Salvatore Pane

Tag: George Saunders

2013 AWP GUIDE

I’ve been blogging about AWP for the last four years. You can check the previous guides here (2012, 2011, 2010). So I’m not going to ramble on too much with advice. You know how I feel about AWP. For me, it works best when I plan less. There’s too much to do, and every year it seems like I have more obligations and more friends and writers to meet. I’m never able to do even a fourth of what I’d like to, and often, my favorite moments of the conference have nothing to do with writing. Some of my favorite moments from last year were catching up with old classmates over a tray of deep dish pizza, or the time Kevin Tassini and I dragged Katie Coyle all over Chicago to look for video games. Just go and have fun. Be productive, but don’t overstress.

If you want to see me at AWP, there’s a few options. I’m doing a book signing at the Braddock Avenue Books table from 10:30 to 11:45 on Thursday. Come on down. Buy my book. Hug me? I’ll probably do a few more, and I’ll keep you posted here or via Twitter. I’m also participating in a panel on Thursday from 9-10:15am in Room 108 of the Plaza Level:

R109. Landing the Tenure-Track Job without a Book: What to Expect in the Job Market. (Kevin McKelvey, Salvatore Pane, Keya Mitra, Robert Long Foreman) In a competitive academic job market, how do you make yourself stand out without a book? Writers will discuss their diverse paths to tenure-track jobs and how to develop pedagogy for newer fields such as graphic novels and established fields like professional writing, screenwriting, composition, editing, and publishing. Panelists will discuss publications and teaching loads, how a visiting or contract position can turn into a permanent job, and whether or not you need a PhD.

If you want to see me read, come to this:

tpa

 

So let’s party. Let’s hang out. Let’s be cool. Below is my list of all the panels I’m interested in attending. Remember, these aren’t the “best” panels–I don’t even know what that would mean exactly. These are just the ones I’m going to try and make. Just relax and be cool. I’ll have an off-site guide posted soon.

THURSDAY

12:00-1:15

Room 200, Level 2

R167. Only Half as Crazy as We Seem: Exploring Unconventional Strategies for Indie Lit Startups. (Steve Westbrook, Matty Byloos, Carrie Seitzinger, J.A. Tyler, Skyler Schulze) At present, the notion of developing an independent literary startup tends to be perceived as a naïve dream or a bad business idea. Defying conventional wisdom, contributors to this panel discuss their recent experience of founding successful new journals, presses, and a reading series. As they examine how their efforts toward sustainability intersect or contradict industry lore, they offer strategies for developing alternative funding structures, distribution models, and marketing techniques.

Room 206, Level 2

R172. Literary Writers Writing Popular Fiction: What’s Up With That? (Ed Falco, Julianna Baggott, Lise Haines, Benjamin Percy) What exactly are we saying when we refer to a novel as literary or serious fiction, as opposed to popular or commercial fiction? Can clear distinctions be made? What do these commonly used terms—literary, serious versus commercial, popular—mean to writers? Is it possible to write a commercial novel that is also literary? Writers who have published literary works as well as novels that might be considered popular fiction explore these and other relevant questions.

Room 313, Level 3

R185. Too Much or Not Enough? Expectations in the Introductory Multi-Genre Creative Writing Classroom. (Carrie Shipers, Laurel Gilbert, Heather Kirn Lanier, Casey Thayer) Five teachers from two-year colleges will discuss best practices for teaching introductory-level multi-genre creative writing classes. What are the unique challenges of teaching creative writing in this setting, and how do we respond to them? Panelists will address how much (and what kind) of writing students should do; the appropriate role of reading student and published texts; expectations for revision; and the efficacy of full-class workshop.

1:30-2:45

Room 102, Plaza Level

R187. Party Down: Effective Fundraising Events on the Cheap. (Steph Opitz, Maribeth Batcha, Paul Morris, Eric Lorberer) Fundraising events don’t need to be fancy dinners and formal wear—learn from folks from One Story, PEN America, and Rain Taxi about producing effective and novel small fundraising events and strategies on a budget.

Room 104, Plaza Level

R189. Nothing but the Truth: Perspectives on Creative Nonfiction in the Classroom and Beyond. (Catherine Cortese, Michael Martone, Diane Roberts, Robin Hemley, Debra Monroe) Creative nonfiction continues to grow in popularity among readers and students of writing. The genre, however, lacks a standard definition. Some believe the slippery nature of perception affords writers infinite liberties, while others see the genre as one that artfully deploys stable facts. This disparity makes the genre tricky to write and trickier to teach. The writers on this panel will discuss the freedoms and constraints of the genre in their classrooms, as well as in their own work.

Room 200, Level 2

R196. From Parts to a Whole: Turning a Bunch of Essays into a Unified Book. (David Giffels, Chuck Klosterman, Sean Manning, Chuck Klosterman, Meghan Daum) Why do some books of essays feel like collections of B-sides, outtakes and orphans, while others carry the thematic and narrative satisfaction of a good concept album? Drawing from their own experiences, this panel of successful authors discusses vital techniques for conceiving, organizing, developing, and enhancing a collection of creative nonfiction essays into a unified whole. We will address how to balance recurring themes, maintain voice and tone, how to build bridges, and other topics.

3:00-4:15

Room 103, Plaza Level

R218. Does Place Still Matter? The Relevance of Regional Fiction in the 21st Century. (Brett Boham, Stewart O’Nan, Susan Straight, Alex Espinoza, Michael Jaime-Becerra) Attempts to categorize American literature often begin and end with region. Southern fiction. New England poetry. Midwestern novel. But to what extent is regionalism a useful lens through which to understand contemporary American literature? How do so-called regional writers conceptualize place? And has the expansion of the American counterculture and social media forever changed the landscape of regional fiction? Panelists will discuss the advantages and limitations of thinking regionally.

