Low Residency MA/MFA Program in association with Blue Flower Arts. (Mary Gaitskill, Sapphire) Mary Gaitskill is the award-winning author of Veronica, which was nominated for the 2005 National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and L.A. Times Book Award; Because They Wanted To, which was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and her recent collection of stories, Don’t Cry. Sapphire is the author of the bestselling novel Push, which won the Book-of-the-Month Club Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, and was made into the Academy Award-winning film Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. Her collections of poems are American Dreams and Black Wings & Blind Angels.

Marriott Ballroom
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

This has got to be the single strangest pairing of readers in the history of readers. I have to see this. Plus, many of my MFA classmates called me Precious for a glorious month during the fall of 2009. So there’s that.

F220. Building the Literary Robot: The Lit Journal as New Media. (James Engelhardt, Scott Lindenbaum, Jurgen Fauth, Zach Dodson, Zachary Schomburg, Travis Kurowski) Lit has gone viral, adapted to fit Twitter feeds, iPhone apps, and social networks, and fashioned into flash animation for posting on YouTube. How do literary journals step into these new, far-reaching modes of publishing? What role will e-literature have in contemporary publishing and the teaching of creative writing? What will this mean to the traditional short story, poem, and essay? Writers and editors of online and print literary journals tell how they’ve explored new e-lit territory.

Virginia C Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

I didn’t even need to read the description. Literary Robot. Count me in. I’ll be the guy asking questions about Gizmo Duck.

F225. Writing the Beltway: Four Washington, DC Publishers Navigate the Capital. (Matthew Kirkpatrick, Reb Livingston, Richard Peabody, Caitlin Hill, Dave Housley) Editors from Barrelhouse magazine, No Tell Books, Gargoyle magazine, and Poet Lore magazine read from their journals and discuss their experiences working to produce and promote literary art within the politics-obsessed sphere of Washington, DC.

Executive Room
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

Lots of good editors. Lots of good journals.

8:30pm-10:pm

F228. A Reading by Junot Díaz, Sponsored by Georgia College & State University / Arts & Letters. (Junot Diaz) Junot Díaz was born in 1968 in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the John Sargent, Sr. First Novel Prize; the National Book Critics Circle Award; the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. Díaz has been awarded the Eugene McDermott Award, a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, a Lila Acheson Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, the 2002 PEN/Malamud Award, the 2003 U.S./Japan Creative Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the fiction editor at the Boston Review and the Rudge (1948), and Nancy Allen Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Marriott Ballroom
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

It’s obvious that I completely loved the first and final thirds of Oscar Wao right?

Saturday

9:00am-10:15am

S111. Small Ships, Deep Ocean: Independent Presses Keep Short Story Collections Afloat. (Clifford Garstang, Mary Akers, Laura van den Berg, Jason Ockert, Jim Ruland) Charting a course for your short story collection has never been trickier. From shrinking shelf space to nonexistent advances, disinterested trade publishers to increased competition for readers, more and more authors of story collections are turning to independent presses. Six salty veterans discuss the small press experience: platforms for approaching publishers, the challenges of promoting collections, and the advantages and disadvantages of small publishers in an uncertain economy.

Thurgood Marshall South Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

This topic is near and dear to my heart. Also, Laura van den Berg. Laura van den Berg!

S117. CLMP Panel—Editor as Mentor: Literary Magazines and Emerging Writers. (Rob Spillman, Hannah Tinti, C. Dale Young) Editors savvy in the ways of molding minds (in addition to manuscripts) from Tin House, One Story, and New England Review share stories about some of the relationships they’ve fostered and the writers they’ve nurtured, and what these mentorships have meant for their respective publications.

Ambassador Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

I will try and go to anything involved with Tin House.

S118. What To Expect When You’re Expecting Your First Book. (Alexi Zentner, Jill Bialosky, Téa Obreht, Noah Eaker, Peter Mountford, Adrienne Brodeur) Three debut novelists and their respective editors from Dial, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and W. W. Norton, will discuss what an author can expect, and more importantly, what an author should do, between the period of selling his or her book and the publication date. Topics will include mistakes to avoid, the editing process, what pre-publication marketing and publicity can be done by the author and what is handled by the house, and what the author should be working on in his or her own writing.

