Going to the AWP Conference and Bookfair in Washington DC? It’s Assay’s first table at AWP’s bookfair and it’s our first panel, so we’re really excited to count down the days!
We’re looking for guest bloggers to write up reports of nonfiction and pedagogy panels, readings, interviews, and more, because we haven’t figured out how to clone ourselves and be in three places at once. (I’m sure I’m not the only one having a hard time deciding which panels to go to.) We’re also looking for bookfair reports and other write-ups of the goings-on. So many things to do and see.
Check out Thursday’s schedule below of panels and if you’d like to claim a panel to write about, let us know in the comments (and we’ll cross it off our list here). While these are not the only panels you could report on, remember that Assay is most interested in nonfiction, craft, and pedagogy. We’ll let others cover the fiction and poetry. We’re looking for summary of the panel/panelists, poignant quotes, and personal reactions–aim for 500-700 words. The goal is to give those who aren’t there a good idea of what went on. These reports are also a way that we include writers, teachers, and readers who may not be able to attend the conference. It’s a wonderful act of literary citizenship, and in advance, we’re grateful for your time.
Once your blog post is ready, use Submittable to send it to us, along with a one or two line bio and we’ll post them ASAP. Be sure to include the original panel information, so we can include that with your post. We want to post these on a rolling basis as the conference is going on. We’ll post the Friday and Saturday calls for bloggers in the next few days. Please finish up your panel submissions no later than a week following the conference. Deadline for conference reports: Feb. 19.
Thursday, February 9
9:00 am- 10:15 am
R120. Dylanology. (Toby Thompson, Ron Rosenbaum, David Kinney, Amanda Petrusich, Scott Warmuth) Five authors discuss the pleasures and pitfalls of writing about Bob Dylan, how best to research material about his work, and what the impact of Dylanology has been on rock criticism and biography. Panelists debate the merits of rock writing in this era, as well as its relationship to the craft of literary nonfiction. Through the lens of Dylan criticism and biography, suggestions for how best to research, write, and shape books about Dylan’s and other songwriters’ lives and work are offered. [PH]
R121. Writing in a Time of Terror and Environmental Collapse. (Imad Rahman, Jacob Shoes-Arguello, william wenthe, Anne Sanow, Jacqueline Kolosov) How do writers give shape to the experiences of war, terrorism, and the disregard for life endemic on this planet? Muriel Rukeyser believed that denying the responsiveness to the world could bring forth “the weakness that leads to mechanical aggression… turning us inward to devour our own humanity, and outward to sell and kill nature and each other.” Given global terrorism and the spoliation of the planet, the stakes in being able to respond are terribly high. Writers working in poetry, prose, and hybrid forms, will discuss their ways of meeting this challenge in their works past and present, including the difficulties they face and the sources from which they take inspiration.
R122. What Journalists Can Teach Literary Writers . (Yi Shun Lai, Valerie Boyd, William Gray, Moni Basu) In nonfiction, is it ever okay to fudge facts, timing, or quotes? For journalists, the answer is no, but literary authors can struggle with the balance of craft and facts. Nonfiction storytelling is an increasingly hybrid form, yet few creative writing students learn the journalism basics—how to interview people, attribute sources, or successfully incorporate research. This panel of print and broadcast journalists emphasizes the magic combination of accurate reporting and literary technique. [MT] R123. The Body in Words: Teaching Creative Techniques in Sound Symbolism, Sexuality, Silences, and the Feminist Working Class. (Michelle C. Wright, Laurel Perez, Jillian Merrifield) How do sounds, sexes, silences, and class structures play out in creative making? This multimedia presentation probes into the embodied dynamics that inform not only workshop practices, but also how students take up multiple genres and make sense of creative processes. Questions about race, gender, class, and language and how the body is constructed make for persuasive techniques, asking participants to engage in craft as contributing to social meaning-making and alternative knowledges. [MG]
R129. Tell the Truth and Lie to Me. (Meghan Daum, Lisa Glatt, David Hernandez) What happens when a novelist obviously mines from her own life, or a nonfiction writer invents whole scenes that never occurred, or a poet convinces the reader of bearing witness to a fabricated experience? Is there an ethical agreement between reader and writer that dictates these parameters or does art conquer all? In this panel, writers from three different genres read from their own work and discuss how factual accuracy shapes their writing. [AP]
R131. Know Your Place: Great Lakes Literary Arts Organizations on the Impact of Location. (Karen Schubert, Kelly Fordon, Janine Harrison, Lee Chilcote, David Hassler) As literary arts centers, we consider ways we are shaped by community. How does our landscape frame the search for funding? What local problem might we take on? Who is our target audience, and what idiosyncratic barriers might they face? How does information move? Should we avoid duplicating other organizations? What is the artistic context and density of our place? Join nonprofits, new to seasoned, for a discussion on knowing the neighborhood and being responsive to a local community.
