Thank you to everyone who has volunteered to report on Thursday and Friday panels at AWP! We’re really excited to hear your perspectives. Here’s the call for Saturday panels: if you’ve already signed up for a Thursday or Friday spot, feel free to sign up for another!
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. Please feel free to cover reading events, and it would be great to seek out reading events with a focus on diversity and write those up.
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, but please finish up your panel submissions no later than a week following the conference. Deadline for conference reports: Feb. 19, 2017.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
9:00 am to 10:15 am
S107. I’ll Take You There: Place in Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction. (Ethan Rutherford, Paul Yoon, Edward McPherson, francine harris) Establishing a strong sense of place in a work of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction is difficult but essential. As Dorothy Allison tells us, place is not just setting—a physical landscape—but so much more: it’s context, feeling, invitation, desire, particular language, and emotion. On this cross-genre panel, four writers will discuss the importance of place in their own work, how to put place on the page, and how to navigate the electric current between a physical landscape and an emotional one.
S111. A PhD Program in an MFA World. (Christine Lasek-White, Ed Pavlić, Mark Halliday, Derek Nikitas, Michael Mejia) Thirty-two universities in the US have creative writing PhD programs. While different, most offer a four- to five-year course of study with creative dissertation. But what is the creative writing PhD and how is it different from the MFA? This panel will seek to answer that question by bringing together four universities offering this degree. Ohio U. (Midwest), U. of Utah (West), U. of Georgia (South), and the U. of Rhode Island (East) will discuss their programs specifically and the creative writing PhD in general.
S112. Opening the Doors to Discovery: The Generative Writing Workshop. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader,” said Robert Frost. How do creative writing teachers help students open the doors to discovery? This panel will explore generative workshops for adult writers. Panelists have taught many workshops in all genres and developed a sense, practical and intuitive, about the value of using prompts to generate fresh and surprising writing. The notion is reminiscent of Buddhist koans: be in the present and respond to what occurs in the moment. [V. Wagner]
S121. Breaking the Fourth Wall: Tips and Tools for Immersion Writing. (Jessica Wilbanks, Kimberly Meyer, Joni Tevis, Chris Feliciano Arnold) Drawing on the techniques of immersion journalism allows us to enrich our prose by embedding ourselves in our subject matter. In this roundtable panel, four memoirists, essayists, and narrative nonfiction writers discuss the practical, philosophical, and ethical aspects of immersion writing. Attendees will walk away with ideas for incorporating research trips, archival work, interviews, and participatory experiences into their writing process, along with pedagogical best practices.
S126. The Nurturing Ballbuster: Interrogating Gendered Pedagogies Within Creative Writing. (Kristine Ervin, Lisa Lewis, Keya Mitra, Nicole Zaza, Eva Foster) This wouldn’t have happened if I were a male professor: a response many women have when describing their performance reviews, exchanges with students and colleagues, or experiences on the job market. But rather than uphold a system defined by authority, should we instead adopt and value a different approach, one that breaks gendered binaries? A diverse group of women discuss challenges they have faced as instructors and their strategies for adhering to or disrupting privileged pedagogical methods.
S128. I Wouldn’t Go there if I Were You: Literary Journalism and the Craft of Writing Dangerous Places.(Benjamin Busch, Jennifer Percy, Elliot Ackerman, Deni Béchard) When writers of poetry, creative nonfiction, or fiction serve as overseas correspondents, the narratives they craft are deeply felt and unique. From travel and interpreters to notes and drafts, these writers ventured to the fringe to experience their stories. This panel explores how four writers chased curiosity into endangerment to bring back stunning portraits of war, disease, humanity, and environment in crisis and how they teach ways to write literary reportage in workshops and MFA programs.
