Come Write With Us At AWP! Call for Guest Bloggers–Saturday!

Screen Shot 2018-02-09 at 9.50.52 AMGoing to the AWP Conference and Bookfair in Tampa?

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.

Check out Saturday’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. Please finish up your panel submissions no later than a week following the conference. Deadline for conference reports: Wednesday, March 14.

Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so we can tag you when it’s published!

Saturday, March 10

9:00 am to 10:15 am


S108. The Speculative Essay(, Sean Prentiss, Leslie Carol Roberts) Essayists have long employed speculation, relating nothing verifiable, rather than engaging “fact.” Some even delve into the realm of the fiction writer, overturning traditional notions of point of view in the essay. Still, the discourse surrounding nonfiction too often focuses on truth versus lies, a reductive discussion that ignores the myriad imaginative possibilities of nonfiction. This panel moves the discussion forward, pointing to the ways in which speculation is important to the form.

S112. Beyond Genre: Writing, Editing, and Publishing Hybrid Forms in the Age of Fake News() Authors who mix fact with fiction, poetry with prose, memoir with history, can fall through generic cracks in the literary landscape. How do we compose with few examples to follow? Where do we publish composite forms that defy or subvert categorization? In a time when hybrid identities of all kinds, and even truth itself, have come under scrutiny, what are the ethical ramifications of writing across genres? Five writers and publishers of hybrid work will discuss approaches and best practices.

S113. The “So What?” Factor: Making Meaning in Personal Essays and Memoir() Often in creative nonfiction writing it isn’t enough to tell well-crafted stories from our lives. Readers crave perspective, insight, interpretation, and sometimes researched information. This panel will discuss ways of crafting essays and memoir that move beyond “What happened?” to answer, at least implicitly, “So what?”

S124. The Lives of Others: Biography as Creative Nonfiction() Amid the explosion of memoir, attention to biography as creative nonfiction has been scant. Few MFA programs teach the genre, and reviewers often summarize the life at the expense of the writing. Panelists will discuss biographical research; ways to create historical context, including issues of race and gender; and how to face gaps in the record and ethical quandaries. The panel will explore recent innovations in literary structures as well as biography’s boundaries with other genres.

S126. Profundity as Purpose: Thoughts on Sentences, Vocabulary, and Style(, Caroline Casey) Thrilling! I couldn’t put it down! A literary page-turner! Such exclamations speak to a particular set of reader values, namely that writing should be entertaining, concise, clear, and propulsive. This panel speaks to its political opposite: writing that stretches boundaries, considers musicality as important, searches for vocabulary and meaning. Where is today’s writing that takes up the gauntlet of Faulkner, Woolf, Dos Passos, and what can such writing mean in the 21st century?

S132. How to Fail: On Abandoning a Manuscript, and Not() When should you quit on a writing project, and how do you know? And if you do move on, how should you do so in order to be successful going forward? And what about a massive overhaul instead? Successful writers rarely speak about their failures; the books, stories, and essays that never were. On this panel, five accomplished writers in both fiction and nonfiction try to pull back the curtain on what it means and doesn’t mean to quit on a project, as well as how to persevere when you need to.

10:30 am to 11:45 am

S137. Writing Race, Class, and Gender in Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, and Poetry() The debate seems endless over how far we can blur facts when writing about real lives and events; yet when narrative involves historical figures, that debate is even more crucial, especially when matters of race, class, and gender are at stake. Whether writing about the life of Zora Neale Hurston, or the intertwining lives of Eleanor Roosevelt and Pauli Murray, or a lynching, panel authors address ways their writing honors not only truth but facts in the current era of fake news and post-truth.

S139. Handling Tense Classroom Moments with Humor, Vulnerability, and Freewrites() As teachers of creative writing, we inevitably encounter sensitive and unexpected moments of tension during classroom discussions. Here, teachers of undergraduates will share methods they employed for such pressure-point episodes, using self-revelation, humor, and on-the-spot writing exercises to bring students closer to a deeper sense of craft and ethics in their practice. Teachers hailing from Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the United States will share strategies across genres and borders.

S145. Beyond the Margins: Expanding a Book Review Section() What is the role of the book review in 2018? How can lit mags help to raise the discourse of reviewing? How does a reviewer successfully transition from the specifics of one book to a broader dialogue? How can we better support books by people of color, people who are queer, trans, living with disabilities, and authors at the intersection of these identities? Editors gather to discuss the challenges of expanding a book review section, and what it takes to edit and publish a vibrant review.

