|Underwood typewriter on display at Ashland Creek Press.|
This was my first AWP and the conference feels certain to make my best of list for 2014. The event switched me into creative overdrive. Soon I will be planting my magic seeds and watching them grow (thanks Fairy Tale Review!).
AWP may be the Burning Man of writers conferences. It's a quickly formed community with a packed and varied event schedule. Make of it what you will. Just as Burning Man can be yoga retreat, art festival, extreme outdoor adventure or constant rave; AWP can be about poetry, author events, presses or parties. Go from panel to panel on craft, attend every reading, browse the bookfair or just hang out and hobnob. Find your community of writers, teachers, publishers or critics.
A happy observation: Many authors talked about embracing fantastic elements to tell stories. Call it magic realism, surrealism, speculative or fabulist, a generation of writers seem to be gleefully (and purposefully - see favorite panels) putting the magic back into American books. Hurrah!
"I'm glad to see so many people interested in fairy tale," said Kate Bernheimer, founder of Fairy Tale Review, in a packed New Fairy Tales From the North reading. Me too! I also loved the "Weird Girls" fabulist fiction panel with Christine Vines, Marie-Helen Bertino, Amelia Gray, Karen Thompson Walker and Deb Olin Unferth.
I also greatly enjoyed and appreciated two engaging discussions of how we can write as a force for good — and tell fabulous stories and create engaging literature.
- Fabulist Fiction for a Hot Planet with Christian Moody, Tessa Mellas, Alexander Lumans, E. Lily Yu and Matt Bell (whose backlist is being picked up by Soho Press if you can wait until 2015 to read Cataclysm Baby) explored eco-consciousness in eco-fabulist fiction.
- Greening of Literature: Eco-Fiction and Poetry to Enlighten and Inspire with John Yunker, JoeAnn Hart, Mindy Mejia, Ann Pancake and Gretchen Primack.
"Art's beauty can make a reader yearn for a different kind of reality." — Ann PancakeA disconcerting observation: Especially at a writers' conference, amongst so many delightful books, it felt off to see fanfare and long lines over a few and sparse interest in others. One imagines many hidden treasures and talents in the field — and a lot of luck and chance involved in the disparity.
"As writers, our most sustainable energy source is creativity, and we should use it freely." — JoeAnn Hart
"What if we erred on the side of respecting other creatures too much?" — Gretchen Primack (on writing fearlessly and empathetically about animals)
"Readers trust you to get the science right regardless of genre." — Mindy Mejia
Post-AWP I'm catching up on reading and looking forward to Seattle Arts and Lectures with George Saunders, March 24, (hope there's discussion of "Fox 8") and Rebecca Solnit, June 5, at Town Hall Seattle.
- Ursula K. Le Guin and Molly Gloss discussed female and nontraditional voices in literature.
Sure, there have been heroines. In Westerns, the guy often hands the gun over to a woman, said Molly Gloss.
"The idea is to take the gun out of the hands of all and see what happens."
— Ursula K. Le Guin
- Abbey Otis read 'Teacher" (coming out in Barrelhouse #13 this summer) and Louise Marley read from The Terrorists of Irustan at the HydraHouseBooks.com reading.
- Ryan Boudinot talked about the bid to make Seattle a UNESCO City of Literature.
- Nicola Griffith read from Hild at the Lambda Literary reading
- Julian Hoffman read from The Small Heart of Things and quoted Rainer Maria Rilke:
"Everything beckons to us to perceive it,
murmurs at every turn ‘Remember me!’
A day we passed, too busy to receive it,
will yet unlock us all its treasury."
- Joan Naviyuk Kane read from her poetry collection Hyperboreal in English and Inupiaq (early candidate for sound of the year).
- Met founders and authors of Ashland Creek Press. The press has a new opportunity for writers The Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature judged by Karen Joy Fowler (!).
- Browsing the book fair:
- Discovery of PM Press leads to purchase of Wild Girls by Ursula K. Le Guin and The Science of Herself by Karen Joy Fowler.
- Last purchase of AWP: The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories, Volume One: Where on Earth, Ursula K. Le Guin, Small Beer Press.
- "Black Dog Nothing," Lydia Ship in New Delta Review
- "Ilse, Who Saw Clearly," E. Lily Yu in Apex Magazine
- "Fox 8," George Saunders
- "Wasteland, Wasteland, Wasteland," Claire Vaye Watkins in Kenyon Review
- "Alive, Alive Oh," by Slyvia Spruck Wrigley in Lightspeed
John Gardner on the fictional dream, The Art of Fiction No. 73, John Gardner, Paris Review
T.S. Eliot on the objective correlative, Hamlet and His Problems
A few notes on preparation for readings and panels gleaned from AWP. Simple, but key.
- Time it.
- Short is sweet. One of the best readings was by Marie-Helene Bertino. She read just one fantastic line from each of her stories collected in Safe as Houses.
- Marketing tip: At both the beginning and end of your presentation say your name, title of work, and where it's published so people can find your work and read it.