Well, technically held up at the Indianapolis International Airport for now, which turns out is a quaint habitat for the blog before the storm. Accompanied by a lively crew of fellow faculty and students past and present, your’s truly will be repping the Butler MFA program in Seattle at the 2014 Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference.
This will be my first trip to AWP, which I’m guessing will feel a lot like a degenerate gambler’s maiden voyage to Vegas. I fully expect to be needled with literary stimuli until I gradually unravel like a lambswool sweater.
Keep checking the blog the next few days for reflections, photos, haikus scribbled on cocktail napkins, and the invaluable opportunity to enjoy Seattle vicariously through a few friends, no umbrella necessary.
There will be approximately 13,000 writers in town for the conference, which is close to the number of programs offered. It’s taken me the duration of my four-hour delay at the airport just to read through the schedule and earmark a few events to highlight here. Come back to the blog for detailed scholarly reviews of each panel (just kidding, I’ll just regale you with the lurid details).
R119. The Third Degree: Why Writers Pursue Additional Education Beyond the Bachelor’s and Master’s. (Fred Leebron, Andrew Levy, Nadine Meyer, Margaret MacInnis, Brighde Mullins) In this time of shrinking job markets, a third degree, with its promise of financial support over two to six years, can seem pretty enticing. Such third degrees include: same MFA in same genre, MFA in different genre, MA plus MFA, and on to a PhD. But is a third degree worth the time and space it will take up in your brain? This panel will feature writers who have more than one graduate degree and what it did and didn’t do for them.
That’s Butler’s own Andy Levy on the panel. He’s going to tell us if we need PhDs. My piggy bank back home is quaking.
R174. Walt Whitman’s Niece: Poetry and Popular Music.(Matt Hart, Steve Dickison, Julia Bloch, Harmony Holiday, Jeffrey Sirkin) Popular music and its images reflect our changing values, desires, and identities, and offer poets a rich source of material and a key into social, political, and economic realities. Taking on punk, jazz, R&B, and celebrity culture, this panel explores the possibilities and implications of engaging with popular music through poetry, thinking not only about how poetry can illuminate popular music, but how music can help us reimagine poetry as a force of resistance and transformation.
This is where I get to find out if poet Matt Hart is in fact Walt Whitman’s nice. Somehow it didn’t come up in conversation when we read together at Franklin College earlier this fall (self-plug alert).
R208. I’m Just Not That Into You: Unsympathetic Characters in Fiction. (Irina Reyn, Hannah Tinti, Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Ryan Harbage, Maud Newton) American readers, workshops, and editors are often partial to sympathetic characters, but where does that leave contemporary Humbert Humberts and Anna Kareninas? A panel consisting of writers, editors, and an agent will address likeability in fiction. Is it crucial that our characters be sympathetic? Do we expect more likeable characters in fiction written by female rather than male writers? How does an agent approach the submission process if the novel’s protagonist is deemed unsympathetic?
I feel like the topic of Humbert Humbert comes up in conversations with my writer friends every time there is mixed company and a few drinks involved. This might make me an unlikeable person by association. You know who’s definitely not unlikeable? Maud Newton. She came to Butler a year ago, and everyone was smitten.
R218A. Beef Jerky, Bras, and Car Parts: What We Write About When We Write for Money. (Rachel Kessler, Anastacia Tolbert, Matthew Dickman, Jan Wallace, Ryan Boundinot) F. Scott Fitzgerald did it, Salman Rushdie did it, Don DeLillo did it – it is no surprise that many serious writers have earned their rent money by writing copy for advertisements. The poets and novelists on this panel discuss their anecdotal experiences of technical and review writing (including about lingerie, car parts, and porn)—and how the peculiarities of this work sustained, flattened, inspired, or challenged their own literary writing and sense of self. Sellouts? Or workhorses? You decide.
That title, right?
R278. The Literary Legacy of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain.(Matthew Batt, Melanie Rae Thon, Ryan Boudinot, Jason Skipper, Jacob Paul) “He saved us all,” says fellow Washington native Sherman Alexie of Kurt Cobain. Though neither Cobain nor Nirvana created the “Seattle sound,” they did more than any other band to lionize and catapult it, resulting in a legacy that spread beyond music and into life, politics, and literature. On this, the 20th anniversary of Cobain’s death, panelists will reflect on the literary influence of Nirvana, as well as the impact and aftermath of Cobain’s life and death.
When in Seattle . . .