Diplomat Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

We can fucking dream right?

10:30am-11:30am

S136. Finding and Creating Online Teaching Opportunities—and Sustaining and Succeeding in Them. (Erika Dreifus, Sage Cohen, Andrew Gray, Michael Morse, Chloe’ Yelena Miller, Scott Warnock) More than one in four college/university students now take at least one course online. While some writers teach in college and graduate writing programs, others have established their own independent course offerings, or teach through private organizations. Our panelists represent a range of professional experiences in online teaching, in prose and poetry, for-credit and not-for-credit. They will share strategies for finding (and creating) work and succeeding as online writing instructors.

Virginia C Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Like these people. Like this topic. Might be relevant for those on the job market.

S138. The 1960 National Book Award Revisited: What Makes Fiction Last? (Peter Grimes, Steve Almond, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Brock Clarke, Michael Griffith, Jodee Stanley) What values in fiction endure? In 2010, we formed a committee of fiction writers and looked back fifty years to rejudge the 1960 National Book Award. We read, haggled, named a winner, and each of us wrote an essay—to take up arms for a favorite, reassess the year’s anointed books, reflect on the ebb and flow of reputation, explore the politics of awards. This panel will ask, What do we value most highly in fiction, and what gets cast aside by the way we define “ambition”?

Ambassador Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

I think the whole “let’s revisit a 50 year old literary award” thing is a little strange, but Steve Almond and Brock Clarke are going to be there. That’s reason enough to consider attending.

S140. The Poetry-Prose Dynamic, Internationally. (Carrie Etter, Toi Derricotte, Molly Peacock, Tim Liardet, Jill Bialosky) In this panel, five authors, residing in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S., investigate the interrelationships between their poetry and their prose, addressing such issues as the place(s) of memoir, shared elements such as simile and fact, the writer’s identity, and questions of form. What can we learn by examining the interfaces among the various genres we write? How do the different ways cross-genre authorship is perceived in the U.K., Canada, and the US affect identities and careers?

Empire Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

Big ups to Pitt faculty Toi Derricotte.

S143. A Conversation with Richard Bausch. (Jennifer Haigh, Richard Bausch) A candid conversation between friends: acclaimed teacher and award-winning novelist and short story writer Richard Bausch, and his former student, novelist Jennifer Haigh.

Regency Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

I really like both of these writers. Haigh is totally underrated, and Bausch is a living legend. And conversations between former teacher/students are always interesting to watch unfold.

Noon-1:15pm

S149. America Reimagined: Four Contemporary Voices, Sponsored by Blue Flower Arts. (Alison Granucci, Jennifer Egan, Joshua Ferris, Rick Moody, Benjamin Percy) America finds itself recast, stretched, and redefined though the astute minds of Egan, Ferris, Moody, and Percy. Each explores an eerie version of America through the eyes of their characters: a reanimated crawling hand, an ill man who cannot stop walking, a former punk rock star, and a father-and-son trip down a devilish canyon. These refreshing and surprising writers go straight to the jugular of modern life and bring us stories in which one cannot always tell the hero from the villain.

Marriott Ballroom
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

This might be my pick for best lineup of any panel at AWP. I would probably go see a panel with any one of these writers, but all five? Are you serious? Count me in.

S151. The Myth of Relevance. (Pauls Toutonghi, Tom Bissell, Danielle Evans, Vu Tran, Erin Ergenbright, Peyton Marshall) The use of topical themes in fiction can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, a strong writer should be able to make almost any scene interesting and vivid—writing about current events bears a certain weight of responsibility. Fiction depends on the artful surprise; if the substance of a story is cut from the headlines it risks straying into the territory of the familiar. Where should a writer draw the line? What is dangerous and what is inspiration?

Nathan Hale Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Longtime readers know my hero worship of all things Tom Bissell. I don’t think there’s any way I can actually miss this panel.

