Two days from now, I'll board a plane to Boston for this year's installment of the annual craziness called AWP. According to the organization, it will be the biggest conference yet, which is a little scary, considering how big past conferences have been. The conference has thoroughly outgrown even the space provided by mega-hotels; so for the 2013 edition AWP will be held in the Hynes Convention Center in downtown Boston. One request, dear reader: please pray for no snow. Winter weather has caused enough traveling snafus in that part of the country already; the last thing thousands of AWP conference goers need is to have their air and train schedules slaughtered by delays and cancellations. I'm already worried about the "Sequester" and how cuts in the air traffic system might affect scheduled flights. Thanks, U.S. government, for being so comedically dysfunctional! (I realize any problems that the sequester causes for my travel plans is nothing compared to the trouble that will be caused to those people who will endure furloughs and severe cuts in pay.)
I am looking forward to the conference for several reasons. First, I'm excited about the panel I'm on, which will discuss the phenomenon of single semester novel writing workshops. As I reported in a previous post, this relatively new but fast growing type of course has seen a variety of iterations among its instructors. Unlike the typical Fiction Workshop, there isn't a standard pedagogy yet, and that makes the class--and my panel--very exciting. I expect to learn about the drastically different ways different instructors skin this particular cat. And I'm eager to report on what my students are doing in their Novel Writing Workshop this semester. Too, I will be at the conference to represent Toad Suck Review magazine. We will introduce to a national audience our groundbreaking Toad Suck Review 3-D issue. It really is a great issue, and I know our head editor, Mark Spitzer, and I are looking forward to showing it to folks. We may even find ourselves soliciting for new material for issue #4! We will also have along some of our grad students, who did editorial work on issue TSR 3-D. It will be their first time at AWP--an important milestone for any young writer.
I will be blogging most days from the conference. So if you're interested in how the conference "feels," at least to one conference goer, check this space, starting Thursday.
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Publication notice: An odd little short story I wrote called "Homeroom," which adopts the form of a high school homeroom announcements sheet, will be published soon in theNewerYork Press's Electronic Encyclopedia of Experimental Literature (EEEL). I'm excited for it to land there. Experimental, it is.
News Item: Jennifer Egan, novelist extraordinaire and author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, Look at Me, and several other titles, came to the UCA campus this week. She gave a great reading, followed by an extensive question and answer session. She then followed this up the next day with a small group meeting with Department of Writing students in which she covered a wide range of subjects, from drafting and revising strategies to the phenomenon of audio books to her side job as a journalist. She was not only encouraging to the students but offered several morsels of really sharp, shrewd advice. She earned her money, put it that way. And the students spoke glowingly of her for days after. Sometimes visiting writers don't live up to their billing; Egan exceeded hers.
Followup note: I wrote a couple weeks ago about Bobbie Ann Mason's historical novel The Girl in the Blue Beret. If the novel, or Mason, sounds interesting to you, you should check out an interview with the author published in The Pinch magazine last fall. In the interview, Mason discusses the kinds of research she carried out for the sake of the novel. (No link to the interview, I'm afraid. You'll have to get ahold of the journal itself.)
Followup #2: The novel I'm writing this semester while my Novel Workshop students write theirs is at 54,000 words. That's only 1000 words from the mandated total word count I gave them at the beginning of the semester. Problem is, I'm about 5/6 of the way through my plot. So it will just need to go longer!