Room 105, Plaza Level

R220. All the Young Dudes: A Reading from Four Debut Collections. (Jared Yates Sexton, Eugene Cross, Andrew Scott, Jensen Beach) It’s said that everyone has stories, but publishing those stories, particularly a book-length collection of them, is proving more confounding a process than ever. Join four emerging writers with debut collections for a short reading from their work, followed by a Q&A session detailing how they got their first book deals, their experiences in attracting presses and navigating contracts, and an array of advice for aspiring scribes.

Room 200, Level 2

R226. Second Sex, Second Shelf? Women, Writing, and the Literary Marketplace. (Christine Gelineau, Erin Belieu, Bobbie Ann Mason, Lydia Diamond, Meg Wolitzer) Statistics suggest a gap still exists. But is there a problem, and if there is, what is its nature? What changes/remedies/metamorphoses can/should be imagined? Do you think about this issue differently in terms of your writing and in terms of your career? Accomplished writers, who happen to be women, theorize and report out of their own experiences and analysis of the current literary scene.

Room 206, Level 2

R231. The New Kids in the Class—Teachers Under 35. (Michael Croley, Laura van den Berg, Erica Dawson, David James Poissant, Holly Goddard Jones) Five professors discuss their transition from graduate student to faculty member and the advantages and difficulties their age has posed in negotiating—and finding—their teaching styles with undergraduate and MFA students as well as what role(s) they take on in their courses and departments. The session offers insights and best practices regarding the first few years on the job in and out of the classroom, while also discussing how gender may affect the perception of a young teacher.

Room 305, Level 3

R238. Oh, Grow Up: Writing Kids’ Voices in Literary Fiction. (Alexi Zentner, Alison Espach, Aryn Kyle, Haley Tanner) A lot of literary writers are writing young adult novels, but what about writing the voices of young adults and children in literary fiction? Five novelists talk about how to create believable young voices in adult fiction, how to avoid the imitative fallacy, the power of narrative distance, and how to balance grown-up needs while having kids in the story.

Alice Hoffman Bookfair Stage, Exhibit Hall D, Level 2

BF16. Major Jackson’s Ploughshares Issue Reading. (Ladette Randolph, Major Jackson, Maggie Dietz, Emily Bernard, David Huddle) Ploughshares literary magazine editor-in-chief Ladette Randolph will host a reading to celebrate Major Jackson’s guest-edited issue. Jackson will read from his work and speak briefly about his experience selecting work for the magazine. He will be joined by contributors from his issue, including Maggie Dietz, Emily Bernard, and David Huddle.

4:30-5:45

Hynes Ballroom, Level 3

R244. Alice Hoffman & Tom Perrotta: A Reading and Conversation, Sponsored by Grub Street. (Christopher Castellani, Alice Hoffman, Tom Perrotta) Internationally best-selling writers Alice Hoffman and Tom Perrotta, authors of over thirty books between them, read from their recent fiction. After the reading, Grub Street artistic director and novelist Christopher Castellani moderates a discussion that focuses on how these authors continually appeal to wide audiences with novels and stories of great depth, subtlety, and cultural relevance. The discussion will also touch on how these authors use humor and magic in their work, the creative roles they’ve played in their film adaptations, and other topics related to the craft of fiction.

Room 104, Plaza Level

R248. Eros in the Classroom. (Heather McNaugher, Michele Morano, BK Loren, Eileen Myles, Barrie Jean Borich) More than a few academic careers in literature and writing were ignited by a crush on a teacher. But desire in the classroom is constructed, often for good reason, as threatening and inappropriate; we therefore don’t acknowledge or talk about it. This panel, inspired by Michele Morano’s recent Ninth Letter essay, “Crush,” speaks plainly and honestly about the overlap of desire and pedagogy, and how the writer-teacher has constructively channeled it into her/his creative work.

Room 200, Level 3

R255. Thoreau’s Granddaughters: Women Writing the Wild. (Suzanne Roberts, Cheryl Strayed, Pam Houston, Gretchen Legler, Li Miao Lovett) Do women approach writing both the wildness of the land and the wilderness of their own bodies differently from men? Do women have a uniquely feminine vision of what it means to be wild? Are they judged by a different set of aesthetics? These five women panelists, including memoirists, novelists, and poets, will discuss their literary influences, the joys and challenges, and the internal doubts and external criticism they face in writing the wild.

Room 208, Level 2

R262. What to Do Before You Debut. (Randy Susan Meyers, Nichole Bernier, Jane Roper, Carleen Brice) Authors are often naïve about their role in finding readers, and they are rarely taught the iterative steps involved in the process of a book launch. Panelists will share specific methodologies, from best practices for websites, publicity, marketing decisions, and working with publishing houses, to assessing the line between awkward hawking and reasonable audience building. Timelines, methods, and tools offered will be balanced with discussion of the art of finding comfortable promotional voices.

Room 309, Level 3

R270A. Southern Writers in Exile. (Michael Croley, Richard Bausch, Michael Griffith, Steve Yarbrough, Brad Watson) Writers who identify as southern don’t often stray far from home, but as some have moved into teaching positions, they find themselves now living all over the country, out of their comfort zones. This panel explores how that distance has affected each writer’s approach to their craft and teaching, as well as what it means to be a southern writer no longer living in the South, and what role regionalism plays in the landscape of American literature.