S148. Writing Bad Ass and Nasty Women() We long for empowered women, especially in today’s political climate. Writing such women, though, is not about capturing Wonder Woman on the page. At times, kicking butt, breaking laws, hearts, and balls is necessary for the work, but at other times, the woman simply stands her ground and wants control over her own choices and body. The writers on this panel have given us bad ass women in their writing and sometimes been surprised by the reception. What is bad ass today? No cuffs required.

S160. Beyond the Workshop Model: Innovations in the Creative Nonfiction Classroom() When people hear you say, “I teach creative nonfiction writing,” most will automatically think of the workshop model—but what else is there? This panel, which includes teachers at both the introductory and advanced/undergraduate and graduate levels, will focus on the “what else” in the creative nonfiction classroom including collaborative assignments, multimodality, meditation as part of the writing practice, and the use of digital technologies like Twine, Google Maps, and augmented reality.

S167. Tearing Down Societal and Family Myths in Creative Writing() Writers who address family or societal dysfunction have learned the hard way that the more profound the dysfunction, the more violently and determinedly people will fight to protect the myth of normalcy. What writer has not been told, “Don’t air the dirty laundry in public”? This panel of memoir and fiction writers will address some of the myths they’ve confronted in their work, and methods they’ve used to overcome the wall of resistance they’ve encountered from both family and society.

12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

S172. Beyond the I: How Research Enlarges Personal Narrative() True memoir, writes Patricia Hampl, is “an attempt to find not only a self but a world.” Research, whatever form it takes (interview, site visit, archival or online searches), can deepen and complicate memoir by providing historical, cultural, and political context for personal narratives. Five memoirists and teachers of the genre discuss the ways that research, well-used, can enable writers to move beyond the “I,” crafting work that connects individual stories to larger issues and concerns.

S173. How to Be a Literary Activist (Or Advocate)() Join PEN America to discuss how—and indeed whether—to harness your skill and passion as a writer and an advocate for free expression. Many writers believe they have both the power and the responsibility to speak out; others wonder if an activist role aligns with their art. Our panel of socially engaged literary professionals takes on this question and shares what they have found to be tools and techniques for “speaking (or writing) truth to power.”

S176. How Many Selves Does It Take to Write a Personal Narrative?() Theorists of autobiographical writing have long explored the complexity of self-representation in the personal narrative. Rather than a singular “I,” there are at least three selves at work: the remembered self, the remembering self, and what we are calling the “Third I,” or the author who created the other two. This panel will explore some of the tensions between these multiple representations of self and explain how they shape our own personal essays.

S181. Walking Across the Hall—The Writer in the Literature Classroom() As writers, how do we approach teaching literature versus creative writing? What happens when a writer is charged with teaching students different ways to read fiction, poetry, and essays, instead of ways to improve them? Five professors will both discuss and address their perspectives on craft, style, and theory and how writers can bolster and foster a new approach to the study of literature in the departments we serve.

S191. Brevity‘s 20th Anniversary Reading() The online magazine Brevitypioneered the flash nonfiction form starting in 1997, and since then has published new writers, emerging writers, mid-career writers, and distinguished writers, including three Pulitzer Prize finalists, as well as voices from India, Egypt, Ireland, Spain, Malaysia, and Japan. Help celebrate Brevity‘s 20th anniversary with flash readings from the panelists, and a brief backward glance by editor Dinty W. Moore.

S192. Facilitating Lightbulbs: Social Justice in the Writing Classroom() Are you looking for texts that will open a productive dialogue on the subjects of race, class, sexuality, gender, environmental justice, citizenship, or rape culture in your writing classroom? Are you looking to signal a commitment to social justice in the composition classroom despite your audience or administration? Five social justice and writing practitioners will share their favorite texts and tools to open the conversation.

1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

S200. This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home.(, Leigh Newman) As women coming of age in the modern era, moving out of our parents’ homes and into spaces of our own was exhilarating and terrifying. We looked to the past, to the homes our mothers and grandmothers defined for us, and we looked forward to something new we were going to create. In making homes for ourselves, we have defined ourselves—as partners, mothers, citizens. Readers are select contributors to This Is the Place: 30 Women Writing About Home (Seal Press, November 2017).