R132. The Long from the Short: Turning Flash Pieces into a Novel, Novella, or Memoir. (Abigail Beckel, Kelcey Parker Ervick, Lex Williford, Tyrese Coleman, Tara Laskowski) Intimidated by the daunting feel of a longer project? Or simply looking for a different way to craft a full-length project? Novels-in-flash and memoirs-in-flash are growing in popularity as a perfect marriage of the concision of stand-alone flash pieces and the narrative possibilities of full-length books. Authors and editors of the form offer tips on conceptualizing and crafting a longer work-in-flash, highlighting examples, as well as advice on publishing, marketing, and teaching the form. [Ryder Sollmann Ziebarth]
10:30 am to 11:45 am
R141. Global Narratives Within US Literature. (Carolina De Robertis, Laleh Khadivi, Achy Obejas, Patricia Engel , M. Evelina Galang) In a world where cultures transcend borders, what defines US literature? How is a writer’s experience, aesthetic, and vision shaped by carrying more than one country in her skin? What particular challenges and opportunities exist for writers whose work springs from a global, multicultural source? Authors of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from Iran, Lebanon, Cuba, Ethiopia, and Uruguay discuss their experiences as global voices working within the United States.
R142. Writing from the Wound. (Kelly Sundberg, Carmen Machado, Aspen Matis, Lisa Nikolidakis, Hugh Martin) Trauma-based nonfiction sells, but at what personal and professional cost? How can we maintain a literary standard when writing about loaded topics such as war, murder, rape, or abuse? How can we resist an impulse towards melodrama, hagiography, and cliché? And is there a point at which the writer must take a break, or even give up? Panelists will discuss how to navigate the world of trauma writing and maintain a high level of craft while telling intensely personal, yet universal, stories. [BW] R151. Guilty Pleasures: Autobiography into Fiction.(Bonita Friedman, Alice Dark, Patricia Foster, Marilyn Abildskov) This panel will examine the ways that writers formed by memoir and the personal essay utilize their life story as a catalyst for fiction. How do writers use the emotional capacities of the self as a model for a fictional character? How do they embellish, complicate, and make revelatory the known self, the self whose paradox is the tension of their being? Such characterization suggests a delicate negotiation between vanity and abjection, aggrandizement and repression. Why not stay with memoir? [Covered by L. Moretz.]
R154. Innocents Abroad: Essaying with Study Abroad Students . (John Bennion, Richard Katavoas, Gail Wronsky, Eric Freeze, Stephen Tuttle ) “We do not learn from experience,” John Dewey said; “we learn from reflecting on experience.” Writing journals and essays can aid reflection, but student travelers may not know enough to go beyond stereotypical responses. The process of essaying helps them be better observers, so the drafting process is worth the time spent, even in a busy itinerary. This panel, composed of experienced study abroad leaders, will discuss how to help students essay as they travel.
R156. But That’s Not How It Was: Memoir Writers on Pushing Back Against Expected Narratives. (Alice Anderson, Wendy Ortiz, Laurie Cannady, Lynn Hall, Zoe Zolbrod) When we’re writing about hot button topics such as sexual assault, domestic abuse, and poverty, there are often expectations about how the story should go. These common archetypes can be deeply held not just by general readers and publishing’s gatekeepers, but also by our inner selves. The writers on this panel share strategies for sorting out how society thinks we ought to have responded to trauma from how we actually did, and when and how to resist the pressure to conform to an expected line. [P. Guinsinger]
12:00 pm to 1:15 pm
R169. Imagining the Essay. (Rebecca McClanahan, Lia Purpura, Ander Monson, Lauret Savoy ) Imagination, which might be defined as unfettered curiosity, a hunger for inner adventure, and a willingness to incarnate in the other, is at the heart of the essayist’s craft. On this panel, four essayists/teachers of the form (representing personal, lyric, narrative, and hybrid subgenres) discuss ways to imagine into one’s work by reconceiving structure and time, inviting contradictions and collisions, attending to the strangeness of fact, and moving aurally and physically with language. [ML}
R170. Beyond “Show, Don’t Tell”: How to Give (and Get) Truly Dynamic Feedback. (Neil Connelly, Cheryl Klein, Shawn K. Stout, Kekla Magoon) From workshop to marketplace, everyone agrees that constructive criticism is crucial. But what are the secrets to more meaningful feedback? Editors from two major publishing houses join with three of their writers to share the approaches and winning techniques that have worked best for them—in the industry and in the classroom. Whatever your experience or preferred genre, you’ll hear specific strategies for offering criticism with a keener eye and listening with a more receptive ear.