10:30 am to 11:45 am
S137. Does Gender Matter? Wrestling with Identity and Form in the Golden Age of Women’s Essays. (Jocelyn Bartkevicius, Marcia Aldrich, Barrie Jean Borich, Kyoko Mori, Jericho Parms) In 2014, The New York Times asked if it’s a golden age for women essayists. Cheryl Strayed gave a qualified yes. But while a wave of women’s essays is shaping the literary scene, women are underrepresented in journals and the standard-bearer, Best American Essays. Our panel explores the literary fallout from this paradox, the shape-shifting nature of essays, why it’s tricky to identify as a woman writer, the effects on our work when asked to write as women, and the complications of invisibility. [TE] S142. What Writers of Color Want White Editors to Know. (Jennifer Niesslein, Deesha Philyaw, Patrice Gopo, Dennis Norris II, Lisa Factora-Borchers) In 2017, what message does an all-white masthead send to writers of color? Beyond the content of their work, what issues must these writers contend with in publishing? Four writers of color and one white editor explore real and perceived tokenism, the pressure to change a story or voice to fit an editor’s racialized assumptions, the continued erasure of writers of color in the canon and awards systems, and the highs and lows of working with editors in the face of these and other challenges. [KH] S145. Essaying on the Edge: Teaching alternative Forms of Nonfiction. (Chelsea Biondolillo, Silas Hansen, Alexis Paige, Marco Wilkinson, Brian Oliu) Hybrids. Microprose. Hermit crabs. Fraudulent Artifacts. Collage. Experimental nonfiction is an increasingly popular subgenre, inspiring anthologies, contests, and even bestsellers. It blurs boundaries and often resists definition—which can make it difficult to model and assess in a classroom setting. Join a panel of experienced instructors with a wide variety of teaching experiences as they offer lesson plans, tips, and tricks for effectively bringing this engaging subgenre to students. [V. Wagner]
S146. Just Don’t Read the Comments: On the Joys and Risks of Publishing Personal Essays Online. (William Bradley, Laura Bogart, Penny Guisinger, Sarah Kilch Gaffney) Technological innovation has brought many opportunities to essayists. The rise of online magazines and websites that specialize in personal writing allow us to reach a large and diverse audience. However, these opportunities also come with problems, from meanspirited trolls casting aspersions in comments sections all the way up to serious harassment and even physical threats. These panelists will discuss their own triumphs and frustrations with publishing personal essays online.
S147. Compassion Fatigue: Avoiding Vicarious Traumatization in the CNF Classroom . (Jessica Hindman, Justin St. Germain, Bonnie Friedman, Samantha Rodman, Lauren Fath) As class sizes and teaching loads increase at public institutions, creative nonfiction professors find themselves reading thousands of pages per semester of firsthand traumatic narrative. In addition to having little training to identify psychological distress in our students, they are also ill-equipped to recognize the effects of vicarious traumatization in ourselves. This panel, comprised of CNF professors and a clinical psychologist, discusses the symptoms of vicarious trauma as well as coping strategies.
S148. When Safe Spaces Aren’t: (Re)Imagining for a Multicultural Creative Space. (Alyss Dixson, Jennifer Baker, Amy Lam, Metta Sama) The term safe space has become the new buzzword for nurturing or supporting. This panel will describe how structural bias and inequity can mask the architecture of Whiteness by unpacking the term and decoding the cultural ideologies underpinning these spaces. It will seek to help writers of color and allies (re-)imagine multicultural creative spaces. Ample time given for discussion with audience and panelists on how to develop guidelines and best practices.
S160. Orion‘s 35th Anniversary: Nature Writing at the Edge. (H. Emerson Blake, Pam Houston, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Dorianne Laux, Eula Biss) For thirty-five years, Orion has become a focal point in an extraordinarily rich period of nature writing. Orion magazine was founded with the conviction that humans are morally responsible for the world in which we live, and that the individual comes to sense this responsibility as he or she develops a personal bond with nature. These diverse writers read work that shares this conviction and share thoughts about Orion’s place in the past, present, and future of our natural and literary landscapes.
S163. The Undergrad and the Literary Journal. (Thom Caraway, Jennifer Moore, David Wright, Jeff Dodd, Rachel Cruea) Humanities-based academic disciplines are increasingly being asked to provide practical experience for their majors. One answer that has gained popularity in recent years is the use of print and online literary journals to provide real-world, hands-on experience. Panelists will discuss the ways they have incorporated editing, design, aesthetics, and publications into their classrooms, the benefits to students and the schools, and the economic and pedagogical challenges they have faced.