S158. From the Page to the Small Screen: What the Information Age Means for Us . (Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum, Terry Hummer, Maggie Dietz, Mary Flinn, Brian Brodeur, Keith Montesano) As digital technologies such as blogs, online periodicals, hypertext, and phone Apps gain legitimacy, more writing than ever before finds its home online. Some big questions loom: What is lost or gained when we translate our work from the page to the screen? Are these technologies promotional tools or new creative forms? Are we witnessing the death of the page or its evolution? Panelists from Slate, Blackbird, the Favorite Poem Project, AmeriCamera, and the blogosphere will answer these questions.

Virginia A Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Did I not tell you there were a lot of panels about digital tidings? If you miss one, there’s literally five or six to pick from.

1:30pm-2:45pm

S171. What We Love; What Editors Are After. (Rob Spillman, Fiona McCrae, H. Emerson Blake, Denise Oswald, Andrew Leland, Daniel Slager) Six distinguished magazine and book editors speak candidly about what they love and what makes it to the top of the mountain of manuscripts. Editors from the Believer, Graywolf Press, Milkweed Editions, Orion, Soft Skull Press, and Tin House offer concrete examples and anecdotes of writing that works for them, as well as advice on how to build a long-term mutually fulfilling writer-editor relationship.

Maryland Suite Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

I love all of those journals and presses. I love this panel. I love San Dimas.

S172. As Long As People Write: Training and Supporting New Writing Teachers. (Sarah Harris, Crystal Fodrey, Ben Ristow) Richard Hugo said that as long as people write, there will be writing teachers. Today many programs listed in the AWP Guide name the opportunity to teach as a selling point—yet few offer training in the teaching of creative writing. Most graduate students are instead trained through composition theory. We will present the results of research on this training process, and recommend ways programs can support those who desire more connection between their writing lives and the courses they teach.

Nathan Hale Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Sarah Harris is an old classmate of mine from Pitt’s MFA program. Let’s support her and this panel, because really, more training for new writing teachers is something most schools desperately need.

S177. The Road Less Traveled: How to be a Writer Without a Full-time Academic Gig. (Cheryl Strayed, Steve Almond, Amy Holman, Ru Freeman, Christian TeBordo, Marisa de los Santos) The path to solvency and security for most writers is to pair writing with full-time jobs in academia. On this panel, six authors will talk about their lives as writers without the de facto college teaching gig. Panelists will discuss the range of ways they’ve supported themselves, the reasons they’ve chosen the paths they have, and also the liberations and constraints they’ve experienced as writers outside the writer-faculty track that’s so deeply embedded in what it means to be a writer today.

Thurgood Marshall West Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

I’ve blogged about alternative careers for writers before, and I’m curious to see what Almond has to say about the matter, especially considering his rock critic past.

S179. Makes New Friends and Keeps the Old. (Jack Shoemaker, Skip Horack, Andrew Altschul, Jane Vandenburgh, Richard Wirick, Janice Shapiro) Counterpoint / Soft Skull Press is an author-driven house with a clear presence on both the West and East coasts and two rosters of award-winning authors working in every genre. Please join us in celebrating our combined successes with readings by current outstanding authors—Skip Horack, Andrew Altschul, Jane Vandenburgh, Richard Wirick, and Janice Shapiro—marking the beginnings of a new indie era.

Virginia B Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Andrew Altschul is the book reviews editor of the Rumpus and a fine writer in his own right. I love Counterpoint/Soft Skull and would try and make this one anyway, but Andrew’s presence is a bonus.

S184. Change or Die: How Established Print Journals are Adapting to Life on the Internet. (Amber Withycombe, David Lynn, Speer Morgan, R.T. Smith, Christina Thompson) As models for publishing an economically viable literary journal evolve, the magazines that shaped small press publishing during the last century are learning to adapt by printing slimmer issues, moving original work online, and emphasizing social networking. Such practices are common for newer magazines, but few established journals have made the change. Editors from Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Missouri Review, Shenandoah, and Witness discuss how they are re-imagining their magazines online.

Empire Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

Another one about technology, but this one from the perspectives of the more traditional journals. Plus, Speer Morgan is a friend of Pittsburgh’s beloved Chuck Kinder, so I imagine he must be a total badass.

