A draft schedule of the upcoming Great Writing conference appeared in my email inbox this past week, making the conference--which is not very far in the future--finally more real to me. While none of the scheduled sessions have been assigned titles or rooms yet, I do know when my session will run (not the best slot, actually: last session of the conference, 2:30-4:00 on Sunday afternoon); and I'm assuming all the presenters in my session will read from their own creative writing, because that's what I'll be doing. But with Great Writing it's hard to say. Like the International Conference on the Short Story in English, Great Writing is unique in that it blends both academic papers and creative presentations on the same program. Personally, I love that. I think it not only makes the conference attractive to a wider spectrum of authors; but it lends balance, credibility, and a renewed vitality to both creative and academic pursuits. Great Writing goes one step further by sometimes blending creative and academic presentations in the same session! So hold on for further details about the conference as soon as I receive them. As I've mentioned before, it will be held June 29 and 30 at Imperial College, London.
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Speaking of the International Conference on the Short Story in English, one aspect of my current early summer busyness is trying to imagine and codify a Study Abroad course for next summer. The idea is to get UCA students over the pond to Europe so that they can participate at the end of their stay in the Short Story Conference, which in 2014 will be held in Vienna. Due to various institutional delays at UCA, the whole process for submitting and reviewing Study Abroad proposals is seriously behind schedule, but I expect to be informed any day now that I need to get my proposal in ASAP. So I am furiously researching things to do and places to stay in Vienna, Salzburg, and Prague. It's exciting work actually, inventing a course--and student experiences--out of whole cloth. What I will likely propose is a Topics in Creative Writing course called "Writing Europe in Fiction." The students will read some European short story writers before we leave--mainly writers from west-central Europe (because that's where we will be headed)--and then spend three weeks actually abroad. When we return the students will workshop fiction they wrote as a result of their trip abroad. Our base in Europe will be Vienna, but I'm hoping for side trips to Melk, Salzburg, and Prague. According to UCA Study Abroad guidelines, the person who proposes the course is supposed to come prepared with clear and specific information on airfares, train tickets, accomodations, museum fees, plans for the student's meals, etc., as well as lay out an academic schedule for the course. So lately I've been tossing around different ideas for places to visit, juggling potential student nourishment and potential student interest with the realities of cost and the possibility of student exhaustion. (Should we go see an opera in Vienna's reknowned and beautiful State Opera House? Great idea! Wait, it costs 164 euros for a single ticket? How about the Vienna Mozart concert instead--only 89 euros.) It's certainly a work-in-progress, with a lot of hard decisions left to be made. In Salzburg there will be an opporutnity to take a Sound of Music tour or a trip to Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Bavaria. We won't have time to do both, and the cost is similar. While the Eagle's Nest has actual historical significance, I have a feeling the students would be more interested in a Sound of Music tour; plus it would let us explore more sites in Salzburg proper. Of course, since the schedule is a work-in-progress, we might not end up doing either!
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Little followup to a news item from some weeks ago. Versal magazine, based in Amsterdam, has just released its issue 11, and it's ready to order. The issue features a chaper from my Van Gogh novel. For the sake of the magazine, I called the chapter "The Dealer's Brother." It depicts a Paris party that Van Gogh and various other eminences and wannabes attend. It's told from the point of view of Suzanne Valadon, a postimpressionist painter who did a lot of modeling for other painters during her early days in Paris and who did in fact write about once seeing Van Gogh at a party. I had great fun writing it, and I'm so happy Versal accepted it. On Friday, they emailed me a list of interview questions. The magazine runs a blog that features short interviews with some of its contributing writers. My interview should be posted to the blog at some point in the next several weeks. I must say, they sent a rather eclectic batch of questions. Some were more typical ("What's your writing process?" "What are you working on now?") while others tried to put you on the spot ("What vegetable best represents you?" "What dirty little secret are you hiding?" "What's on your playlist?") I answered as best I could, but I can only hope that I came across as interesting enough to make it worth their time. You can read the interview when it's posted and let me know!