Salvatore Pane

Tag: Cathy Day

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

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The Novel The Novel The Novel

I’ve been digging around through my writing notebooks recently and came upon something (relatively) interesting. A timestamp. March 11, 2009. It’s the day I started writing my novel. It was two years ago today.

I’m not Amy Whipple or Katie Coyle. They’re always running around bursting forth with their feelings. They have feelings on all sorts of subjects, and they are always insightful and intelligent. I usually try and bury most of my feelings and instead think about Kanye West or the New York Knicks or Spider-Man. But really, I think this novel has been kind of the outlet for all my thoughts and ideas and (ugh, I guess) feelings about the world and my existence for the past two years.

Cathy Day used to tell us in writing workshops that most writers are either sprinters or long distance runners (short story writers or novelists), and I’ve always felt more at home in the second camp (the only way I can even write flash fiction is to imagine a novel existing in my head and writing the four or five most interesting scenes). And it’s been so, so comforting over the last two years to be able to return to this novel, this world, these characters, over and over again. No matter what changed in my life (MFA graduation, relationship hyjinx, first year teaching anxiety, family members battling cancer, friends leaving my life, friends entering my life) the novel was always there, fluid, waiting for me to come home. Over time, the characters within started to seem more real to me than actual people I know in my everyday life. I can see these people more clearly, understand them more. I feel guilty when they have to go through pain.

For two years so much of my thinking has been wrapped up in this novel. I wrote a lot of stories during the second year while taking breaks from editing, but always in the back of my mind was the novel, the novel, the novel, even though when people asked me what it was about I would stutter and stare and cough (It’s about Facebook. No, it’s about this guy. And it’s set against the backdrop of the Obama campaign. But, it’s not really about that. It’s about digital stuff? It’s a love story? Kanye shows up? It’s a novel. I don’t know what I’m going to call it. What do you think I should call it?).

There’s just something reassuring to have that world waiting for me at the desk each and every day. And I’ve never been good at ending anything in my life, but I know this relationship’s almost over, that I have changed and the novel has changed and I’m not the same person I was when I started writing it and that’s ok and for the best and now it’s time to put this thing away even though it will always be there to be revisited. But I’m so drawn to that feeling, of world building, of having that other existence and set of people you can slip inside of that I honestly can’t imagine not having some version of this. And already, I’ve bought a new notebook, have already begun scribbling new notes, new characters, new outlines, random items that will hopefully add up to something more. And I guess that’s all I can really do.

Mostly, I’m aware of how lucky I’ve been and continue to be. My agent, Jenni Ferrari-Adler, is the best. She’s so generous and smart with manuscripts and she also represents Emma Straub who I love, love, love. I turned in my revision of the book this week and will probably do another light one before all is said and done. But I think the major, all-consuming work is done. It’s done. It’s done. And it really hasn’t hit me yet, but the feelings I’m most cognizant of are relief and gratitude.

That I wrote it. That I was allowed to write.

AWP 2011 Aftermath: Woah Now Hey Mr. Rager Mr. Rager Tell Me Where You’re Going Tell Us Where You’re Headed I’m Off On An Adventure Mr. Rager Tell Me Some Of Your Stories Tell Us Of Your Travels

AWP 2011 is over. Highlights, in no particular order, below.

1. Dancing in a group including xTx, Roxane Gay, my roommates Adam Reger and Robert Yune to the song “I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love Tonight” by the Outfield at HTMLGiant’s Literature party amid a crowd of hip motherfuckers.

2. The Gary Shtenygart/Amy Hempel reading/convo. Shtenygart is so fucking funny in person. I want him to be my older brother.

3. During my Future of the Book Review panel with Emily Testa, Irina Reyn and Paul Morris, some dude totally called shit on us while walking up the aisle of the ballroom and sporting sunglasses.

4. I love Emma Straub. I met her. We talked a few times. She signed my copy of her book Other People We Married. Then one night I was returning to the hotel drunk and saw her chatting with some reasonable humans and I shouted, “Emma Straub knows!” She nodded. She knew.

5. At Recessions, I met Amber Sparks and while drinking a 20 ounce Bud Light explained Spider-Man’s wife’s miscarriage from the mid-nineties and the complexities of Pokemon cards.

6. One night later I had a similar conversation with Amber’s husband in the bathroom of Ireland’s Four Provinces.

7. Aubrey Hirsch and I repeatedly asking people if they were the html giant.

8. Seeing Steve Almond, Michael Czyzniejewski, Nicolle Elizabeth and all the Smokelong/Corium/Spindle readers read at the Black Squirrel which has all these 80’s Marvel comics on the walls.

9. Jennifer Sky arm wrestling Tao Lin.

10. I finally met Brian Oliu! We walked through the hotel and parted ways outside, and only later did I realize not once did we bring up Nintendo games as expected.

11. Watching Joel Coggins puke in an Arlington trash can.

12. Getting a Write Like a Motherfucker mug from Isaac Fitzgerald and the awesome Rumpus folks.

13. Chandler Chugg-a-lugg

14. The Annalemma/Pank/MLP reading. One of the funnest readings ever.

15. The Myth of Relevance Panel.

16. This e-mail from Lauren Becker received at 3:28 am:

Subject: pegleg?

Body: argh, matey! 🙂

17. Consuming a mass amount of beer every night for four straight days.

18. Proposing to a woman named Polaroid on the Literature Party dance floor after she literally told me she would be “the Alice Munro to your Charles Baxter.”

19. Convincing a woman at Literature Party, albeit briefly, that I was Sugar from the Rumpus. Called her sweetpea and everything.

20. Cathy Day mocking Steve Gillies for being 20 years older than me.

What Are You Teaching In Workshop?: O Captain, My Captain!

I’ve been reading Cathy Day’s blog lately and all her insightful posts about her undergrad fiction workshop as they went through NaNoWriMo, and the whole time I’ve wondered why more fiction teachers don’t share their syllabi or process or what have you. I’m a sucker for community. It’s what drew me to a university known for its creative writing undergrad and eventually to the MFA itself. Now that I’ve graduated, I miss that feeling of being part of something. There are substitutes. HTMLGIANT. The Rumpus. We Who Are About to Die. Uncanny Valley. And so on and so on. But I don’t know many first year teachers who are teaching workshops, composition and community college. So I thought that maybe I would write about my experience here a little bit, include a draft of my new syllabus, and then if anybody wanted to share similar thoughts that would be great.