S186A. Writers on Mentors and Literary Friendships. (Jayne Anne Phillips, Tom Grimes, Elizabeth Benedict, Alexander Chee, John McIntyre, Michael Dirda) Jayne Anne Phillips, speaking on publisher/mentor Seymour Lawrence, joins Tom Grimes, author of Mentor, a Memoir (on writing and his Iowa mentor, Frank Conroy); Elizabeth Benedict, editor of Mentors, Muses, Monsters, 30 Writers on People Who Changed Their Lives; Alexander Chee, author of Annie Dillard and The Writing Life; John McIntyre, RN MFA Capote fellow and editor of Memorable Days (letters of James Salter and Robert Phelps); and Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning book columnist, discuss the lasting influence of shared literary mentors and publishers, the value of literary letters, and the importance of the mentor/apprentice relationship.

Palladian Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

If Jayne Anne Phillips gave a panel about which keyboards she preferred to write on, I’d attend.

3:00pm-4:15pm

S189. Linking It Up: Working with Story Cycles, Linked Collections, and Novels-in-Stories. (Anne Sanow, Cathy Day, Clifford Garstang, Dylan Landis) You have characters who appear in more than one story, or several stories set in one place—and you don’t want to write a traditional novel. What are the possibilities? This panel examines the different ways that stories can be linked together to create groups of stories or an entire book. We will focus on strategic craft decisions related to character, setting, point of view, and narrative arc, and discuss how best to determine the completed structure and form of your project.

Harding Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

I love linked stories, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for my former sensei, Cathy Day. Read her books then go to this panel.

S191. Graywolf Press Reading. (Jeffrey Shotts, Nick Flynn, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Stephen Elliott, Jessica Francis Kane, Elizabeth Alexander) Five writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction read from their recent books published by one of the best literary publishers in the country, Graywolf Press. Introduced by Graywolf Publisher Fiona McCrae.

Marriott Ballroom
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

Another appearance for Stephen Elliott and Nick Flynn. Plus, Graywolf. Everyone likes Graywolf, right?

4:30pm-5:45pm

S221. Beyond the Workshop: Revising, Revamping, Rejecting the Workshop Model. (Margaret Lazarus Dean, Charles Baxter, Liam Callanan, Valerie Laken, Patrick O’Keeffe) For many teachers, the workshop is the default mode of creative writing pedagogy. Many of us have had to defend the method from criticisms (e.g. that a workshop constitutes the blind leading the blind), yet even those of us most dedicated to the workshop have experienced problems or doubts. This panel will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the workshop as traditionally imagined, its underlying assumptions and possible limitations, and alternative approaches to the writing classroom.

Empire Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

Much like Jayne Anne Phillips, I’d go see Charles Baxter read from the phone book. The fact that this topic is relevant to my job at Pitt is a huge bonus.

S224. Celebrating 50 Years of Freedom to Write Advocacy. (Larry Siems, Major Jackson, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, Azar Nafisi) Freedom to Write, PEN American Center’s flagship program, is celebrating fifty years of working to defend free expression globally.  Several PEN members—Major Jackson, Joanne Leedom Ackerman, and Azar Nafisi—and PEN’s director of Freedom to Write, Larry Siems, will offer an hour of readings and discussion related to PEN’s advocacy work.  They will touch upon PEN’s recent activities in China, Russia, and Iran, as well as PEN’s work against book-banning and for reader privacy in the U.S.

Regency Ballroom
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

I fucking like me some Azar Nafisi. You should like you some Azar Nafisi too.

8:30pm-10:00pm

S225. A Reading and Conversation with Amy Hempel and Gary Shteyngart, Sponsored by The George Washington University. (Amy Hempel, Gary Shteyngart) Amy Hempel is a recipient of awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the United States Artists Foundation, and the Academy of Arts and Letters. Her Collected Stories was named one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times, and won the Ambassador Book Award for best fiction of the year. She teaches at Harvard University and Bennington College. Gary Shteyngart’s first novel, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His second novel, Absurdistan, was a national bestseller. He was named to both Granta’s Best Young American Novelists and the New Yorker’s Top 20 Writers Under 40 in 2010. Following the reading, the authors will participate in a live conversation with novelist and critic Thomas Mallon.