FRIDAY

10:30-11:15

Room 103, Plaza Level

F134. Courage, Craft, and Cunning: From MFA Thesis to Published Book. (Jayne Anne Phillips, Will Schutt, Christa Parravani, Ryan McIlvain, Akhil Sharma) This panel features poets and fiction writers whose manuscripts began in their MFA thesis and progressed through revision and invention to first books published by respected presses. Each will read for four minutes, discuss mentorship in their MFA programs, and compare notes on structuring first books, publishers, and the cunning (as in artful, resourceful) required of writers whose lives embrace far more than writing. Audience Q&A will follow.

Room 109, Plaza Level

F139. The Geek in Me: Writing from the Cultural Fringe. (Ethan Gilsdorf, Lizzie Stark, Peter Bebergal) Geek and fringe subcultures such as Dungeons & Dragons, Larping, psychedelia, punk rock, and comic books can be ideal portals through which to examine the self, construct narratives, and comment on the culture at large. In this session, three panelists whose books mix memoir, pop culture, and ethnography discuss best practices for breaking into subcultures conducting fringe culture reportage and using that research to tell powerful and poignant stories about the human condition.

12:00-1:15

Room 101, Plaza Level

F161. Experimental Fiction Today. (John Parras, Daniel Green, Alissa Nutting, Ted Pelton, M. Bartley Seigel) Editors, writers, critics, and teachers discuss recent trends in experimental fiction and how such work enriches the publishing landscape, the creative writing workshop, and the direction and function of literature itself. What are some of the more exciting trends in innovative fiction? What are the special challenges and rewards for writers testing fiction’s limits? How does fabulist work work? If all literature is innovative, what distinguishes the experimental from other types of fiction?

Room 200, Level 2

F171. Does the World Need Another Literary Magazine? (Tom Bligh, Catherine Dent, Dave Essinger, Karolina Gajdeczka, E. Ethelbert Miller) Undergraduate literary journals encourage students to take responsibility for the shape and form of their work and to learn about publishing through firsthand exposure to the process. Panelists share unconventional wisdom on ways to help print and online journals survive and thrive while sustaining enthusiasm and maintaining high standards. Editors discuss the advantages to joining the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE) and explain how to start your own FUSE chapter.

Room 202, Level 2

F173. How to Build a Successful Kickstarter Campaign for Your Publishing Project. (Meaghan O’Connell, Benjamin Samuel, Mat Honan, Joshua Mandelbaum, Laurie Ochoa) Kickstarter moderates a panel of editors from Electric Literature, Words Without Borders, Slake, Longshot, and Tomorrow Magazine for an instructional and informational session on developing a successful Kickstarter campaign for your periodical or publishing project. We’ll walk you through the process step by step and discuss how to best represent your brand, set a fundraising goal, shoot a video, create rewards, engage backers, and promote your campaign.

Room 210, Level 2

F180. The Urge Toward Memoir. (Elisabeth Schmitz, Jill Kneerim, Michael Thomas, Jeanette Winterson, Lily King) Novelists Jeanette Winterson, Emily Raboteau, Michael Thomas, agent Jill Kneerim, and editor Elisabeth Schmitz discuss the writer’s urge toward memoir. What defines memoir and is it any more “true” or less creative a process than fiction? Panelists will talk about a favorite memoir and the forms they invented for their own.

1:30-2:45

Room 206, Level 2

F205. A Point of View on A Point of View. (Daniel Menaker, Amy Hempel, Bret Anthony Johnston) Point of view is the lens through which a writer conveys the vision of a story. But what is it about point of view that makes an editor pick an unknown writer out of a pile of unsolicited submissions? And what is it about point of view that makes a series of short stories cohere into an original and memorable collection? In A Point of View on A Point of View, distinguished editor Daniel Menaker and much-anthologized writers Amy Hempel and Bret Anthony Johnston turn a lens on the lens itself.

3:00-4:15

Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Level 2

F219. Don DeLillo & Dana Spiotta: A Reading and Conversation, Sponsored by The Center for Fiction. (Noreen Tomassi, Don DeLillo, Dana Spiotta) Celebrated novelists Don DeLillo, author of Underworld, Libra, and White Noise, and Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia, present readings, to be followed by a discussion moderated by Noreen Tomassi, Executive Director of the Center for Fiction.

Room 108, Plaza Level

F227. Write Short, Think Long: Exploring the Craft of Writing Flash Nonfiction. (Kathleen Rooney, Sue William Silverman, Peggy Shumaker, Judith Kitchen, Ira Sukrungruang) In celebration of this popular emerging genre, as well as the publication of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers, edited by Dinty W. Moore, five of the book’s twenty-six diverse contributors gather to discuss what makes good flash nonfiction memorable and unique, and to offer up ideas and techniques for writing, publishing, and reading the brief essay form well.

Room 202, Level 2

F233. Women on the Road: Exploration, Inspiration, and Imagination in Fiction. (Tara L. Masih, Mary Akers, Jessica Anthony, Midge Raymond, Laura van den Berg) An exploration of crafting stories and novels that place characters in distant regions and countries, and how travel abroad helped shape the countries of the panelists’ imaginations. Panelists will share travel experiences and photos, inspirations, readings, and the process of creative observation. Tips will be offered on using research to fill in travel gaps, both in contemporary and historical contexts, and on negotiating the complexities of writing about cultures different from one’s own.