This is my fall semester intermediate workshop class. I showed up the last day and they were not only dressed like me, but they’d brought in a Spider-Man cake and noisemakers. To be sure, it was one of  the most touching and humbling moments of my life. I’m not exactly sure why the students responded so positively to the class and to me (I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that they all really got along and the level of criticism was really advanced), but I hope that it has something to do with how I tried to take them seriously as writers, that when they came into my class they weren’t student writers, they were just writers. (Much of my pedagogy comes from this video of Tom Bailey minus all the crying) A lot of them came into the class complaining about how previous workshops focused on inane guidelines (one student said he’d come from a workshop where students had to fit so many imperative, declarative and exclamatory sentences into stories), and I think they responded to how difficult I made the class. I ran it more like a graduate workshop and tried to focus on publishing and literary journals. We looked at PANK, The Collagist, Flatmancrooked, just an absolute ton, and the first student publication (of what I really think will be a lot) will go live on Metazen late this month.

Despite the difficulty (I’d go on about why I think this class is a lot of work, but I’ve included the syllabus below), 15 of 19 students signed up for my advanced fiction workshop in the spring which is the next step up in the program. I honestly couldn’t be happier (although, it poses some syllabus problems because I can’t use any of the same stories from this semester), and have taken this as a mandate to push them further, to expect more from them, to transform them into writing workhorses who believe in perspiration over inspiration and the daily writing schedule. So, with all that in mind, below is the first draft of my new syallbus. Please let me know what you think and feel free to share your own. Have you ever taught a workshop? What have your experiences been like if so? If not, do you want to, do you plan to? Why?

Required Materials

3X33: Short Fiction by 33 Writers edited by Mark Winegardner

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore


Welcome to Advanced Fiction Workshop

In this course, you’re going to write and read a lot. This is not going to be easy because becoming a writer isn’t easy. There will be no easy A’s, and no easy weeks. Writing is a constant struggle, and this course will reflect that truth. However, and I can guarantee you this, if you’re serious about the craft of fiction, if you’re willing to put in the work, you will be a better writer at the end of the course compared to the first day.

Each student will put up 15-20 pages of literary fiction for workshop twice during the semester. You can write a traditional short story, multiple flash fiction pieces, or a novel chapter, but remember, you have to demonstrate the fundamental principles of literary fiction in all of your workshop pieces. That means you shouldn’t hand in a novel chapter that is less than a page. I want to see structure, character, development. I want nuance and complexity. I don’t want filler pieces meant to get you closer to the page requirement.

Substantial revisions will be required. Substantial revision does not mean fixing grammar. Substantial revision usually means a complete rewrite and perhaps multiple rewrites. Students must also post 500-100 word critiques for every student story we workshop. Similarly, you will read a large amount of stories from 3X33 and a few handouts. Students will post 500-1000 word critiques for every assigned story we read. In addition to those critiques, you will write two 1200 word papers in which you do a craft analysis of the novels Super Sad True Love Story and A Gate at the Stairs.

Reading so much literary fiction will allow you to build a library of published stories in your heads. Students are expected to use their knowledge of writers like ZZ Packer, Richard Yates or Lorrie Moore to comment about peer work up for discussion. Students will make parallels and use the published work to inform their critiques of peer work. The majority of the course will be spent workshopping. The goal of the course is for you to not only become a better writer, but to become an active literary citizen who can participate in the ongoing dialogue concerning fiction.

Workshop

You will be prepared for every workshop class by doing the following:

1.)    Write comments in the margins of stories up for discussion. You MUST use the comments feature in Microsoft Word. All comments will be transparent to the entire class. I want you to upload your marked up versions of workshopped stories to Blackboard. Failure to do so will negatively impact your grade.

2.)    Write a 500-1000 word critique for each peer written story we read this semester. You must critique the story based on its own intentions. For example, if the writer is attempting to write in the realist mode of Ray Carver, do not suggest a woman who gives birth to a newborn baby every night ala Amelia Gray just because you don’t like realism. On the flip side, do not knock a postmodern story because you prefer realism. Judge the story the writer wrote, not the one you want to write. Try and help them see how they could better serve their material and unique world vision. In your responses, first describe what you think the writer is attempting to do and what the story is about. Then discuss the piece’s strengths. Finish with prescription, a section where you point out very specific things that still need work within the story. Go beyond grammar. Character, plot, prose, all the building blocks of fiction are on the table. You must use the description, strength, prescription model.

3.) Post your critique and margin comments to Blackboard by 8PM the night before workshop. All critiques will be visible to all members of the class, and I encourage you to read what your peers are saying about every story. Name your thread on Blackboard after your favorite line of the story in question. If you don’t turn in these materials BY 8PM, you will lose points.

Example of a good critique:

[There’s a critique I wrote here in graduate school, but I’m removing it from the blog because I never told the person whose story I culled from. If interested, look in the Crow Room.]

Notes About Workshop

When you are being workshopped, it is very important that you are quiet, take notes, and do not respond to anything verbally. To reiterate, you are not allowed to talk when being workshopped unless I specifically ask you something, and that will be very rare. You are not there to defend your story. Your story must stand on its own.

Please proofread your work. If a story is excessively sloppy, I will not workshop it. Do not depend on your classmates to fix your grammar.

Distribution of Manuscripts

Stories are due from every student at specific points in the semester. Upload them to Blackboard on the due date by 9AM. If your story is late, your grade for that story will drop by an entire letter. If you are more than a day late, you will get an F, no exceptions. You are responsible for printing out your peers’ stories for discussion on workshop days.

Blackboard Reading Posts

On most weeks, you will be required to read at least one outside short story. On these weeks, you must post a 500-1000 word critical response to said story on Blackboard under the appropriately titled forum. Posts must be uploaded by 8PM the day before we discuss the story. If your post is late, you will take an F on the critical response in question. During the first two weeks in which we will be discussing two professional short stories a classroom session, you are required to write three 250-500 word responses each class session, one for each story we read (the exception being Super Sad True Love Story when Paper 1 will be due). Post your responses on the appropriate Discussion Board forum. There’s a forum designated by name for every professional story.

Let me be very clear on this. This is not a forum for you to explain whether or not you like the piece in question. I don’t care. What I’m looking for is a craft analysis. These stories are published. They’re not up for workshop. What can you learn from them? If you simply talk about why you love or hate a specific story, you will take an F on the critical response in question.