R174. No, You Tell It! True-Life Tales with a Twist. (Minna Proctor, Heather Lang, Mike Dressel, Jessie Vail Aufiery, Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons) No, You Tell It! is a nonfiction reading series dedicated to performing true-life tales with a twist: each participant develops their own story on the page and then flips scripts with a partner to present each other’s story on stage. A hybrid of a literary series and storytelling show, No, You Tell It! blends the collaborative process of creative writing workshops with the intimacy and immediacy of theatrical performance to provide the audience with a charged evening of personal stories.
R182. The Multiheaded Beast: Challenging Genre in Creative Nonfiction. (Dinty W. Moore, Sonya Huber, Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Daisy Hernandez, Catina Bacote) Nonfiction is often divided into categories, but memoirs needn’t just be remembered events, essays needn’t focus solely on rumination, and literary journalism isn’t merely about what one observes. Our nonfiction is richer when we braid the sub-genres into a coherent whole, using all the tools available. Panelists discuss how they weave research on community policing, queer identity, and rebel teachers in Oaxaca, for instance, into their memoirs and essays, so readers are informed as well as captivated. [K. Craigo]
R185. Writing in the National Parks’ Artist-in-Residence Program. (Kim O’Connell, Marybeth Holleman, Bill Maxwell, Diana Friedman, Alice Fogel) Broad vistas, calm woods, reedy rivers, unsettling isolation—the National Park Service offers a range of experiences for writers in its Artist-in-Residence program. Unlike some writers’ residencies that are more communal, the NPS A-I-R program offers writers total solitude and a deep connection with place. This panel of five writers—representing Denali, Shenandoah, the Everglades, Catoctin Mountain Park, and Carl Sandburg Historic Site—will share how a park residency can inform one’s writing.
R188. VIDA Voices & Views: Exclusive Interview with Joan Naviyuk Kane, Ada Limón, & Alicia Ostriker. (Sheila McMullin, Melissa Studdard, Joan Naviyuk Kane, Ada Limón, Alica Ostriker) Calling attention to a plurality of voices by interviewing writers and dedicated members of the literary community about their work, vision, concerns, and topics at the forefront of literary activism, this panel contributes to a better understanding of craft, the literary landscape, and issues facing artists. Panelists seek to foster nuanced conversation about gender parity, race, and other crucial issues impacting writers today as well as speak to how their work expands this conversation. [RKP] R191. Write Your Memoir like a Novel. (Joanna Rakoff, Tova Mirvis, Dani Shapiro, Marie Mockett, Christa Parravani) What happens when a novelist writes a memoir? Some of the rules change: no more making everything up. But crafting a memoir requires many of the same skills used in writing fiction. A memoir is filled with characters that need to be developed—even if one of those characters is you. Real-life events still need to be shaped into an arc. This panel, comprised of fiction writers who have written memoirs, will discuss ways to use the techniques of fiction writing to bring a memoir to life. [Ryder Sollmann Ziebarth]
R195. Degree of Change: Using Your MFA in Social Justice Nonprofit Work. (Tara Libert, Julia Mascioli, Kathy Crutcher, Emma Snyder, Juan Peterson) Three dynamic nonprofits using literature to elevate unheard voices and share untold stories describe their unique collaboration and discuss opportunities for MFA writers to bring about social change. Shout Mouse Press, PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools Program, and Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop facilitate writing workshops, publish original works, and provide author visits in DC’s most marginalized communities.
R199. Black Magic Women: Black Women Examine Creativity in Digital Spaces . ( Renée Alexander Craft, Jacqueline Bishop, Michele Simms Burton, Rochelle Spencer, Audrey T. Williams) Five black women examine different forms of creative expression—poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and film—in digital spaces. The presentation, which will feature both sounds and images, will explore the different ways that artists can navigate digital spaces and push their vision forward. It will also address some of the challenges women and people of color may face in garnering an audience for their work and offer strategies for overcoming these challenges.
R200. News of the World: Fact-Based Practice in the Creative Writing Classroom. (Nathalie F. Anderson, Betsy Bolton, Nzadi Keita, Lisa Sewell, Elaine Terranova) How do we engage undergraduate writers, so often invested in personal expression, in the more analytical processes of fact-based exploration? How do we guide them in incorporating archival and observational materials into their work? How do we encourage them to give dry facts—scientific or historical or statistical—new life on the page? Five teachers, including poets, memoirists, and fiction writers, explore this pedagogic challenge through their project-oriented course designs.