S204. About Grief, Trauma, Loss: The Facing, the Writing, and the Healing(, Emmy Pérez) A reading by poets and prose memoirists who have confronted past traumas ranging from sudden, violent deaths of family members to sexual and medical abuse. Each of these writers, who are at various stages in their careers, will also briefly discuss how the writing process itself, followed by publishing, giving readings, and speaking to a variety of audiences, has not only helped them to heal but has encouraged others to give voice to—and ultimately recover from—their own traumatic experiences.

S210. Blood of My Blood: Writing About Family, Tribe, and Inheritances of the Heart() Writers of personal essay and memoir know that their story is shaped by family influences. But we may be more connected to the emotional life of our ancestors than we realize. Recent discoveries in behavioral epigenetics reveal that memory can be passed on in the genes, meaning that our stories are intrinsically tied to those who have gone before us. This diverse panel will explore what it means to mine truth by writing from the lens of generational legacies and inheritances of the heart.

S211. Writing the Pain: Memoirists on Tackling Stories of Trauma() Writing about traumatic experiences does not repair them. However, re-entering those memories, taking them apart, and then putting them back together again on our own terms, can transform them into something meaningful, perhaps even beautiful, for both writer and reader. On this panel, those who’ve courageously written about topics such as loss, illness, grief, or family dysfunction in poetry and prose explore the merit of giving narrative shape to our painful stories.

S215. “my particular truth as I have seen it”: Black Women Writers Taking Back Their Narratives() Two separate but related phenomena—the presumed suicides of women like Sheila Abdus-Salaam, and the appropriation of black women’s art (including the unauthorized use of Gelila Mesfin’s digital portrait of Michelle Obama)—illustrate how, in nearly every aspect of their lives, black women are erased by others. In response, multi-genre writers discuss the nuances of creating art in a culture that misattributes their work while they are living, and reframes their narratives when they are dead.

S217. How Creative Writers Can Work with Archivists: A Crash Course in Cooperation() This panel provides concrete suggestions for how writers can work effectively with archivists. Writers from three genres will share how they made their research experiences successful and the variety of approaches they took with primary sources. Creative writing from primary materials can also result in archivists going along for the journey. Librarians from two different institutions will contribute their own experiences working with writers, highlighting both physical and digital archives.

S221. Draining the Swamp: The Future of Environmental Writing on a Changing Planet() This panel explores environmental creative writing in the midst of radical political and climatic change. If stories help us imagine alternatives to how we live, then inspired and strategic writing is our best hope to keep this planet alive and healthy. These five cross-genre writers will discuss environmental writing’s Transcendental roots, its strides towards greater inclusiveness, and where it must go now given rising tides, species loss, and overall environmental injustice and instability.

S224. Digital and Video Essays in the Creative Writing Classroom() The Digital Revolution introduced a new kind of essay—one that integrates image, text, sound, voice. Online journals now publish digital and video essays. But how do we teach these new forms? What essays do we use as models? What assignments do we give our students? Who is their audience? How does copyright law constrain sampling and remixing? How do we teach the use of technology and editing software in the writing classroom? What can our students, who are digital natives, teach us?

S231. This Is Not a Memoir: Thoughts on the Linked Essay Collection() What does it mean to publish—or read—a collection of linked essays? How is this nonfiction form different than a traditional essay collection or a memoir? And what characteristics, if any, does it share with a linked story collection? In this panel, writers and editors of linked essay collections will discuss the what and how of writing and publishing a linked essay collection, and why they didn’t just write a memoir.

3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

S233. Truer Words Were Never Spoken: On the Challenges of Writing About Family in Creative Nonfiction/Memoir () Writers of nonfiction struggle with the ethics of transparency in their work, particularly when discussing family. From fratricide to confronting parental abandonment or making a living from illegal professions, writers must often face their own demons and those of extended family members to tell their stories. Each author will discuss a work of memoir from a published or forthcoming book and then discuss reconciling the transparency necessary for the success of the project.

S235. What We Write About When We Write About Sustainability() These four panelists wrap their words around a crucial issue in the era of climate change—sustainability, and what that term means for writers. Why should we care? Should we be writers or activists first, and can we be both? Given an uncertain global future, how can we best prepare ourselves and our readers for dramatic shifts in ecology and society?