Papers

Two papers will be due in this course, one for Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shytengart and one for A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. They will be due on Blackboard the night before class at 8PM like our reading critiques. The goal in these papers will be to do a craft analysis and pick out a few pieces in the work in question that specifically helpful to your development as a writer. Do not analyze these novels in a vacuum. Feel free to tie in your own work or other books you have read.

Fiction Pods

After everyone has been workshopped once, I will break you up into Fiction Pods of four and five in which you will read each other’s revisions and then run mini-workshops. I will explain more about Fiction Pods when we reach that point in the semester. Keep in mind, you will be required to meet with your Fiction Pods for 90 minutes outside of class on two separate occasions during the semester. You will also have to e-mail me where and when you met and a very brief summary of the meeting.

Attendance

I want to be as clear as I can on this. If you miss class four times, you will fail. There will be no make up assignments. Don’t come back to class. The ONLY excuse I will accept is a doctor’s excuse. I am not going to make any exceptions on this front.

If you are unprepared for discussion or workshop, I cannot give you credit for attendance that day.

Grading

This is what you have to do if you want an A in this course. You have to put up two thoughtful workshop pieces. Then you have to take the time to substantially revise them. You have to be engaged in classroom discussions and add something relevant every class. You must do all the Blackboard posts and turn them in on time. You do all these things, you get an A. You slack off, turn stuff in late or short, doze off in class, and you’re not getting an A.

Here’s the grading breakdown. 70% of your final grade will come down to your final portfolio, i.e. all of your revised work at the end of the semester. The other 30% comes from Blackboard posts and participation. Please note: participation is mandatory. If you are not contributing to every single workshop, you are not going to get a good grade. This is a workshop course. The same goes for Blackboard. If you consistently fail to turn in work on time, you’re not going to get a good grade.

Final Portfolios

On the final day of class, you will be expected to turn in two revisions of your workshop pieces. Late portfolios WILL NOT be accepted.

Conferences

After your workshop, please schedule a conference with me during my office hours. Revisions will be due at the end of the semester, but you can turn them in at any point. Conferences are mandatory!

Outside Events

Students are only required to attend one event outside of class. On April 7th, writer Lydia Davis will read in the Frick Fine Arts Building at 8PM. You are required to attend and write a short, 500 word craft analysis of her reading. ATTENDANCE IS MANDATORY. If you cannot attend, you must go to a make up reading that I will assign.

Academic Integrity

Cheating/plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students suspected of violating the University of Pittsburgh Policy on Academic Integrity, noted below from the February 1974, Senate Committee on Tenure and Academic Freedom reported to the Senate Council, will be required to participate in the outlined procedural process as initiated by the instructor. A minimum sanction of a zero score for the quiz or exam will be imposed.

Plagiarism, as defined by the University of Pittsburgh’s Academic Integrity code, is when a student:

Presents as one’s own, for academic evaluation, the ideas, representations, or words of another person or persons without customary and proper acknowledgment of sources.

Submits the work of another person in a manner which represents the work to be one’s own.

Knowingly permits one’s work to be submitted by another person without the faculty member’s authorization.

Special Assistance

If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and Disability Resources and Services, 140 William Pitt Union, (412) 648-7890 or (412) 383-7355(TTY), as early as possible in the term.  DRS will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course.

Course Sequence

Week One

Thurs January 6

Syllabus

Introductions

Amelia Gray “Babies” and “Dinner”

Week Two

Tues January 11

Raymond Carver “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” 3X33

Tobias Wolff “The Liar” Blackboard

Dave Eggers “After I Was Thrown in the River but Before I Drowned” Blackboard

Thurs January 13

Antonya Nelson “Naked Ladies” 3X33

James Alan McPherson “Why I Like Country Music” Blackboard

Donald Barthelme “Robert Kennedy Saved From Drowning” 3X33


Week Three

Tues January 18

Gary Shytengart Super Sad True Love Story

STORIES DUE


Thurs January 20

Workshop 1

Workshop 2

Week Four

Tues January 25

Workshop 3

Workshop 4

Thurs January 27

Workshop 5

Jonathan Lethem “Super Goat Man” Blackboard

Week Five

Tues February 1

Workshop 6

Workshop 7

Thurs February 3 – Guest Workshop w/Travis Straub

Workshop 8

Workshop 9

Week Six

Tues February 8

Workshop 10

Workshop 11

Thurs February 10

Workshop 12

Andre Dubus “The Fat Girl” Blackboard

Week Seven

Tues February 15

Workshop 13

Workshop 14

Thurs February 17

Workshop 15

Matt Bell “His Last Great Gift” Blackboard

Week Eight

Tues February 22

Workshop 16

Workshop 17

Thurs February 24

Workshop 18

Richard Yates “The Best of Everything” 3X33


Week Nine

Tues March 1

Workshop 19

Workshop 20

Thurs March 3

Workshop 21

Workshop 22 (IF NEEDED)

A.M. Homes “The Former First Lady and the Football Hero” Blackboard

SUNDAY REVISIONS DUE

Week Ten

Spring Break

Week Eleven

Tues March 15

Lorrie Moore A Gate at the Stairs

New Stories Due

Thurs March 17

Workshop 1

Workshop 2

Week Twelve

Tues March 22

Workshop 3

Workshop 4

Thurs March 24

Workshop 5

Workshop 6

Week Thirteen

Tues March 29

Workshop 7

Workshop 8

Thurs March 31

Workshop 9

Workshop 10 (IF NEEDED)

ZZ Packer “Dayward” Blackboard

Week Fourteen

Tues April 4

Workshop 11

Workshop 12

Thurs April 7

Workshop 13

Workshop 14 (IF NEEDED)

George Saunders “Sea Oak” 3X33


Week Fifteen

Tues April 12

Workshop 15

Workshop 16

Thurs April 14

Workshop 17

Workshop 18

Week Sixteen

Tues April 19

Workshop 19

Workshop 20

Thurs April 21

Workshop 21

Workshop 22

 

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, TĂ©a 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, TĂ©a 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 CapĂł 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 ForchĂ©. 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.