4:30-5:45

Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Level 2

F250. Alison Bechdel & Jeanette Winterson: A Reading and Conversation, Sponsored by Emerson College MFA. (Alison Bechdel, Jeanette Winterson, Elisabeth Schmitz) Alison Bechdel, author of the graphic memoir Fun Home and the ground-breaking comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, and Jeannette Winterson, author of Written on the Body and the memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, present readings from their work followed by a discussion moderated by Elisabeth Schmitz, Executive Editor at Grove/Atlantic, Inc. The events will be introduced by Emerson College’s Steve Yarborough, author of the novels Safe from the Neighbors and The End of California.

Room 202, Level 2

F263. Blue-collar College Students and the Creative Writing Degree. (Jerry Wemple, Lawrence Coates, Claire Lawrence) Faculty from creative writing programs in rust belt regions that traditionally serve students from blue-collar backgrounds ponder what, exactly, they are preparing their students for, since most undergraduates will not become “professional” writers. The panelists discuss what they are trying to accomplish in their programs, what their graduates feel they’ve learned and how they are using that knowledge, and potential revisions to a program after re-assessment at the ten-year mark.

Room 206, Level 2

F266. Bring Out Your Dead: Writing Ghosts (and Zombies) in Literary Fiction. (Rebecca Makkai, Tea Obreht, Lauren Groff, Dan Chaon, Alexi Zentner) The ghost story thrives in literary fiction as well as the oral tradition, defying genre. How do we keep these compelling tales fresh? How do we frighten without resorting to cheap tricks? How do we navigate the borders between spirituality, science, doubt, and a reliable narrative voice? And why are we drawn to these themes again and again? Five writers introduce you to their ghosts and tell you how they summoned them.

Room 207, Level 2

F267. What We Write About When We Write About Music. (Laurie Lindeen, Rick Moody, Will Hermes, Jen Trynin, Jacob Slichter) All art aspires to music because it touches our hearts, souls, senses, and imaginations This panel of writers, musicians, and writing instructors loves, appreciates, knows, and plays music. They have written passionately about music in memoirs, essays, novels, songs, poetry, and blogs. Each individual on this panel would like to share his or her unique path with prose and music, and share their collective beliefs in the emotional, rhythmic importance of musicality when writing and when teaching writing.

Room 102, Plaza Level

F269. The Literary Legacy of Andre Dubus. (Matthew Batt, Andre Dubus III, Melanie Rae Thon, Nancy Zafris, Bruce Machart) Andre Dubus (1936-1999), author of nine volumes of fiction and two collections of essays, including Meditations from a Moveable Chair and Dancing After Hours, was a long-time resident of Haverhill, Massachussets, and is widely recognized as one of the greatest practitioners and teachers of the contemporary short story. Panelists, including Dubus’s son, a former student, a close friend, and a lifelong fan, will discuss their relationship with Dubus and what they learned from his work and life.

6:00-7:15

Room 110, Hynes Convention Center, Plaza Level

F283. Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE) Caucus. (Catherine Dent, Michael Cocchiarale, Esme Franklin, Andrew Baker, Sarah Gzemski) Are you an undergraduate interested in editing and publishing or a faculty member working with undergraduate students on a literary journal or small press? Come join FUSE for its annual meeting, which includes national elections and FUSE chapter updates, followed by a roundtable discussion. This year’s topic is the interdisciplinary nature of undergraduate publishing, i.e. how and why to forge good relationships among departments. Bring ideas and journals to exchange.

8:30-10:15

Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Level 2

F284. Amy Bloom & Richard Russo: A Reading and Conversation, Sponsored by Lesley University. (Leah Hager Cohen, Amy Bloom, Richard Russo) Amy Bloom is author of the New York Times best-selling Away: A Novel, and Where the God of Love Hangs Out, a collection of short fiction. Richard Russo is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls, Straight Man, and Nobody’s Fool. The reading will begin with an introduction by poet Steven Cramer, director of the Lesley University Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing, and will be followed by a discussion moderated by novelist and critic Leah Hager Cohen, author of The Grief of Others and House Lights.

Hynes Ballroom, Hynes Convention Center, Level 3

F285. Language at the Breaking Point, Sponsored by Blue Flower Arts. (Kwame Dawes, Jorie Graham, Terrance Hayes) Pulitzer Prize-winner Jorie Graham and National Book Award-winner Terrance Hayes stretch language past the barriers of mind and limitations of personal experience to reinstate a kind of dignity to the world. Their creative tensions puncture the commonplace allowing the familiar to dislocate, laying bare our tenuous connection to life. Yet grace and a vivid, wakeful presence abide. Their poems demonstrate how the excavation of language itself can shape new possibilities for imagination to evolve.

SATURDAY

9:00-10:15

Room 303, Level 3

S123. Puritan Scar, Scarlet Letter: Contemporary Writers on Hawthorne’s Masterwork. (John Domini, Amy Wright, Heidi Julavits, Jennifer Haigh) No novel so established Boston as a literary center as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), and few have left such an indelible trace across the American project since. Hester Prynne’s struggle raises core issues of outsider and community in all their moral contrariness. As art, too, the novel sets a rare challenge, working cross-gender and cross-genre, at once romance and realism, transcendental and ambiguous. Panelists assess the impact the book had both locally and worldwide.

10:30-11:45

Room 111, Plaza Level

S137. The Art and Craft of Short-Form Nonfiction. (Sarah Einstein, Joni Tevis, Brian Oliu, Chelsea Biondolillo) Can you write an essay in 140 characters? In 750 words or fewer? And can you get it published once you have? Join the managing editor of Brevity, two authors of short-form collections, and a graduate student working in this exciting new form as they share techniques and strategies for writing and marketing short-form nonfiction—from the lyric to the expository.