12:00 pm to 1:15 pm
S173. Red Flags and Gray Areas: When Creative Writing Crosses a Line. (Carla Caglioti, William Ste. Marie, Karen Offitzer, Helen Story, Robert Stein) When student writing contains disturbing or violent themes, the instructor must decide: red flag or gray area? Is the writing an attempt at art or does it cross the line and become inappropriate or threatening? Is it both? What next? This panel offers techniques to identify red flags, respond compassionately, and recognize when compassion is not enough. Seasoned and novice educators join a psychologist to define the gray areas and flag the red ones.
S182. On Girdling Digression: Plutarch’s Influence on the Contemporary Essay. (Matthew Gavin Frank, Adrianne Kalfopoulou, Elena Passarello, Inara Verzemnieks) The malleable parameters of the contemporary essay, while sometimes overwhelmingly myriad, can be traced to the tenets perpetuated by Plutarch, the first known pioneer of the essay, in the first and second centuries AD. Panelists discuss the ways in which Plutarch engaged various cultural constructs, including, but not limited to ceremony, food, introversion, space and time, and how such meditations have impacted the stylistic philosophies that shape much of the literary essay writing of today.
S183. Essaying the Body Electric: A Reading & Conversation. (Kim Dana Kupperman, Therése Halscheid, Sheryl St. Germain, Thomas Gibbs, Colin Hosten) A project of Welcome Table Press, Essaying the Body Electric is an online space showcasing nonfiction narratives and art that offer frank, arresting, meaningful portrayals and interpretations of the body. This reading features work that sings various electricities in fresh ways, essaying anew anorexia and memory, love and atrophy, motherhood and violence. After the reading, participants address the fears, challenges, and triumphs of writing the body in the age of privacy gone public.
S188. Persian Poetry as American Influence: A Multigenre Discussion . (Roger Sedarat, Don Share, Tom Sleigh , Elizabeth T Gray ) Over a half century before Ezra Pound turned to Chinese and Japanese poetry to help establish a poetics of western modernism, Ralph Waldo Emerson found his way to another, less recognized region of Asia. While poetry from Iran continues to inform American writing, its significance remains somewhat neglected. Five acclaimed American and Iranian American authors offer new insights about the influence of Persian poetry upon their fiction, criticism, poetry, journalism, and literary translation.
S190. Black Lit Matters: Unheard Voices on Race and Criminal Justice. (Kathy Crutcher, Juan Peterson ) Authors of two recent YA books from Shout Mouse Press speak about the intersection of race and criminal justice from their own perspectives. DC teen writers of Beacon House discuss their novel-in-stories, The Day Tajon Got Shot, which explores the aftermath of a police shooting of an unarmed black teen. Formerly incarcerated youth of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop share personal stories and powerful poetry from The Untold Story of the Real Me: Young Voices From Prison.
S197. The Librotraficantes: Defying the Censorship of Banned Books . (Gianna Mosser, Martin Espada, Luis Rodriguez, Tony Diaz) In 2010, Arizona state legislators signed into law HB 2281, a ban on teaching Mexican American Studies. In Houston, Texas, a group of Chicano writers, poets, artists, and activists hatched an idea: They would bus those banned books into Tucson. “Librotraficantes,” they’d call themselves—book smugglers. Tony Diaz will speak about founding the movement, and Luis Rodriguez and Martín Espada will relate how their works were banned by the Arizona legislation as well as read from the banned books.
S199. Writing With and About Dis/Ability, Dis/Order, and Dis/Ease. (Sarah Einstein, Sandra Lambert, Sonya Huber, Elizabeth Glass, Gina Frangello ) This panel, comprised of disabled, disordered, and diseased writers, examines the ways our lived experiences impact both what and how we write. Panelists discuss the problematic imperative to write overcoming narratives, the contradictions of writing beyond and into the stereotypes of disability, and the lack of access to writing programs, conferences, and literary community. They look at the ways radical “crip” writers are challenging these barriers, both in their work and as activists.