Writing Comics and Other Alternative Careers for Literary Writers

Most people know I’m a fan of Scott Snyder. I’ve blogged about two of his comic book series, the oft-praised American Vampire co-written by Stephen King and the less appreciated Iron Man: Noir for Marvel. But I’ve also written about his short story collection, the excellent Voodoo Heart published by the good folks at Dial Press. The reason I became aware of Scott and his work is Cathy Day. During one of her classes maybe a year ago, we got to talking about career aspirations, and somehow we got on the subject of how one day I’d like to support myself financially (and also, artistically) through mainstream superhero work while also focusing on my literary fiction endeavors, namely short stories and novels. She put me in touch with Scott via Facebook and after a brief conversation, I sought out his story collection. A few months later, American Vampire came out which I liked almost as much as Voodoo Heart.

The reason I bring this up is because we’re close to San Diego Comic-Con which means a lot of the big comic-related news is going to come out now as to not be overshadowed by all the movie buzz. One of the biggest stories to break today? Scott Snyder signed an exclusive contract with DC Comics and will write a year-long run on Detective Comics (one of the oldest and most prestigious Batman books on the racks).  What does this mean? Scott gets a salary and is no longer a freelance writer for DC. Scott can’t write for Marvel. Scott gets health benefits (I think).

What else does this mean? It means Scott might not have to teach college. I don’t know any more than what’s in the above interview, but from what I’ve researched independently over the years, it would seem that contracted comic book writers easily make more than adjunct teachers. So many writers are pushed into teaching writing workshops after getting the MFA, and for many (potentially myself), it’s really what they love. But what few people within MFA programs talk about are the alternative careers. And by alternative, I don’t just mean desk jobs. I mean jobs that fulfill creatively in the same way teaching writing does (I’m not saying desk jobs are inherently uncreative). Obviously, Scott Snyder believes that writing comics is one of these alternatives, a job that allows writers to be compensated for doing what they love. Obviously^2, I agree with him. But what I’m curious about are other responses. Do alternatives to teaching exist for working writers in the 21st century? And if so, what are they? If not, why the hell not?

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.

An Online Panel on Literary Journals (Part 3 of 4): Those Writerly Calluses

Check out the first two installments of our discussion on lit mag publishing here and here. We continue today with thoughts from one Adam Reger. He earned an MFA in fiction from Pitt in 2008 and has published stories in the New Orleans Review, Pear Noir!, and Juked. He lives in Pittsburgh.

From Adam:

“I would second everything Robert mentioned. I also worked on Hot Metal Bridge, and found the experience instructive not just in the ‘I can’t believe someone sent this in’ sense Robert mentions, but as a chance to see how many good stories got rejected for nebulous reasons having everything to do with the readers’ tastes at that particular time—it was an opportunity, basically, to see how arbitrary the process can be. Applying that insight to my own submission process has helped me develop those writerly calluses one needs to be rejected over and over again. Every rejection slip says that it’s not personal, and that many good stories get rejected, but you never quite believe it until you see things from the other side.

And on Robert’s point about subscribing to lit mags, I’d also suggest buying sample copies (which are usually cheap, in the $5-$10 range). For both, the point is not so much supporting the magazine (though it helps that way) as getting to know what they publish. I’m just reiterating classic advice here, but it pays to know the market; many years ago I read in Writer’s Market a fiction listing wherein the editor said that most of the stories he rejected ‘were inapt, rather than inept,’ a line that’s stayed with me. To be honest, a couple of my publications have come about via shot-in-the-dark submissions to magazines I hadn’t read, but in all cases going about it that way took a needlessly long time and was pretty much a matter of getting lucky.

One thing I’d (sort of) disagree with Robert about is submitting to lesser-quality journals. I wouldn’t submit to the kind of places he mentions, either, but I want to warn against taking this mindset too far. My overall theory on this goes as follows: insofar as I’m going to keep writing short stories, and presumably they will be better than the ones I wrote last month, I’d do well to have some publication credits to list in my cover letter so that these (hypothetical) better stories get a more favorable reading when I send them to Tin House and Harper’s. (To refer to the Hot Metal Bridge experience again, editors are absolutely influenced by the previous publications listed in a writer’s cover letter (although, in support of Robert’s point, listing a long string of journals with ridiculous titles that no one’s ever heard of won’t necessarily help your cause).)

This is not to say that you shouldn’t send your best stories to the best literary magazines, and in general give every story a good chance to be published somewhere you’d be excited to see your work. But if your best stories keep getting form rejections, and you’ve already gone down the ladder quite a ways, in my opinion you should be open to submitting those pieces just about anywhere and moving on. (If this advice seems really abhorrent to you, though, consider acknowledging that these pieces are not quite working and going back to the drawing board. I’ve done this before and, while it can be pretty damn humbling, the redrafted pieces were far better than what I started with.) You want to avoid the kinds of questionable publications Robert talks about, but my own feeling is that when your book of stories comes out, the place where the fifth story in the collection was published will be of minor interest to anyone. The way to inch closer to publishing that book of stories, meanwhile, is getting those pieces published rather than their collecting dust on your hard drive.

Finally, this is a little beyond the scope of the question being considered here, but I would recommend reading and thinking about this post, by Blake Butler (as recommended by Cathy Day, a Pitt professor]. The internet has made it incredibly easy to reach out to writers whose work you like, and with sites like Facebook it’s not at all difficult to stay connected with those people in a kind of support network. Doing so can help in practical terms: a couple lit mags have friended me (after rejecting my stuff kindly) and having them on my news feed has alerted me to some interesting contests, calls for submission, etc. But in terms of karma or whatever, supporting others’ work is also a good thing to do.”

Salvatore Pane’s Guide to AWP

Believe it or not, AWP is less than two months away. Hosted in Denver from April 7th through the 10th, this year’s conference promises to have its share of swoon-inducing moments for the literary inclined (seriously, George Saungers and Etgar Keret are reading at the same event. THE SAME EVENT). But you should take it from me, a past AWP attendee, and really try to not waste your time at the conference if it’s your virgin trial. With that in mind, I present to you my own personal guide on the 2010 AWP Conference.

1. AWP Is Not (even though it kind of is) a Party

This was my experience at AWP last year. I drove eight hours from Pittsburgh to Chicago in a car with three lovable lunatics. I arrived. I marveled at so many people interested in literature gathered together in one place. Then I proceeded to drink for 72 hours. Sure, I saw Don Lee and Dan Chaon in a bar. And Pitt prof Irina Reyn introduced a few of my friends to one of the friendly people over at BOMB who eventually got me my book reviewing (non-paying) gig. I also had the utmost pleasure of seeing Charles Baxter and Stuart Dybek read back-to-back.