Marriott Ballroom
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

I adore Amy Hempel, and I’ve just started reading Super Sad True Love Story which I so far really enjoy. Looking forward to this.

Tom Bailey and the Perfect Writing Pedagogy: In Which I Discuss Abortions, Rilo Kiley and Jar Jar Binks

I attended my first workshop eight years ago (eight years! how did this happen?). We sat around a conference table in the basement of an academic building, the type from a trillion frat movies, all brick with ivy growing up and down the sides. And in came this man wearing denim, cowboy boots, and sporting the type of facial hair that could frighten Tom Selleck. The guy sat down, didn’t say a word of introduction, and opened up an anthology he edited (on the cover is a picture of him scowling alongside portraits of JCO, Hemingway, Dubus and others). He cleared his throat, said, “In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits,” and read us the entirety of John Updike’s A&P.

Needless to say, my friends and I all lived in worship of this man, novelist Tom Bailey, a southern good old boy who openly told us, “I’m not interested in experimentation. My reading list’s mostly dead white men.” And we all hurried home after that first class and poured our hearts out into Microsoft Word, producing lackluster, predictable stories about break ups, losing your virginity, the death of a grandparent, or whatever other bullshit teenagers come up with (my story was about how much the Catholic Church blows and how awesome Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is; so in some respects, my unfortunate themes haven’t changed much over the years).

But then a funny thing happened over the course of that first semester: people started talking shit about Bailey behind his back. I couldn’t understand. We read the man’s stories, and it was obvious he had chops. But more importantly he had swagger. He was a living illustration of what we all wanted to become, a real life writer we could imitate. If he did it, so could we. Right?

(Check out this creepy video where Tom Bailey cries and a younger, more vulnerable Sal gives a reading in a Rilo Kiley t-shirt and awkward sports jacket.)

I didn’t figure out why all my friends got so sick of Bailey all of the sudden until I was about to go up for workshop. I printed out my masterpiece about the anointing of the May Queen and a twelve-year-old obsessed with Playstation and left it in Tom’s mailbox. A day or two later I went to talk with him about it. His office was lined with books, most of which I had never heard of (up until that point, I’d only read comic books, sci-fi, and the respective catalogs of J.D Salinger and Chuck Palahniuk).

Tom told me that he really liked one specific line (it took me awhile to track it down, but it’s “The nuns were supposed to pick the purest girl in the school, but they didn’t want any trouble, so they decided to pick a name out of a hat.”). I nodded, took notes in my little notebook and asked him about the rest of the story. He said he didn’t like it and thought I should cut it (all 22 pages) and start again with that line. He handed me a book by Breece D’J Pancake (a writer who blew his brains out in graduate school; great encouragement, Tom) and told me to get cracking.

I’m bringing this up because (years later) now that I’ve finished grad school and eight continuous years of workshops, I’m trying to figure out what kind of criticism I got the most out of. I remember how so many of my fellow students in Bailey’s class were completely shut down by his tell it like it is method which is designed to teach you the value in cutting your work and never being attached to anything you write. And that skill’s proven absolutely invaluable to me (especially in ’08 when I threw away a completed novel I now refer to as The Abortion). But some writers are absolutely crushed by this level of criticism.

This is a CGI representation of what my first attempt at a novel was like.

Justin Taylor recently posted a critique he received from an undergrad poetry teacher. To me, it seemed perfectly in line with something a writer might say to an undergrad. But in the comments section, people were split on whether the commentary was actually helpful or just cliche-ridden and destructive. I have to admit, this kind of reaction always surprises me.  Are writers so thin skinned that honest criticism is too much for them to deal with? And if so, is this really what they want to be doing with their lives? Submitting to hundreds of journals only to get a handful of acceptances? Because, let’s be honest, any criticism in the real world is inevitably a trillion times harsher than what people receive in workshop.

