AWP 2013, Thursday Report
Posted on March 8, 2013
Day one of AWP 2013 is over, and I may have underestimated just how much energy it takes to make it through a day at this thing.
Ambre, one of my best friends in the whole world, picked me up in Somersworth, New Hampshire this morning. Ruthie is staying with the babysitter she had from 6-18 months, which means that I can be a real grown up for the rest of this trip, not having to worry about making it back to the hotel at a reasonable hour or avoiding crowds or going too long without a snack.
Because we arrived late in the morning, we only attended two conference sessions today. Our interests overlap enough that we will likely attend most of the same sessions, with little variation between us. We did joke as we sat after picking up our registration materials that we could probably get our money’s worth just by sitting together at a table all week, but for all the socializing we’re going to do and fun we’re going to have while we’re here, the conference sessions really are high on our list of priorities.
Today’s conference sessions were:
I & Thou: The Dangers of the Self in Writing About Religion with Jeremy Jones, Jessie van Eerden, Jeff Sharlet, and Josh MacIvor-Anderson
I found myself interested in this session as both a writer and a teacher. The focus was on the way that the “I” plays a part in writing about transcendental experiences, whether that transcendence is happening to the I or to someone else. As a writer, I was challenged by Jessie van Eerden’s encouragement to avoid objectifying the subject of a literary portrait by claiming ownership over another person. We are not supposed to try to possess the people that we write about–that’s what turns us into manipulative writers or even “violent commentators” on the experiences of others.
As a teacher, I recognized my students in the stories that Jeremy Jones told of his. He mentioned Jesus showing up in essays about Beowolf; for me, I end up reading about God in papers that are supposed to be career profiles. He described well something that I had not put into words myself: that students can’t write about transcendental experience because they lack the language to do so, and that lacking the language means that they also cannot process the events in the most full way possible.
I found myself wanting to hurry out and purchase Jeff Sharlet‘s books, and I want to shake Josh MacIvor-Anderson’s message into my students that to write something designed to convert or evangelize one’s audience is to write a sermon, not literature, and that if you want to do that, get yourself a pulpit.
The Pedagogy & Practice of Other Art Forms in the Creative Writing Classroom with Rachel Marston, Caitlin Horrocks, Shena McAuliffe, Nichole Sheets, and Robert Glick
I took extensive notes during this session but need some time to process them before I can report back fully on the material that was presented. I got a lot of interesting ideas for presenting material to my creative writing students. This is my first semester teaching creative writing since I was a grad student teaching Creative Nonfiction, so it has been an interesting challenge to develop a syllabus that provides a satisfactory introduction to four different genres: creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction, and drama. This session gave me some ideas that I will work out later.
We also attended the University of New Hampshire reception for Charles Simic’s new book of poetry, New and Selected Poems.
Although Charlie Simic is a professor at UNH, I did not study under him there because I would never set foot in a poetry workshop for fear of losing all confidence in my skills as a writer. The poems he read tonight were enthralling and funny and poignant, and I definitely want to pick up his book.
Like I said, AWP is also about socializing.
This afternoon, Ambre and I had a wonderful time catching up with Meredith Hall for a long talk about our families and children and writing and homes. Our friend Carolyn came down from Burlington, Vermont to share dinner together, and we ate what I dubbed “the smuggest meal that ever smugged,” which is code for, “AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS VEGAN GOODNESS” from Life Alive in Cambridge.
This post was written in the middle of the night on Thursday and published on Friday morning. Ambre was kind of amazed that I stayed up so late writing it, but I’m not about to break my perfect blogging streak in 2013!
ALSO MY SISTER HAD A BABY ON THURSDAY! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY ANDREW!