But for the most part I partied. I didn’t go out of my way to network, and for the most part, I drank with the three friends I drove with or old pals from college who I hadn’t seen in a while. Sometimes I even drank with other Pitt MFAers who I see on a regular basis. And on the final night, I completely avoided AWP and drank my way through Rigleyville. The bottom line here is that AWP is a social event. There’s a lot of coffee and booze. And a lot of writers, agents and editors to meet. You should enjoy yourself. You should have a good time. But don’t let AWP turn into an all-out vacation, a mistake I made in Chicago. If you want to take a trip with your buddies, take it. If you want to meet some people who could point you in the right path career-wise, then get a little more serious.

Don't spend the entire conference boozin' with this guy miles away from the convention.

2. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!

Since I’d never been to AWP before last year, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t realize there would be so many panels, and I had no idea the conference was frequented by so many writers, editors and agents. And the literary journals! So many literary journals. Tables and tables of them for as far as the eye could see.

So I dabbled without accomplishing much of anything at all.  I saw a panel on applying to fellowships which has been invaluable this last year and I got that BOMB reviewer job while purchasing a ton of lit mags. It’s clear now that I could have done a lot more in 72 hours had I simply arrived with a plan. That will not be the case in Denver. I’ve already decided which panels to attend and what my two major goals are. A) Find more outlets for book reviews, and B) An agent approached me about my work last week, so I guess it’s time to begin that type of search. Figure out why you’re going to AWP and accomplish you goals. That may seem like obvious advice, but it’ll feel a lot less obvious when you arrive and are distracted by ten-million things that  seem equally interesting all happening at the exact same time.

3. General Pointers

A couple minor, yet helpful, points. Make sure you head into the book fair on the last day of the conference. There will be a ton of lit mags there and the staffs probably don’t want to pay to ship unsold issues back to wherever it is they came from. That means journals will sold with a heavy, heavy discount. Be on the lookout for major deals. I picked up nearly 20 different magazines for $25 last year on the final day.

Don’t feel like you have to stay at the same hotel where the conference is happening. The AWP hotel is going to be utter madness and pretty expensive. Shoot for one even two blocks away and you’ll have already saved major money before you even arrive.

Head to the conference hotel bar at night. As I learned last year, the major parties are behind closed doors within the hotel itself, but you’ll find a lot of interesting people in the main hotel bar if you wander in after ten. That’s where I met Dan Chaon, Don Lee and the BOMB editor last year.

Do not go to the nightly AWP Dance Party. It's a nexus to hell.

4. OHMIGAWD THE PANELS!

Below, I’ve assembled all the panels I’ve seriously considered attending this year along with commentary in red (Unfortunately: I’ll only be at AWP Wednesday through Saturday morning this year so you’re on your own concerning the last day). Read at your own discretion.

THURSDAY

9-10:15am

Room 111
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R109. Play Ball!: The Language of Sports. (Michael Garriga, William Giraldi, Michael Griffith, Cathy Day, Andrew Ervin) Our national pastimes have the unique ability to transcend lines that normally close off other avenues: race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Jackie Robinson, Nadia Comaneci, Muhammed Ali, Tonya Harding, and Michael Vick have all been touchstones for greater discussions on our society, bringing together speakers and opinions from different demographics. This panel examines the use of sports in fiction, and how it can be utilized for a larger purpose while speaking a common language.

Cathy Day has been a mentor to me for the last three years. Check out her panel!

Room 108
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R106. Reading, Writing, and Teaching the Literary Fantastic. (Sarah Stone, Joan Silber, Melissa Pritchard, Doug Dorst, Sylvia Brownrigg) We’ll explore how fabulous or numinous fiction can be meaningful and believable: from completely alternate worlds to literary ghost stories to essentially realist stories that depict characters’ beliefs about the supernatural. We’ll consider great examples and describe ways for writers and their students to unlock their own inventions and move beyond genre cliches. The panel will include handouts with reading lists and writing exercises.

Sounds pretty interesting for those of us immersed in pedagogy and wackiness.

Room 203
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R113. Grants, Proposals, and Queries: How to Write about your Writing. (H.M. Bouwman, Swati Avasthi, J.C. Hallman, Matt Rasmussen) Writers spend a lot of time on the craft of writing but sometimes not enough on the craft of presentation. Presenting what you write about in short forms is a special skill set that you can develop and hone. This panel (composed of writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) will discuss how to summarize your work and make it stand out in this tight economy by incorporating a sense of voice and purpose into grant applications, book proposals, and queries.

Very interested in this as it’s always seemed so odd to me that writers spend years and years preparing themselves for a novel, memoir, or poetry collection but virtually no time working on the letter that could get them in the door.

Room 303
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R118. The In Sound from Way Out: Submission to Publication. (M. Bartley Seigel, Margaret Bashaar, Aaron Burch, James Grinwis, Jennifer Pieroni, Roxane Gay) Editors from five eclectic little magazines—Bateau, Hobart, PANK, Quick Fiction, and Weave—unpack their editorial projects and processes, quirks and anomalies, across genres, and invite questions to initiate dialogue among panel and audience members.

Great advice here for writers just starting out on the journal submission route. There’s a lot of these types of panels at AWP, but this one has Jennifer Pieroni, who picked one of my pieces for Quick Fiction, and Weave Editor Maragaret Bashaar from Typewriter Girls, a cool group that does literary events around Pittsburgh.

12:00-1:15pm

Room 110
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R153. Going Long: The Long Short Story. (Jill Meyers, Josh Weil, Suzanne Rivecca, Karen Brown, Christie Hodgen) The long short story is a literary form revered but not often published. It offers a generous scope and a larger world for readers; for writers, an opportunity to get messy. Four skillful practitioners of the form gather to read from their works and to discuss the form’s challenges and rewards. What happens when you write beyond the ending?

I’ve been working on a novella in the early stages for a little over a month now. Starting to wonder about what options I’ll have in terms of sending it out into the world. Hope this will address that very issue.