Room 200, Level 2

S138. The Lake Effect: A Celebration of Fifty Years of Creative Writing at Syracuse University. (Sarah Harwell, George Saunders, Arthur Flowers, Brooks Haxton, Christopher Kennedy) Syracuse University’s creative writing program celebrates its fifty-year anniversary with a reading by current faculty. The faculty will read from their own work as well as highlight work from a diverse and celebrated group of alumni and past faculty. Readers will include poets Brooks Haxton, Christopher Kennedy, and Sarah Harwell and fiction writers Arthur Flowers and George Saunders.

Room 207, Level 2

S144. Agents, Editors, and the State of Publishing. (Mary Gannon, Jofie Ferrari-Adler, Jennifer Joel, Chuck Adams) Agents and editors share behind-the-scenes perspective about what authors need to know about the changing industry of publishing. How have e-books, e-readers, and self-publishing affected the industry? With the closing of Borders and the growing influence of Amazon, how have changes to distribution channels affected the way publishers market books, and what does this mean for authors? How have the best practices for submitting work to agents and editors changed?

Room 302/304, Level 3

S148. Breaking the Jaws of Silence. (Sholeh Wolpe, Kim Addonizio, Tom Sleigh, Quincy Troupe, Yusef Komunyakaa) Poets are a threat to despotic regimes as light is a threat to darkness. In a project to benefit PEN USA’s Freedom to Write program, prominent American poets raise their voices and call on poets to bear witness, to collectively engage, to activate, to call, to give texture, to demand, to caress, to shatter, to build, and to never let the world forget.

Room 306, Level 3

S150. If These Walls Could Talk… Oh Wait, They Do! (Eleanor Henderson, Stewart O’Nan, Tea Obreht) The whole world is a stage, but as fiction writers we get to choose where and when to set a story. That decision can influence everything else in the novel, for better or worse. Four novelists talk about the pressures that settings, both urban and rural, can place on our fiction, and how and why to make choices about landscape.

12:00-1:15

Room 209, Level 2

S172. From the University of Nebraska Press: Readings from The Prairie Schooner Book Prize Anniversary Reader. (Hilda Raz, Shane Book, Brock Clarke, Jesse Lee Kercheval, Susan Blackwell Ramsey) A perfect time capsule of the diverse, experimental trends in American poetry and short fiction over the last ten years, The Prairie Schooner Book Prize Anniversary Reader pulls together excerpts from all twenty winning books of Prairie Schooner’s Book Prize Series. The Press will launch this anthology at AWP 2013; come listen to four of the most successful winners read and hear Hilda Raz, legend and influential founder of the Book Prize Series, discuss finding work that speaks to our living moment.

Room 302/304, Level 3

S174. Write Where You Know: When Setting Serves as a Main Character in a Novel. (John Roche, Jennifer Haigh, Thomas Kelly, Richard Russo) Richard Russo’s bestselling novels, including Pulitzer-winner Empire Falls, uniquely capture a sense of place, whether it’s dying blue-collar towns in upstate New York or New England enclaves. Thomas Kelly, the author of three novels praised for their authentic depiction of New York City, and Jennifer Haigh, whose four novels include Faith, set in Boston, will join Russo in discussing the importance of setting in their fiction, at times to the point where place itself becomes a main character.

Room 306, Level 3

S177. Reading by Grand Central Authors. (Benjamin Percy, Julianna Baggott, Ed Falco) Discover three of the strongest voices in contemporary fiction at a reading by Grand Central’s finest. Julianna Baggott is the author of Pure, the first book in a postapocalypic series which was a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Ed Falco’s most recent novel, a prequel to The Godfather titled The Family Corleone, is based on material excerpted from screenplays by Mario Puzo. Benjamin Percy’s new novel, Red Moon, is an epic and terrifying story of lycans set in the American West. Prepare for a thrilling night—and take the cannoli.

1:30-2:45

Room 306, Level 3

S204. How to Lose Friends and Alienate Loved Ones: Exploitation vs. Documentation in Creative Nonfiction. (B.J. Hollars, Roxane Gay, Marcia Aldrich, Ryan Van Meter, Bonnie J. Rough) Not every story is flattering, nor is every character. Nevertheless, nonfiction writers continue to document their lives and the lives of others, often at the risk of violating personal relationships. How should writers navigate between revealing the true nature of their subjects without alienating the people themselves? Join four writers as they explore the fine line between documentation and exploitation, among other ethical dilemmas inherent in writing of friends, family, and loved ones.

3:00-4:15

Room 103, Plaza Level

S211. Video Games, Fan Fiction, and Comics: Alternative Genres as Legitimate Literature. (Leslie Salas, Jim Miller, Elaine Phillips, Kirsten Holt) Alternative forms of narrative are often perceived with disdain or suspicion even though they address the same plots, themes, and conditions of respectable literary forms. Comics have begun to break away from this stigma, but what about more mainstream genres, such as fan fiction and video games? How do all three of these alternative forms both threaten and reinforce ideas about originality and narrative? This panel will make the case for alternative genres as creative literature.

Room 200, Level 2

S219. A Reading by Matthew Batt, Jen Percy, and Rob Currie, Jr. (Matthew Batt, Ron Currie, Jr., and Jacob Paul) Matthew Batt, author of Sugarhouse, Ron Currie, Jr., author of God Is Dead, Everything Matters, and Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles, and Jacob Paul, author of Sarah/Sara, will read from their recent work, all of which deals with, in the face of catastrophic loss, the sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing ways we try to mend our lives.