S238. The Times They Are A-Changin’: The Pedagogy of Protest() This panel considers writing as an instrument for political protest and social dissent. Panelists will explore theoretical reasons for using the literature and music of protest in the classroom, in addition to delivering practical, portable pedagogy that encourages well-researched and considerate expressions of dissent. This panel recognizes the personal as a form of social and political consciousness, invoking Adrienne Rich when she writes, “We must use what we have to invent what we desire.”

S241. Creative Writers, Composition Teachers() Most creative writers who teach will, at some point in their careers, find themselves in the composition classroom. For many, first-year writing provides the first teaching experience. This panel explores the strengths that creative writers bring to the composition classroom, the struggles they inevitably face, and lessons from this teaching that can serve them throughout their teaching and writing careers.

S250. By One’s Own Hand: Writing About Suicide Loss.() Suicide loss is a subject often shrouded in shame and silence. How do we write narratives of suicide loss (through poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction) that are honest and cathartic, but also artful? The panelists, all survivors of suicide loss, will explore the ethics, emotions, and craft of writing about suicide.

S251. Have MFA, Will Teach: Create Teaching and Outreach Opportunities Outside Academia() With the proliferation of MFA programs (and their grads), permanent academic teaching positions have become fewer and farther between. Fortunately, opportunities to teach and support other writers have not. This panel will present various creative ways writers can use their MFA training to build writing communities through formal classes, public readings, and other outreach models. We will discuss startup logistics and pitfalls to avoid and possibilities for generating income from our efforts.

S252. Who Are We Writing For? Who Are We Writing Toward? () Do I have to explain the difference between Pakistan and Bangladesh? Do I have to give a translation in my work for this phrase? How explicit do I have to be that this character is not white? Five emerging writers discuss their decisions about audience, the choices and negotiations they make while writing and editing their prose for mass consumption.

S254. The Real Mother of All Bombs: Reconsidering John Hersey’s Hiroshima() “Fear of the bomb” has returned, so a reconsideration of John Hersey’s 1946 book Hiroshima, a landmark of new journalism exploring the effects of an atomic bomb dropped by US forces on that Japanese city, is very timely. Panelists (including the Hersey’s son Baird) will consider the book’s legacy: the phenomenon of its publication as an entire issue of The New Yorker, its formal innovations as a work of long form literary journalism, and its cultural legacy in America and Japan.

4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

S268. The Interrogative Self and the Narrative Line: The Craft of Research in Creative Nonfiction() When should writers of creative nonfiction turn to research? When does personal experience demand the interrogative self and the investigative work of research? What challenges—such as fact-checking and citation—does research pose for publication? Writers and journal editors at various stages of their careers will discuss the creative potential of research in books and essays, and address the craft of using research in compelling and generative ways.

S271. Safety, Reporting, and Confidentiality in Memoir Classes(, Scott Brennan) Student memoirists experiment not just with formal approach, but also with disclosure itself—hence the need for confidentiality in nonfiction workshops. Yet, both legal and professional ethics require memoir teachers to report situations where harm may come to students. This panel examines workshop confidentiality from legal, pedagogical, and mental health perspectives and offers practical advice about creating safe and nurturing classrooms.

S272. Editing in an Era of Climate Change: A Q&A with Four Environmental Editors () The past year has brought climate deniers into the White House just as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reach a tipping point. Editors of four environmental journals—Flyway: Journal of Writing & EnvironmentThe Fourth RiverOrion, and A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments—will discuss how their journals have responded, how they balance activism with art, and what they look for in submissions now.

S275. Essaying Beyond the Page: Intermedia Essays.() The essay—in its vocal shifts, its digressions, its lyricism and its flexible forms—is a genre particularly well-suited to works that exist off, or beyond the page. Intermedia essaying is a genre on the rise. On this panel, writers and artists who compose video, concrete, material, and performed essays will discuss new issues of creation, performance, and reception. They’ll talk about print journals, performance spaces, and the process of making work that essays beyond the page.

S281. Balancing Act: Neutrality in the Classroom?.() After the 2016 election, many university administrations advised faculty to be politically neutral in the classroom, reminding us of our duty to students across the ideological spectrum. The rise of “professor watch lists” also make it risky for faculty—particularly contingent faculty—to be outspoken. But what if there’s fundamental conflict between the political zeitgeist and the core values of our workshops? How can we productively engage, and even resolve, this conflict in the classroom?


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