Room 203
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R156. A Pen Behind Your Ear: Gathering, Editing, Publishing, Marketing, and Promoting an Anthology. (Andrea Hollander Budy, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Kurt Brown, Camille Dungy, Michael Martone) Five editors of recent anthologies will discuss all aspects of creating an anthology, including making selections, locating and working with a publisher, obtaining permissions to reprint previously published material, working with designers, and attracting readers. As the panelists are also writers themselves, they will also discuss the pleasures and challenges of editing an anthology while trying to maintain their writing lives.

Two things: 1) Who doesn’t want to edit an anthology? and 2) MICHAEL MARTONE!

Rooms 401, 402
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R163. What’s Your Platform? What Agents & Editors Are Looking For in Writers. (Christina Katz, Jane Friedman, Robin Mizell, David W. Sanders, Sage Cohen) Yes, the quality of your writing still matters. But becoming visible and influential is more crucial to landing a book deal than ever, according to agents and editors in every facet of the publishing industry. Aspiring authors need to develop a platform in order to get noticed. Fortunately for emerging writers in all genres, there are more affordable, accessible tools available for platform-development and building, which make this important responsibility a pleasure and not a chore.

This is one of the worst hours of AWP because it’s so jam-packed with stuff. Any of these three panels sound amazing, yet there’s nothing I’m super pumped about at the 10 o’ clock hour. Such overwhelming sadness!

1:30-2:45pm

Room 112
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R177. Following the Paths to Publication: First Books and What Happens Next. (Dan Wickett, Seth Harwood, Anis Shivani, Shawna Yang Ryan, Lowell Mick White) The first book is an important, joyous event in the life of any writer. Yet the process of achieving the first book is rapidly changing, largely through accelerated technologies and increasingly fractured demographics. How can writers successfully react to these changes? What constitutes ultimate success? On this panel, five debut authors will discuss their varied paths to publication, the impact the book has had on their lives, and the larger implications of change in publishing practices.

As you may, or may not, know: I’ve been working on this novel. I have a second draft, and I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s time to start thinking about the next step.

Rooms 401, 402
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R186. Ecotone 5th Anniversary Reading. (Ben George, Robert Wrigley, Benjamin Percy, Kathryn Miles, Cary Holladay, Reg Saner) Ecotone, the award-winning semiannual magazine published at UNC Wilmington, celebrates its 5th anniversary in 2010. In its short life, the magazine has already had its work reprinted in several annuals of the Best American series and in the Pushcart Press anthology, among others. Ecotone seeks to bring together the literary and the scientific, the personal and the biological, the urban and the rural. Please join us for a reading by six of our outstanding and widely acclaimed contributors.

BENJAMIN PERCY! I saw this guy read at Gist Street back in 2007/2008, and he was ridiculous. His voice is just like the guy who does movie trailers. Also, he made fun of my current roommate for drinking a highball I ordered him. Recommended. Oh, and Ecotone is a pretty sweet journal as well.

3-4:15pm

Room 205
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R203. That’s Private!—Using Personal Details About Others’ Lives in Fiction. (Steven Schwartz, Antonya Nelson, Ann Cummins, Sylvia Brownrigg) The measure of nonfiction is how closely one adheres to the truth; the measure of fiction is how much one changes it. But what happens when a writer finds it necessary to include the exact details of someone else’s life? The panel’s four writers will chart their relationships to the private and public. In a genre that assumes transformation, when, why, and how do writers disguise the truth, and when does the unaltered truth make good fiction?

Not sold on this one, but it could turn out to be really interesting, especially if you’re the type of writer that smashes together fact and fiction.

Room 111
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R200. Just Passing Through: The Pros and Cons of the Visiting Professor Position. (David Ebenbach, Jerry Harp, Kevin Haworth, Stephanie Reents, Brandi Reissenweber, David Wright) Tenure-track jobs in Creative Writing are always in short supply. In our current climate many of us are turning instead to visiting professorships, sometimes moving from one visiting position to the next. What are the advantages of such positions? How can you use them to help your writing and your employment prospects? What are the downsides? The panelists, current or former visiting professors, offer their experiences and advice on how to navigate the world of the visiting professorship.

This could (hopefully) be my future. Better gain some knowledge.

4:30-5:45 p.m.

Room 107

Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

R219. Literary Laughter: Humor in Fiction Writing. (Teresa Milbrodt, Stephen Powers, E. C. Jarvis, Michael Czyzniejewski) This panel examines humor in our fiction writing and the work of other writers we admire: how we elicit laughter by delving into surreal or bizarre worlds, creating intelligent disjunctures in conversation, or finding moments for literary slapstick. While we explore the function of the comic in these writings, we also ask if humor writing can be taught, or if it is inherent in one’s style or particular way of looking at the world.

Very interested in humor in literary fiction and also whether or not this is a specific aspect of writing that is impossible to teach. Don’t know the names of the panelists but sounds intriguing enough.

8:30-10:00 p.m.

Centennial Ballroom
Hyatt Regency Denver, 3rd Floor

R237. Keynote Address by Michael Chabon, Sponsored by the University of Colorado, Denver. . AWP’s 2010 Keynote Address by Michael Chabon.

Pulitzer winner! Former Pitt grad! Friend of Chuck Kinder! You better believe I’m going to this one.

FRIDAY

9-10:15am
Room 203
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F112. University of Arizona MFA Alumni Reading. (Aurelie Sheehan, Robert Boswell, Gregory Martin, Kristi Maxwell, Richard Siken, Padma Viswanathan) The University of Arizona MFA Program celebrates its 35th year with an alumni reading featuring work of fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry. Come hear some of the many exceptional and groundbreaking authors who spent their earliest days reading, writing, and pondering craft in Tucson, a literary oasis in the Sonoran Desert.

I am a huge fan of Robert Boswell. “The Darkness of Love” is one of the very first short stories I fell in love with, and two of his novels, Crooked Hearts and Century’s Son, are among my absolute favorites. If you’re a Boswell virgin, then attend this. If you know him, you’re already going.

Rooms 401, 402
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F119. The Place of Place: Crafting Place as Character in Fiction. (Sejal Shah, Margaret Lazarus Dean, Geeta Kothari, Michael Byers, Jesmyn Ward) It’s a commonplace notion that setting can be so central to fiction that the landscape can become a character—even a central character. But how, in craft terms, does it come to pass that place can inhabit fiction as much as fiction inhabits place? Five fiction writers will discuss their approaches to writing place—both urban and rural—in their works, drawing on settings as diverse as Bombay, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Upstate New York, Cape Canaveral, Washington State, and the American Midwest.