Room 210, Level 2

S228. Art vs. Commerce: Writing for Love and Money. (Elizabeth Benedict, Stephen McCauley, Stephen Elliott, Maud Newton, Steve Almond) Grace Paley’s advice to writers: Keep your overhead low. But when teaching doesn’t lead to tenure, how do literary writers cobble together a living and a life while writing work that matters? Panelists who have had unconventional careers largely outside the academy examine their decisions and discuss the role of money, literature, and serendipity in their creative pursuits: editing an online literary magazine, writing soft-core porn, and creating advice columns, TV shows, and yoga books under a pseudonym.

Room 302/304, Level 3

S229. Z.Z. Packer & Meg Wolitzer: A Reading and Conversation, Sponsored by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. (Cheryl Strayed, Z.Z. Packer, Meg Wolitzer) Fiction writers will give a reading followed by a conversation about race, literature that happens to be written about women (as Wolitzer puts it in a recent New York Times essay), and the realities of the contemporary publishing landscape, moderated by Cheryl Strayed, VIDA board member and author of Wild. AWP participants are encouraged to join a brief Q&A period to be held afterwards.

4:30-5:45

Room 302/304, Level 3

S256. Smart Girls. (Terry Ann Thaxton, Terese Svoboda, Bobbie Ann Mason, Kelly Cherry, Elissa Schappell) Girl does not denote age but power—no men in it. No ladies-first either. A girl’s got gumption. A pre- and post-feminist name for great girl lit. Different from the chick kind, the just-hatched; we’ve been around, we’re serious. This is for women and men who go for it, featuring readings from our books that qualified us for The Smart Girls club. We represent a diversity of age, region, and genres.

8:30-10:00

Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Level 2

S263. Augusten Burroughs & Cheryl Strayed: A Reading & Conversation, Sponsored by the Wilkes University Low-Residency MA/MFA Program in Creative Writing. (Bob Morris, Augusten Burroughs, Cheryl Strayed) Augusten Burroughs, author of memoirs Running with Scissors and Dry, and Cheryl Strayed, author of the best-selling memoir Wild and the voice behind the Rumpus’s beloved “Dear Sugar” column, will present readings of their work, followed by a discussion moderated by columnist and commentator Bob Morris, author of the memoir Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating with My Dad. The authors will be introduced by playwright and novelist Bonnie Culver, director of the Wilkes University Low-Residency MA/MFA Program in Creative Writing.

Is Literary Fiction a Genre? Hint: Yes.

In a recent profile of Justin Cronin in the New York Times Magazine, Colson Whitehead is quoted as saying he’d “rather shoot [him]self in the face” than have another discussion about literature genres. I don’t blame him. When people ask me what kind of fiction I write, I usually say, “It’s about people,” and leave it at that. But as I read Ringwald’s book, I found myself pondering literary fiction: as a genre, as a taxonomical category. When It Happens to You, you see, is a sterling example of literary fiction, if we were to consider literary fiction as a straightforward genre like romance or science fiction, with certain expected tropes and motifs.

-Edan Lepucki in The Millions

Today, Edan Lepucki argues that literary fiction is a genre. This is something I’ve long thought. There are stylistic tics and repeated themes in literary fiction just as there are in sci-fi or fantasy. Lepcuki uses her argument to satirize a few recent trends from the major presses, but I would take this one step further. What I’m always telling my students is that lit fiction is the ultimate genre because it can synthesize all of the other genres as once. Lit fiction can use sci-fi tropes (look at George Saunders or Alissa Nutting), and it can use horror tropes (looks at Comrac McCarthy or John Fowles), and it can even draw from fantasy (look at Seth Fried or Wells Tower). It’s an umbrella genre that can examine “low” art through a “high” art lens. Do you guys think about it this way? Do you think of lit fiction as one more genre, or is it totally separate from the world of dime fiction and supermarket novels?

Course Sequences

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

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

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

Course Sequence

Week One

Wed January 4
Syllabus
Introductions
Justin Taylor “Tetris” HANDOUT

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

Week Two

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

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

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

Week Three

Mon January 16
Class Cancelled Martin Luther King Day

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

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

Week Four

Monday January 23
Workshop 1
Workshop 2

Wed January 25
Workshop 3
Workshop 4

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

Week Five

Mon January 30
Workshop 5
Workshop 6

Wed February 1
Workshop 7
Workshop 8

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

Week Six

Mon February 6
Workshop 9
Workshop 10

Wed February 8
Workshop 11
Workshop 12

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

Week Seven

Mon February 13
Workshop 13
Workshop 14

Wed February 15
Workshop 15
Workshop 16

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

Week Eight

Mon February 20
Workshop 17
Workshop 18

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

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

Week Nine

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

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

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

Week Ten

Spring Break – No Classes

Week Eleven

Mon March 12
Workshop 1
Workshop 2

Wed March 14
Workshop 3
Workshop 4

Fri March 16
Seth Fried “Loeka Discovered” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Week Twelve