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
R201. Mining a Dark Vein: Writing About Appalachia and America’s Working Class. (Larry Bingham, Amy Clark, Crystal Wilkinson, Jeff Mann, Jill McCorkle) Six hours from the capital, in the Appalachian coalfields, lives a working class—people feeling angry, marginalized, and stereotyped. On display during elections, this misunderstood population spans thirteen states but is largely absent from America’s literary conversation. In this panel, five writers with intimate knowledge of Appalachia explore how we can understand its traumas, value its truth, and tell its complex stories.
R202. Asian-American Generations at Coffee House Press. (Karen Yamashita, Bao Phi, Vi Khi Nao, Sun Yung Shin, Evelina Galang) Since its founding, Coffee House has striven to make its publishing list as diverse as America. This has meant publishing many authors from “underrepresented” groups, but in particular it’s become known for publishing some of the most exciting Asian-American writers in the country. Younger generations have been drawn to the press because they have been inspired by those mentors that came before them. These writers talk about influence and what it means to share a publisher and a community.
R203. I Didn’t Ask to Be in Your Story: When Real Names Matter and When They Don’t. (Michael Steinberg, Mimi Schwartz, Phillip Lopate, Richard Hoffman, Laurie Stone) When do real names matter? The decision involves ethics, liabilities, trust, and friendship, and it is one we face whenever writing about family, friends, and strangers whose stories are entwined with ours. Suppose we see people differently than they see themselves? Or they have secrets we need to reveal? Or there are unintended consequences? Suppose disguise limits or enhances truth? Five nonfiction teacher/writers share their experience telling other people’s stories as part of our own. [MG] R211. If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say: How to Write Stories People Don’t Want Told. (Garrard Conley, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Michael Twitty, Kristen Green) We all know not to talk politics, religion, or money at the dinner table, but should these subjects be off limits for storytelling? Some of the best writing comes from tackling topics people would rather not discuss. These journalists and memoirists have written about gay “conversion” therapy, segregation in school, shameful family secrets, and tracing slave lineage. The panelists will explain how to report stories when sources don’t want to talk, and will share the price they paid for doing so. [ML] R215. Speaking of the Dead: Craft & Ethics in Nonfiction.(Peter Selgin, Dustin Beall Smith, Lidia Yuknavich, Gayle Brandeis) Writing about the living poses obvious risks: broken trusts, wounded feelings, turn ties, damaged reputations, and possible legal and social repercussions. But what risks confront us in writing about the dead? That the dead can’t defend themselves does not free us, as writers, from our responsibilities toward them and their legacies; if anything it increases them. In speaking of the dead, what are those responsibilities? The panelists share their experiences. [L. Woodall]
R216. The Elegy Endures: 30 Years of Community Witness to HIV/AIDS. (Terry Wolverton, David Groff, Irene Borger, Reginald Harris, Michael Broder) In the 30th anniversary year of the first public display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in Washington, DC., LGBTQ writers who have continually addressed the pandemic of HIV/AIDS in their own work, on websites, in the editing of anthologies, and in conducting community workshops, reflect on the power and agency of the written word in confronting, interpreting, even transforming, the loss, the politics, and the legacy of this devastating plague that persists into our own time.
R221. Understanding the Role of the Author as a Reader and Reviewer. (Michael Miller , Caroline Leavitt, Pam Houston) Ask any writer what inspired them to write, and they’ll likely agree that they were a reader first. So what changes about their approach to reading once writers are published? Do reviews by authors carry more clout than reviews by professional book reviewers? How do authors decide what to review when they get overwhelmed with requests, and what happens when authors inadvertently offend another writer through their review?
3:00 pm to 4:15 pm
R233. The New New New Journalism: Reporting with the I. (Jennifer Percy, Chris Feliciano Arnold, Jose Orduna, Kerry Howley, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich) Four decades after Tom Wolfe coined the term “new journalism” and a decade after Robert Boynton hailed Susan Orlean, Jon Krakauer, and others as “new new journalists,” subjectivity in journalism is hot again. Five writers whose work sometimes straddles the line between memoir and journalism discuss where that line is, if it’s moved over the past years, what a personal perspective can bring to reporting—and what the legacies of Wolfe and other writers mean forty years into being “new.”