I’ve always been very drawn to setting in fiction and have thought about putting together a panel like this myself. Also, it’s got Geeta Kothari and Michael Byers, both Pitt people.

10:30-11:45 a.m.

Room 110
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F129. The MFA in Academia. (Matt Tullis, Joe Oestreich, Kyle Minor, Emma Bolden, Miroslav Penkov) This panel focuses on first-year experiences of MFA-degree holders holding tenure-track (or comparable) jobs in academia, including finding a job, defending the MFA as schools look for PhDs and generalists, and defending your scholarship in the face of colleagues who may not see it as serious work. It will look at how these attitudes differ greatly from institution to institution, how to move from a visiting to a tenure-track position, and how to carve out writing time amidst a heavy teaching load.

This is something I take pretty seriously: the idea that the “work” of an MFA degree holder is just as valid (if not more so) than the “work” of a PhD graduate. I have a LOT more to say on this subject, but will avoid it for now. Just be aware that this panel exists and deserves serious attention.

Room 111
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F130. Summer Writing Conferences: What they Offer, How to Choose the Best One for You. (James Jordan, Rob Spillman, Wyatt Prunty, Claudia Emerson, Rebecca McClanahan, David Lynn) The director/founders and writer-teachers of the Tin House Writers’ Conference, The Kenyon Review Writers’ Conference, and The Sewanee Writers’ Conference discuss their workshops, faculty, and culture, informing poets and writers about their communities and educational and networking opportunities, including the application process, craft and guest lectures, workshops, selecting a workshop leader, and scholarships. The panel is moderated by a recent participant of these conferences.

I need to know more about summer conferences. A couple people suggested I attend a few this summer, but Jesus H. Christ are they expensive. I’m planning on attending something by Summer 2011, but going mere weeks after finishing graduate school is just not fiscally responsible for me. Hopefully this panel will help me understand more about the whole topic.

Room 303

Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F138. The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, & Writers in the Field. (Abby Beckel, Randall Brown, Kim Chinquee, Sherrie Flick, Robert Shapard, Lex Williford) Join five of the twenty-five contributors to this ground-breaking anthology for a roundtable discussion on the history, cross-cultural influences, reemergence, and current practices in the field of flash. These authors also will offer exercises and read examples of stories that will be of use and interest to anyone who writes, teaches, edits, or just generally enjoys the short short form.

Sherrie Flick runs the best reading series I’ve ever been to: Gist Street. And also, I’m a huge fan of flash fiction, and Rose Metal was way ahead of the curve on this shit. This one looks like a highlight, folks.

12-1:15pm

Room 108

Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F150. Indie Mags: Publishing Outside of MFA Programs and Other Institutional Support. (J.W. Wang, Aaron Burch, Dave Clapper, Mike Young, Jennifer Flescher, Blake Butler) Independent journals provide an alternative to the established journals affiliated with universities and creative writing programs, and they frequently serve as pioneers in the world of literary publishing. Join editors from Tuesday; An Art Project, Hobart, NOĂ– Journal, Juked, Lamination Colony and SmokeLong Quarterly for a roundtable discussion about the workings of independently-published literary journals, what it takes to keep them going, and what these journals mean to potential contributors.

Having served as Editor-in-Chief of an online literary mag with virtually ZERO support from the institution that was supposed to be backing it, this is a definite pet interest of mine, especially in the wake of all the great new online journals that have sprung up seemingly overnight.

Room 110
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F152. An Insurgent Surging: The Case for the Novella Now. (Josh Weil, Michael Knight, Tom Franklin, Cynthia Reeves) This panel will examine the novella as a renegade art form whose time has come. We will discuss the underappreciated rewards the form offers writers, readers, teachers, and publishers. But the focus will be on the craft of writing novellas—challenges, rewards, and the unique approaches that the form—all directed towards answering this question: why is right now the right time to refocus attention on the novella?

*See thoughts above the novella above. Also, Tom Franklin is kind of a badass. I saw him give a personal reading at Tom Bailey’s house a few years back. His collection Poachers is very good.

Rooms 401, 402
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F164. The Future of Book Publishing: How Authors Should Navigate the New Market. (Mary Gannon, Dennis Loy Johnson, Jeffrey Shots, Michael Reynolds, Lee Montgomery, Julie Barer) Editors and agents will discuss the changes that have occurred in the practices and policies of literary publishing—from acquiring books, producing them in all of their incarnations, and marketing them. They will also offer timely advice on how authors should best navigate the changing industry and the new market.

*See thoughts about becoming more professional above.

Granite Room
Hyatt Regency Denver, 3rd Floor

F168. Pen, Screen, Action: Digital Storytelling in the Writing Classroom. (Shannon Lakanen, Daniel Weinshenker, Christina Fisanick, Kayann Short) This panel explores the ways writers take creative writing from the page to the screen by incorporating still images, voice over narration, video footage, soundtrack, and nonlinear editing to create digital poetic, narrative, and reflective texts. Panelists will share their experiences teaching digital storytelling in community and college workshops, examples of the work produced in these forums, and the challenges and advantages this multimodal form offers writers and artists.

Shit! I love incorporating digital storytelling into my work and produce a major boner when thinking about using it in the classroom. This one may demand my attention.

1:30-2:45pm

Centennial Ballroom
Hyatt Regency Denver, 3rd Floor

F189. The Southern Review 75th Anniversary Reading. (Jeanne Leiby, David Kirby, Sydney Lea, Steve Almond, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Beth Ann Fennelly) Founded in 1935 by Robert Penn Warren at Louisiana State University, the Southern Review celebrates seventy-five years of publishing the best contemporary fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction by the world’s most accomplished writers.

The Southern Review. Steve Almond. I hope he’s selling his independent chapbook.

3:00 p.m.-4:15 p.m.

Room 108

Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F196. From MFA Thesis to First Novel—Five Writers Share Their Stories. (Sheila O’Connor, Geoff Herbach, Nami Mun, Valerie Laken, Patti Frazee, Margaret Lazarus Dean) Is the MFA thesis an end or a beginning? How do we know if our thesis project is a viable book or an early draft that still requires radical revision? For books that need revision, how do writers practice the necessary discipline novels require over the long haul? How do emerging writers secure agents and publishers for that first book? Focusing on the challenges and triumphs of seeing theses projects into print, five first- time novelists will share their diverse writing and publishing experiences.