Mon March 19
Workshop 5
Workshop 6

Wed March 21
Workshop 7
Workshop 8

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

Week Thirteen

Mon March 26
Workshop 9
Workshop 10

Wed March 28
Workshop 11
Workshop 12

Fri March 30
Scott Snyder “Blue Yodel” COURSE DOCUMENTS

Week Fourteen

Mon April 2
Workshop 13
Workshop 14

Wed April 4
Workshop 15
Workshop 16

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

Week Fifteen

Mon April 9
Workshop 17
Workshop 18

Wed April 11
Workshop 19
TBA

Fri April 13
TBA

Week Sixteen

Monday April 16
Fiction Pod

Wednesday April 18
Fiction Pod

Friday April 20
Final Portfolios Due

Course Schedule

Week One

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

Week Two

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

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

Week Three

Monday January 16
Class Cancelled Martin Luther King Day

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

Week Four

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

Wednesday January 25
Workshop 2
Workshop 3

Week Five

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

Wednesday February 1
Workshop 5
Workshop 6

Week Six

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

Wednesday February 8
Workshop 8
Workshop 9

Week Seven

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

Wednesday February 15
Workshop 11
Workshop 12

Week Eight

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

Wednesday February 22
Workshop 14
Workshop 15

Week Nine

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

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

Week Ten

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

Wednesday March 7
Class Cancelled Spring Break

Week Eleven

Monday March 12
Class Cancelled Spring Break

Wednesday March 14
Workshop 1
Workshop 2

Week Twelve

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

Wednesday March 21
Workshop 4
Workshop 5

Week Thirteen

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

Wednesday March 28
Workshop 7
Workshop 8

Week Fourteen

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

Wednesday April 4
Workshop 10
Workshop 11

Week Fifteen

Monday April 9
Workshop 12
Workshop 13

Wednesday April 11
Workshop 14
Workshop 15

Week Sixteen

Monday April 16
Writing Pod

Wednesday April 18
Writing Pod

Friday April 20
Final Portfolios Due

Fall 2011 Fiction Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writers

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

Journals

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

Comics

Fables

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

 

What Do You Talk About In Class? Art. Obsession. Tom Bissell. Power Structures.

I’m not sure if this is of interest to anyone on the entire planet, but I’ve been thinking about composition a lot recently and figured I’d post something in-between editing my ever-expanding rant about 1998’s stealth game classic Metal Gear Solid. This post is going to be about teaching, bitches.

 

My boy, RR, looking all fly and shit.

 

For those unaware, I was pretty much terrified of entering the classroom this fall. I spent the weeks leading up to the first day pacing my room a lot and imagining myself standing at a podium, droning on about something like Kanye West, and a student standing up and screaming at me. Telling me to go fuck myself. That I didn’t know anything and his parents hadn’t scrimped and saved for 20 years to have their child listen to some skinny nerd in a striped cardigan rant about George Saunders.

Luckily, that hasn’t happened (yet). In fact, I’ve discovered that I really, really like teaching. Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I can’t shut up. Put a cup of coffee in me and I will ramble for hours. Teaching college is a job where I’m expected to talk. A lot. And guess what? These kids have to listen. In fact, they’re paying to listen! That’s awesome.

The first half of the semester has gone pretty well, but I think I hit my stride during a recent unit in my comp class on art/obsession. I thought I’d share some of it with you. Obviously, class discussion is a HUGE component of this course, and there’s no way I could share that. But I think sharing course materials and assignments is really valuable. I spent a few hours this summer just looking through old syllabi and it really helped refine my thinking on fiction workshops and comp classes. So, without further nonsense on my part, here’s what my comp class read for the art/obsession portion of the course. Keep in mind, this was over maybe two weeks. We discussed each piece pretty heavily.

1. “Can a Woman Be a ‘Great American Novelist'” by Meghan O’ Rourke

2. Kellee Santiago’s Video Games Are Already Art Presentation at USC

3. “Video Games Can Never Be Art” by Roger Ebert

4. “Grand Thefts” by Tom Bissell

Here’s the assignment after two weeks of discussion:

Essay #4

Unlike previous essay assignments in this course, this time you will have a choice. Below, are three options for Essay #4. There is no bonus or penalty for choosing one of them over the other two. All three will be graded exactly the same way.

Option A (4-5 Pages)

“I woke up this morning at 8am fully intending to write this article. Instead, I played Left 4 Dead until 5pm. The rest of the day went up in a blaze of intermittent catnaps. It is now 10pm and I have only just started to work. I know how I will spend the late, frayed moments before I go to sleep tonight, because they are how I spent last night and the night before that: walking the perimeter of my empty bed and carpet-bombing the equally empty bedroom with promises that tomorrow will not be squandered. I will fall asleep in a futureless, strangely peaceful panic, not really knowing what I will do the next morning and having no firm memory of who, or what, I once was.”

–Tom Bissell in “Grand Thefts” culled from the essay collection Extra Lives

The nature of obsession is laid bare in Tom Bissell’s essay “Grand Thefts” originally published in The Guardian. In the span of a few years, Bissell went from being one of the most promising writers of his generation to snorting cocaine in Las Vegas before 30 hour Grand Theft Auto binges. But throughout his essay, Bissell never condemns or praises his dual obsessions: video games and drugs. Bissell writes, “There are times when I think GTA IV is the most colossal creative achievement of the last 25 years, times when I think of it as an unsurpassable example of what games can do, and times when I think of it as misguided and a failure. No matter what I think about GTA IV, or however I am currently regarding it, my throat gets a little drier, my head a little heavier, and I know I am also thinking about cocaine.” He takes a more complex view. He sees how games and even drugs have altered his reality in a pleasurable and even desirable way, yet Bissell also becomes aware of the danger he’s in, of how precariously he dangles over the edge.