S200. Redesigning/Rebranding Your Literary Journal.(Abigail Serfass, Stephanie G’Schwind, Danielle Buynak, Aaron Alford, Aaron Burch) Besides consistently publishing excellent writing, what else must your literary journal do to remain relevant? How important is design? Do readers care about your journal’s look? This panel gathers editors of literary journals that have recently undergone major redesigns. Each panelist will share the challenges of such an undertaking, editorial considerations taken along the way, inspirations they followed, and reasons why they felt a fresh look was necessary for their publication.
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
S201. Working with Archives—Ethics, Strategies, and Methods. (Daniel Tiffany, Gerald Vizenor, Jena Osman, Harmony Holiday, Stephanie Prieto) Writers sometimes use archival records as sources of inspiration and information. Our panelists, including poets, a fiction writer, and a historian, look at the use of public records as sources of first hand accounts, as a way to gain better emotional understanding of their subject, and as evidence of sometimes grim historical events that have been overlooked. The panelist will discuss the methodologies, strategies, and ethics of working with archival material, and read examples from their work.
S204. Practicum and Beyond: Publishing Courses and Literary Citizenship . (Erika Meitner, Phong Nguyen , Rebecca Morgan Frank, Lisa Roney, Ron Mitchell) Educators and editors from The Florida Review, Memorious, Pleiades, Southern Indiana Review, and SIR Press address strategies for the vision and implementation of publishing courses in academia, creating a learning environment that both introduces professional skills and addresses larger questions of literary aesthetics, ethics, history, and community. Topics include diversity, gender, inequity, intersectionality, multimedia technologies and social justice.
S206. The New Normal in Nonfiction: Diverse Voices in Nonfiction from The Normal School.. (Jericho Parms, Jaclyn Moyer, Sarah Minor, Steven Church, Matthew Komatsu) Four nonfiction writers representing diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives consider questions of race, identity, family, culture, and consciousness. Representing emerging writers, students, farmers, first-book authors, and tenured MFA program faculty, the panel members have all been published recently in the literary magazine The Normal School. They celebrate a variety nonfiction styles, from the more traditional narrative essay to lyric essays and research-driven work.
S210. Creative Writing and Social Justice. (Terry Ann Thaxton, Debra Brenegan, Lee Gulyas, Joanna Eleftheriou) How might creative writing instructors empower students and advocate social change while maintaining a focus on the artistic integrity of their literary craft? Panelists discuss their experiences with gender-based violence survivors, prison inmates, study-abroad students, and underserved community groups to explore the challenges and strategies of working with writers who write not only for literary expression, but to create social change. A detailed reading list is also provided.
S215. Assaying “Our Hybrid Thing”: The Cross-Pollination of Nonfiction Studies and Pedagogy. (Karen Babine, Ned Stuckey-French, Jenny Spinner, Taylor Brorby, Crystal Fodrey) What is the place and purpose of nonfiction studies? How do nonfiction scholarship and pedagogy serve the larger community of writers and teachers? Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies aims to make the theoretical and practical conversations of nonfiction more accessible to writers, readers, students, teachers, and scholars. Assay’s editors and authors discuss the state of nonfiction studies and the role it can play in creative writing classrooms and programs.
S225. Fracturing Memory, Crossing Borders: Transnational Memoir Writers Discuss Hybrid Necessities.(Minal Hajratwala, QM Zhang, Amarnath Ravva, Abeer Hoque, Tania De Rozario) For transnational writers who spend their lives constantly negotiating borders—geographic and personal—hybridity no longer becomes a choice. This panel features diverse writers whose experimental memoirs include nonlinearity, multiple genres, photographs, and other multimedia. We will discuss how these hybrid strategies succeed or fail when trying to reconstruct family histories or address personal trauma, and how this can be especially challenging when moving between nations and identities.