I’m not even going to bother discussing why I so desperately want to attend this one.

Room 109

Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F197. What We Hate: Editorial Dos and Don’ts. (H. Emerson Blake, Katie Dublinski, Andrew Leland, Denise Oswald, Daniel Slager, Rob Spillman) You won’t find this in the FAQ. Get it straight from the source. Six distinguished magazine and book editors speak candidly about what they love and loathe and everything in between. What do editors really want from writers? What do they absolutely not want? If you’re positively sure you know the answers to these questions, then don’t come to this panel featuring editors from The Believer, Graywolf Press, Milkweed Editions, Orion, Soft Skull Press, and Tin House.

I’ll probably end up picking the MFA Thesis to First Novel panel, but this one will probably be really great for writers just beginning to prep their work for submission.

4:30 p.m.-5:45 p.m.

Room 203
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F222. Plot as Ritual, Not Representation. (Debra Monroe, Antonya Nelson, John Dufresne, Lynne Barrett) A reader approaches a story expecting what Iris Murdoch called the consolations of form: concordance, development, characters who matter, a past which applies, and an ending which changes our perspective on the beginning and middle. Plot is not an imitation of life’s details as much as an antidote to the random way we experience life’s details. The writer can find tension between details and use it to forge a plot that’s resonant and yet startlingly new. Plot generates, not stifles, a story’s content.

Antonya Nelson? ANTONYA NELSON! If I can see both her and her husband (the aforementioned Boswell), my life will be complete.

Room 304

Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F228. This Story Based on Actual Events. (Jotham Burrello, Randall Albers, Maggie Kast, Sharon Solwitz) At the end of the movie, Europa, Europa, color gives way to documentary black and white, and it hits us: this fiction is based on reality. Does this matter? Does reality affect the reader’s belief in the story? Every fiction creates what Umberto Eco calls its small world, the part of reality needed for its telling. How do fact and fiction mesh in stories with an element of real time or place? Four writers of reality-based fiction discuss this interaction in their works and the works of others.

I kind of just picked this one because I like the movie Europa, Europa. Dark horse panel!

Rooms 401, 402
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

F229. Navigating Chaotic Changes in Literary Magazine Publishing. (Melanie Moore, Maribeth Batcha, Carolyn Kuebler, William Pierce, Stephanie G’Schwind) Join publishers and editors from American Short Fiction, One Story, AGNI, Colorado Review, and the New England Review for a discussion of the opportunities and challenges in the current “publishing crisis.” As more readers come to expect free content on the internet, how can literary publishers continue to pay writers, sustain their operations, and build their audiences? As paradigms shift, learn how these magazines are adapting their business models and their magazines to succeed.

That is one helluva lineup of journal editors. THIS is the big lit journal panel of the conference. If you go to one, make it this one.

8:30-10:00pm

Centennial Ballroom
Hyatt Regency Denver, 3rd Floor

F234. A Reading by George Saunders & Etgar Keret, Sponsored by Wilkes University Low Residency MA/MFA Program in Creative Writing in association with Blue Flower Arts. A Reading by George Saunders & Etgar Keret.

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!?!?!?! Saunders!!!! Keret!!!! AT THE SAME EVENT! I can’t even take this I’m so fucking happy. I didn’t think anything would top the Charles Baxter/Stuart Dybek double-punch from last year, and now they call up George Saunders! Well-played, AWP, well-played indeed.


Rediscovering Nonfiction

A few weeks ago I was at a multi-genre reading with segments of fiction and nonfiction. I sat. I listened. I thought about how cultured I was. And I was utterly bored, especially during the creative nonfiction components. It was mostly navel-gazing and that genre I hate more than anything in the entire world: “Memoir of a Privileged, White Twenty-Something”. Ok, I guess that’s slightly better than “Memoir of a Privileged, White Twenty-Something Who Goes To The Third World and is Enlightened Spiritually”.  I sat there scowling and thinking about how much I used to love CNF back in college when I enjoyed literary journalism as well-deserved respites from devouring novel after novel after novel. I sat there thinking how I no longer cared about the genre.

In a workshop class I’m taking, writer Cathy Day has us thinking about “the negative cultural and critical reaction to personal nonfiction writing vs. its popular/commercial appeal”. It’s interesting that in an era of publishing history when nonfiction greatly outsells all facets of fiction that CNF, particularly the memoir, is under attack. Check out Taylor Antrim’s tirade on The Daily Beast. How about Maud Newton’s slam over at the LA Times? Two big name authors who swung through Pittsburgh both discussed how much they disliked CNF: Lorrie Moore and Aleksandar Hemon.

I can only speak to my own experience. I’m not a huge reader of the genre. I’m very often bored by memoirs, especially if the writer isn’t famous or hasn’t gone through something exceptional. I don’t read nonfiction for assurance that I am not alone in the universe and that there are others out there like me; that’s why I read fiction. These are my favorite works of CNF: On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner. Lives on the Boundary by Mike Rose (light pedagogical theory). Portions of Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (a pedagogical biography).  No More Vietnams by Richard Nixon. Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman. A Tragic Honesty: The Biography of Richard Yates. And New New Journalism, a fantastic collection with long, informative essays by writers as varied as John McPhee and Hunter S. Thompson.

I bring these up to illustrate a point. The Rumpus recently ran an interesting article about why people read nonfiction. It quotes John D’Agata who asks, “Do we read [nonfiction] to receive information, or do we read it to experience art?” I think this is the fundamental sticking point in the nonfiction debate. I’ve looked at my shelves, thought about this question and my own instinctively negative reaction towards memoirs. Clearly, I’m not reading nonfiction for art. No one who lists the prose of Richard Nixon as a favorite could possibly be looking for art, and it’s now obvious I value the genre for its ability to distill and disseminate information.

So to sum up: I think that a bunch of leather-elbowed professors and critics sitting around trying to decide whether CNF is a bankrupt genre is silly. It’s different from fiction. The two genres aren’t in competition with one another. People whose natural instinct it is to chide CNF are probably just coming at it from a different viewpoint: they’re not looking to experience voice, or sometimes even emotion in nonfiction; they’re looking for (at times clinical) information. And if that’s your primary motivation for reading nonfiction, it’s difficult to really compare it to fiction in any favorable way. Nor should you.