R242. Major Problems with Minor Characters in CNF.(Penny Guisinger, Tessa Mellas, Alexis Paige, Amy Monticello, Randon Noble) Just like fiction, CNF includes major and minor characters. The ex-husband, the relative, the neighbor—these characters serve an important role in a minor way. We do not have the space to fully develop them, so we choose something about that person that best serves the piece. However, unlike fiction, these are real people who didn’t ask to be in our writing, and often don’t appreciate being represented one-dimensionally. This panel explores techniques for managing this problem.
R245. Mommy Dearest/Daughter Darling: Putting Words in Her Mouth. (Michelle Herman, Kathyn Rhett, Cade Leebron, Meghan Daum, Maggie Smith) Whose story is this anyway? Women writing about their daughters and women writing about their mothers—and a mother and daughter pair of nonfiction writers who frequently write about each other and thus offer an unusual lens on the question of “story ownership” and point of view—come together across the genres to talk about the challenges, joys, pressures, and consequences of exploring these relationships in both poetry and prose with real-life examples of writing and publishing experiences. [EK]
R247. Agents of Change: Social Justice and Activism in the Literary Community. (Ashaki Jackson, Elmaz Abinader, Tony Valenzuela, Leigh Stein, Nicole Sealey) How do we, as writers and literary arts organizers, bring about change in the greater literary community? And how do we move from intention and discussion about race, gender, and inequality to action? This panel brings together literary organizations to discuss their roles as social justice activists in the writing community. These prominent members of national literary organizations examine the current issues and challenges facing the community and the steps necessary to move forward.
R254. Evidence Research and Imagination: Using Research to Illuminate, Shape, and Expand Creative Writing. (Mary Rockcastle, Paisley Rekdal, Peter Geye, Joni Tevis) Research can inspire writers to move beyond the limits of the self and to remain alert for knowledge. The panel will take a multigenre approach to writing creatively using research: as a source of inspiration; a tool for developing characters, plots, settings, and texture; a way into a deeper understanding of the material; a structural device; and a means to increase credibility. We will also share useful research practices and ways of integrating research effectively into the text. [Ryder Sollmann Ziebarth]
R259. Celebrating 15 Years of American Lives: A University of Nebraska Press Reading. (Joey Franklin, John W. Evans, Sonja Livingston, Barrie Jean Borich, Joy Castro) To celebrate fifteen years of publishing American voices, the University of Nebraska Press showcases five authors of literary nonfiction who represent the broad spectrum of backgrounds, generations, and writing styles indicative of the series. Working in diverse forms and points of view, these authors provide glimpses into singular American lives, and their work coalesces into a richly textured portrait of our contemporary culture.
R263. The Animal That Therefore I Am: “I”-ing and Eyeing the Animal. (Elena Passarello, Steven Church, Matthew Gavin Frank, Clinton Crockett Peters, Lisa Couturier) Derrida once lectured for eight hours about standing naked in front of his staring cat. Essayists are known for standing “naked” in front of their audiences, looking at the world while also looking in. How do these two acts of gazing converge when essayists turn to animals? What are the problems of anthropomorphism? In this panel, five authors of recent creative nonfiction on the animal kingdom discuss their approaches to essaying animals, combining their “I” with the eye of the house cat (or of the tiger).
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
R279. The Politician as Writer: The Rise of the Political Autobiography. (Rachael Hanel, Jesse Goolsby, Keith Urbahn, Stephanie Sheu-Jing Li) Cash donations, an advising team, focus groups—and a book? Barack Obama’s 2004 book, Dreams From My Father, started the recent trend of politicians who first hint at a national campaign by releasing an autobiography. Join the discussion as a literary agent, a novelist and former Pentagon speechwriter, and professors who study English and public relations critically examine these books from literary and marketing perspectives. Can a book be promotional and still have literary merit?
R280. Come Firewalk with Me: The Black Mind. (Morowa Yejide, Jeffrey Renard Allen, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Jason Reynolds) Black storytelling is a trip down the rabbit hole of the American experience, a complex odyssey of myth and reality. The psychological landscape of African American literature is one of mental captivity, boundless genius, and reinventions of the self. How can the labyrinths of this inner world be brought to the page with authenticity and depth? Panelists examine the black mind in story as both sojourn through darkness and flight of the phoenix.
R289. Amplifying Unheard Voices. (Dave Eggers, Jennifer Lentfer, Rajasvini Bhansali, Mimi Lok) In a world of 24-hour news cycles and soundbites, whose stories get heard, and whose don’t? How can we challenge the single story portrayal of human rights issues and of marginalized communities? This event sparks a lively conversation about the power of the story in human rights, and the roles of two organizations—Voice of Witness, a literary and human rights nonprofit, and Idex, an international development organization—in amplifying unheard voices in the United States and around the world.