3:00 pm to 4:15 pm
S238. This Is My Word for That: Teachers Share Their Most Helpful Invented Craft Terms. (Joseph Scapellato, Matt Bell, Jameelah Lang, Hasanthika Sirisena, Dan Chelotti) When there isn’t a word for what we’re trying to teach, why not make one up? In this panel, five teachers share the craft terms of their own invention that have helped their students the most. The panelists will also examine the circumstances that the terms are in response to—what pushed them to invent. The goal is to not only offer practical pedagogical tools, but to start a conversation that will guide and inspire teachers to invent their own terms, matched to their own teaching styles.
S241. Cross-Talk in Creative Writing Pedagogy. (Oindrila Mukherjee, Nancy Reddy, Darin Ciccotelli) Nearly forty years ago, Wendy Bishop tried to initiate “cross-talk” between rhetoric/composition and creative writing, applying the pedagogies of the former to the largely untheorized practices of the latter. But today, creative writing still has a disconnect between those who teach it and those who theorize the teaching. This panel will renew the call for “cross-talk,” exploring how rhet/comp can influence our teaching while also asking if “blind spots” exist.
S242. Queering Masculinities. (Charlie Bondhus, Jarrett Neal, CJ Southworth, Eli Clare, Christopher Soto ) This cross-genre panel—comprised of writers who identify, previously identified, or live(d) as male—considers how we, as trans folk, gender nonconforming individuals, and/or cis men have experienced and challenged our relationships to masculinity. To explore how these experiences (re)shape and complicate our writing both in terms of form and subject, each panelist reads some pertinent work and comments on the roles their (dis)affiliations with masculinity played in shaping it.
S246. The Speculative Essay. (Robin Hemley, Lia Purpura, Nicole Walker, Brian Blanchfield, Leila Philip) Many essayists have employed speculation throughout the form’s history, relying wholly on speculation (relating nothing verifiable) rather than engaging “fact.” Virginia Woolf’s “Death of a Moth,” for example, does not require a verifiable moth to achieve its power. But what are the limits to speculation? Must essayists always signal their speculative intentions? Can an essayist delve into the traditional realm of the fiction writer, overturning traditional notions of point of view in the essay?
S247. Writing Across Cultures: Immigrant Writers in Search of Home. (Reyna Grande, Alex Espinoza, Valeria Luiselli, Natalia Trevino, Gabriela Jauregui) Mexican-born writers in the United States work within aesthetics that straddle and scrutinize the complex relationship between the US and Mexico. This panel of immigrant writers will examine their ties to a Mexico rife with contradictions and a US deeply polarized on immigration. What responsibility do binational writers have in shaping the narratives of their two countries? How can bicultural writers bridge two countries and two cultures while belonging to both and neither at the same time?
S249. Minimalist, Maximalist, Memoirist: Sarah Manguso, Albert Goldbarth, Paul Lisicky, Sponsored by Graywolf Press. (Fiona McCrae, Sarah Manguso, Paul Lisicky, Albert Goldbarth) What does it mean to contract, expand, and elucidate a line or a life in one’s personal writing? Three remarkable and very different writers will read from their recent works, and then discuss these questions and how they approach the writing of nonfiction by coming to it through other forms and genres. Which one is the minimalist? Which one is the maximalist? Are any—or all—of them the memoirist? Introduced and moderated by Graywolf Press director and publisher Fiona McCrae.
S255. Sympathy for All Devils. (Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Sarah Viren, Kerry Howley, Patricia Foster, Kristen Radtke) Though unsympathetic narrators are common in fiction, there’s still an expectation that the essayist, and in particular the woman essayist, tread lightly and not only be sympathetic, but also avoid the unsympathetic. Panelists discuss the genre history and gender bias underlining these expectations, our experiences being unsympathetic essayists and empathizing with unsympathetic characters—from combatants to murderers—and what we stand to gain from sympathizing with the devil.
S257. Lit Hub Presents: A Conversation on Literary Citizenship in the Age of Diversity. (Bethanne Patrick, Michele Filgate, Yahdon Israel, Alexander Chee, Glory Edim) Lit Hub contributing editors Bethanne Patrick and Michele Filgate present a conversation about what literary citizenship means as we move towards greater diversity in reading, writing, teaching, and publishing. Is the term “literary citizenship” valid? Is it loaded with privileged connotations, or is it helpful? What are some of the things writers can do to support each other and the wider community? What are some of the innovative methods they’re using to do so?