There’s something to be said for the, “This is good; keep going” route of writing pedagogy. But I think it’s more appropriate when workshopping novels than short stories. If someone writes a flawed short story, isn’t it the duty of instructors and fellow workshop students to make the author aware of said flaws and point out potential solutions? On the flip side, I’ve seen writers a third of the way into a promising novel put up a first chapter and become completely debilitated by the laundry list of suggestions.

After sixteen workshops, I’ve gone through a lot of feedback. And what I remember most are the harsh critiques, the honest critiques. Those made me a better writer. What I never remember is the false flattery, the praise, and all the unearned bullshit writers sometimes feel compelled to give apprentices. Case in point, a few years back when I was really wrestling with The Abortion (the aforementioned novel, not a reincarnated Chuck Palahniuk creation), Cathy Day took me aside and gently (maybe not in so many words) told me I should put it away for awhile. At the time, I wasn’t ready to hear this and sulked for a few days, but the key here (just like in the Bailey example where he plucked out a new first line from the wreckage) was that Cathy gave me something to build on. I was spending a lot of time back then creating Facebook photo albums with long, elaborate captions that went on for entire paragraphs. And Cathy told me how much she liked that voice and how little she saw of it in my novel writing. Why not write in that voice?

Well why not? So I aborted The Abortion and began writing something completely different, all the while imagining myself captioning pictures on Facebook. Is that an absolutely bizarre method? Yes. But it worked for me, and Cathy helped me find that. She didn’t worry about my feelings. Just like Tom and a gazillion other amazing mentors I’ve had, they were honest. They weren’t afraid to tell me something I wrote was terrible.

The Purpose of the Book Reviewer

I’m writing a panel proposal for AWP in 2011, and the subject is the book review in a post book blogger era. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s all I’ll go into detail for now as it’s fairly likely the panel will be rejected (do you know the odds on these things? Yikes.).

Regardless, I’ve been thinking about the book review a lot, and today I came across a wonderful essay on The Rumpus that springboards out of David Goodwillie’s novel American Subversive. Reviewer Eric B. Martin tries to address the purpose of reviews of any non-blockbuster book ala Solar or Joyce Carol Oates or what have you. Martin writes:

The point is that, if we think literature is still worth talking about, every book is part of that debate, which is why reviews of non-blockbuster books should do one of two things: either convincingly shout to the hilltops, “Read this book!” or, in explaining why there’s no shouting, try to find larger truths about literature in a book’s strengths and flaws. Real reviews should be essays—not gladiator thumbs-up/thumbs-down, not stroke jobs or hack jobs on the writers themselves. And that’s the point, a point easily forgotten amidst what it takes to break through the noise in today’s literary marketplace: Literature is not about the writer. It’s about the book, it’s about art, it’s about life. (Martin)

I know there are many, many people who would vehemently disagree with this statement, that the very nature of Martin’s assessment could potentially lead to completely superfluous reviews that give everything a pass, thereby making the “book reviewer” totally irrelevant (if they aren’t already) in an age of new media and linkable books on people’s Facebook profiles. I, however, think Martin makes a lot of sense. After reading his essay (Rumpus is branding it as a review, but I’m not totally sold on that either), I skimmed through the reviews I’ve written for BOMB and PANK. I gave everything a favorable review, even books I didn’t think were very good. Does that make me an untrustworthy reviewer or a champion of what Martin dubs “non-blockbuster books”?

I’d like to think it’s some form of the latter. I’ve always felt ethically compelled while writing reviews to highlight what works about a book, even if the overall effect of the book is flawed in some critical way. In many ways, I’ve been lucky. I’ve genuinely loved the vast majority of books I’ve chosen or been given to review. But it’s been ingrained in me that for some of these small press books, my review might be the only one they get. Can I ethically slam a book that I know won’t be covered elsewhere? Or is it better to celebrate what little I did enjoy and make clear my concerns about the rest of the project? The idea that I even consider these things is likely problematic for some, but I think it’s at the heart of what we’re trying to do with the book review and how we envision ourselves adding to the evolving conversation of literature. If you have anything to add about this subject, please comment below. I’d love to hear other thoughts on the matter.

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