For this essay, write about an obsession in your own life. Obviously, we do not expect you to be addicted to cocaine or Grand Theft Auto, but has there been a time in your own life when you felt the majority of your time and even thinking taken up by something other than yourself—say a sport, lover, TV show, video game, family member, getting into college, etc. etc.? Like Bissell, lay bare this obsession on the page. Also like Bissell, do not come to a simple conclusion. We’re not looking for, “I was obsessed with playing football, and my grades suffered. Therefore, football is bad.” Tom Bissell takes a complicated view on his subject. He sees that there are immeasurable pros AND cons regarding his obsession. You must find these pros and cons too. You must look inside of yourself, inside of your obsessions, and yank out that complexity.

Option B (4-5 Pages)

“I remain convinced that in principle, video games cannot be art. Perhaps it is foolish of me to say ‘never,’ because never, as Rick Wakeman informs us, is a long, long time. Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form.”

–Roger Ebert in “Video Games Can Never Be Art”

Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about what exactly constitutes art and who gets the right to proclaim that something isn’t art. Meghan O’ Rourke, in her article “Can a Woman Be a ‘Great American Novelist’”, made the claim that only white males are allowed to have their books considered art because of an unconscious bias on the part of the mostly white male book reviewers. O’ Rourke argues that writers like J.K Rowling and Jodi Picoult are not considered artists in the same way that author Jonathan Franzen is because they are women and not because of the quality of their work. Similarly, Kellee Santiago claims in her YouTube video presentation that Roger Ebert is wrong, that video games can be art, and in fact, already are art. Ebert’s response essay, “Video Games Can Never Be Art” very much defends his position. And of course, in class we discussed how there are some critics in the art field who believe that EVERYTHING is art. Take, for example, Pittsburgh-native Andy Warhol’s beloved 1964 project Brillo Boxes.

For this essay, you must come up with your own definition of art and argue for its validity using examples and logic just like O’ Rourke, Santiago and Ebert. In our society, what constitutes art? Do you take the hard-line view that only so-called “great works”—the classic novels and poems and paintings and operas—should be classified as art, or do you feel that everything—a sock, Transformers 2, the New York Knicks, a double cheeseburger—should be considered art? What is your stance? Prove it. Where do you draw the line?

Secondly, do you think that the specific people who have the ability to declare things art or not—Roger Ebert and the other critics who love Jonathan Frazen for example—in any way mimics the social power structure that governs our lives? Who in this society has power, and how do arguments about what and what is not art reflect that struggle?

Option C (1200 Words)

Pick Option A or Option B, and instead of writing your response in Microsoft Word, instead write your response on a WordPress blog. However, we’re not looking for an essay that simply exists on the internet. If you’re going to use a blog, you must embed its unique aesthetic features into your essay. You must use links, videos, and pictures in an organic way. If you choose this Option, there has to be compelling reasons throughout the text for why you’ve chosen to do a blog entry over a more traditional paper.

Audiobooks, Podcasts, THE FUTURE

Anyone who read my AWP Media Guide knows I’m a total over planner when it comes to having crap to do on long drives or flights. I’m going on a couple of big drives over the holiday weekend and have been pestering people about what new audiobook to get for the trip. After a lot of input, I settled on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, another Pitt MFA grad. But what I’m wondering about is what you all do for long drives. Audiobooks? Podcasts?

Before I discovered audiobooks (about twenty years too late, trust me I know), I was really into podcasts. On the literary side, I really dug the selections from The New Yorker, The Missouri Review, Selected Shorts and Hot Metal Bridge (which sadly doesn’t seem to put out new content anymore). Each one has their own unique feel and is well worth a listen. TNY is special in that it features a big name author (somebody like T.C. Boyle or George Saunders) who goes through the TNY archive, selects a story, reads it aloud, then does an interview about it with fiction editor Deborah Treisman. It’s always helpful to hear what other writers think about stories that aren’t their own, and I can remember very vividly listening to James Salter’s amazing “Last Night” on the TNY podcast and nearly swerving off the road during its creepy climax. TMR, on the other hand, uses its podcasts mostly for contest winners. What’s cool about their contests is that they’re often billed specifically as audio contests, meaning performance factors in. Nothing against TNY, but writers aren’t always the best public speakers. Selected Shorts is similar. They use professional actors to read all the stories which gives the podcasts a different flair. Sometimes they go a bit overboard and sound too stagey, but for the most part they succeed. Oh, and Hot Metal Bridge? We used to release our grad student readings. It was always nice to see your friends names pop up in iTunes I guess.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite comic book podcasts which have gotten me through many hours of driving and working out (via Twitter, Josh Flanagan assured me I’m not the only one who listens to iFanboy podcasts while biking). First up is the aforementioned iFanboy’s Pick of the Week podcast. Josh, Conor and Ron spend a little over an hour a week going over the major releases and answering fan questions. What I love about this podcast is that Josh, Conor and Ron have been friends since college (at least) and their discussion reflects this. There’s a chumminess to their show that’s not always present in other podcasts, and it reminds me of hanging out with my buddies back at Susquehanna, drinking forties and talking about Spider-Man. Next up is IGN’s Comics Smash podcast. Headed by three IGN editors, this one is released less frequently but also covers that month’s biggest comic and movie news. It’s a bit more informative and slightly drier but definitely one of my favorites. 

As for audiobooks, I typically stick with CNF (no memoirs). I find it difficult to focus on longer narratives while driving and prefer short stories or more informative books like Sarah Vowell’s Assasination Vacation or the almighty Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized Biography. But I want to flip this discussion and turn it back to you. What do you guys listen to on trips? What are your favorite podcasts? Your favorite audiobooks? Do you have strange preferences like I do when it comes to narrative and driving? And what lit podcasts am I missing? I heard Electric Literature releases its issues in podcast form now. Any other options like this out there?

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, NOÖ 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.