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
S269A. Beyond Free Books: The Surprising Perks of Book Reviewing. (Art Edwards, Stephanie Cha, Louis Bayard, David Gutowski, Ben Tanzer) This panel explores some of the less obvious benefits of reviewing books for publication, from artistic fulfillment, to landing paid gigs, to getting to know people in publishing, to just being a good literary citizen. Our panelists each writes reviews for esteemed publications—sometimes for pay, other times not—and they draw from their experiences to pass along what others might not know or understand about the various upsides of the practice.
S274. The Personal (Essay) Is Political: Nonfiction as an Agent of Social Change. (Katie Cortese, Jaquira Díaz, Eric Sasson, Gabrielle Bellot, Matthew Salesses) Online nonfiction venues such as Salon, Slate, and The Atlantic, among others, invite writers to respond to world events through the lens of personal experience while also allowing works to be shared virally via social media. The best of these spur public conversations about issues as pressing as police brutality, rape culture, LGBTQ rights, and more. This panel explores the various roles of the personal essay in contemporary culture, and discuss how words effect change on the world. [NG]
S278. Expanding the Canon. (Brigid Hughes, Kevin Prufer, Lisa Pearson, Farnoosh Fathi, Kendra Sullivan) How do we seek out great writing by authors whose work has been forgotten or ignored? What role does the magazine or book publisher play in expanding the canon? In this panel, writers, editors, and publishers who have been involved in highlighting work from the archives of unheralded writers come together to seek answers to these questions. Panelists discuss the discoveries and challenges of bringing this work into the world and the importance of posthumous and later-life recognition.
S280. Attempting the Impossible: Strategies for Writing Creative Biography. (Kathleen Rooney, Kelcey Ervick, Anthony Michael Morena, Sarah Domet, Sarah Blake) Traditional biographers aspire to get out of the way of their subjects in order to render objective portraits. These panelists take the opposite approach, emphasizing the impossibility of ever creating such a portrait and using this not as a failure but as an opportunity for imagination and interactivity. At this event they present examples, research and writing methods, and mixed media techniques for adapting history into literature, offering new modes of presenting the past and the people in it.
S283. Darkness on the Edge of Town: Rural America in Contemporary Literature. (Joe Wilkins, Melanie Hoffert, Greg Brownderville, Kelly Sundberg) One of our bedrock myths is that of Thomas Jefferson’s yeoman farmer: the straight-backed, straight-shooting, hard-working small-towner. Yet one of our most pernicious national stereotypes stands in direct opposition: that of the redneck—think of Deliverance or Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel. Who, really, are rural Americans? Five authors from across the genres attempt to peel back the mythologies and stereotypes of popular culture and speak honestly about contemporary rural America.
S285. Eco-Writing: Plotting a Way Forward in Three Genres. (Clinton Crockett Peters, Toni Jensen, Megan Kaminski, Roger Reeves, Kurt Caswell) “Nature writing” has sometimes had a storied history as a privileged pursuit, occasionally ignorant of social justice. “Eco-writing” is a new brand, one that acknowledges ecological and social embeddedness. This panel features a cross-genre reading of essays, poems, and stories interested in the entwinement of human with the more-than-human world. The featured work incorporates social justice and escapes, as much as possible, the baggage of privileged outdoor pursuits.
S291. Reading and Writing Improve Patient Care: The Case for Narrative Medicine. (Owen Lewis, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Kate Daniels, Pranav Nanda) Poetry/writing at work—engagement in close reading or writing with those seeking and giving help has been shown to improve the quality of care. An internist writes with hospitalized patients. A psychiatrist introduces poetry in psychotherapy. A med student writes to understand his role with an abused child. A poet workshops with the stressed staff of a project for released felons. Another poet tells the often misunderstood story of an autistic child. This is the scope of narrative medicine.
6:15pm to 7:30pm
White House for a Candlelight Vigil for Free Speech in DC
A brief walk from the conference center. [This event will be covered by RSZ]