AWP 2014 (a miniscule sampler)

AWP 2014 (a miniscule sampler)

My head is still spinning from the inspirational and overwhelming writerly tsunami that is the Associated Writers and Writing Programs conference. Here are a handful of writers whose work I particularly enjoyed either during panel discussions or random encounters at the book fair or around the city.

Summer Wood. She had a lot of lovely things to offer during her Structuring the Novel panel. I look forward to reading Raising Wrecker.

 Anca Szilagyi and Fairy Tale Review. During the New Fairy Tales from the North panel, Anca read an excerpt from her short story, “More Like Home Than Home.” This story features a girl trapping a raven in a very large jar of custard. I loved it, and now look forward to reading FTR’s new Emerald issue.

Rikki Ducornet. The Dickmare. ’nuff said.

Sara Loewen read a subtle and deeply moving excerpt from her book of essays, Gaining Daylight: Life on Two Islands. Loewen was born and raised in Alaska, and lives on Kodiak island, where she teaches and fishes. From the book’s synopsis:”Her personal essays integrate natural and island history with her experiences of fishing and family life, as well as the challenges of living at the northern edge of the Pacific.”

David Huddle. I attended a panel called “The Middle Matters,” about the middles of short stories. Huddle got up and blasted us with a spectacular presentation on Eudora Welty’s story, “Powerhouse.” Provocative, passionate, and stately, Huddle reminded me that Welty’s work is not only still relevant, but still edgy, and well worth revisiting.

Gretel Ehrlich. Even though she had a cold.

Barry Lopez. I read Arctic Dreams as a sixth grader and have never shaken it. He spoke with Gretel Ehrlich at AWP. I will post a link to their talk as soon as it’s live online.

Colin Dickey (most recently in The Believer). I had the good fortune to meet Colin in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Author of Cranioklepty and Afterlives of the Saints, he’s a frequent contributor to Lapham’s Quarterly, among other publications. He’s also the director of the Morbid Anatomy Museum in NYC.

Cari Luna.I am really looking forward to reading her book, which chronicles the lives of five squatters in the mid-nineties in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Sharma Shields was utterly charming during the Uncanny West panel discussion. Her book concerns a creature who may or may not be a sasquatch. Since she was born and raised in Spokane, Sharma’s work would be better characterized as unkanny. Anyone? Bueller?

It was a joy to see Debra Magpie Earling again. I’ve reread her novel, Perma Red, several times since it came out in 2002.

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing

“The Next Big Thing” is a viral self-interview sent through the ether chain-letter-style by writers, to spotlight new or forthcoming projects. My friend, poet Mira Rosenthal, tagged me for the interview; you can read Mira’s interview here.

What is the working title of the book?
The Gyre
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The compost heap of my subconscious, I suppose. More specifically, the idea was born the moment I stepped off of a Beaver bush plane into the peculiar, unforgettable light of an arctic summer. For two weeks I rafted down the Canning River in northern Alaska. We watched foxes, owls, bears, and even saw a wolf make its way across the vast tundralands. By the end of the trip I had no words to express the way that landscape had changed me, and I took that as a writerly challenge. At that point, even though I had not yet developed the story elements that would become The Gyre, I knew I would write a book whose heart is in the far north. I wrote a little bit about that trip to Alaska here and here.
What genre does your book fall under?
Literary fiction set in a version of the past (which is not really past).
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmm, I’m going to skip this one. I don’t want to provide a replacement for the wonderful work of a reader’s imagination at play with a writer’s intention.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Three wildly different people ride their ambition (both worldly and spiritual) north to Spitsbergen, where they become sun crazed in summer, enchanted by the aurora in winter, and altogether enmeshed by the strange layers of folklore present even in the most remote, arctic archipelago.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About three years.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I am motivated by a desire to contribute to a literature of the arctic that does not center around themes of exploration.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There’s an ax fight!
Also, I made a video about The Gyre as part of a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to raise money for an amazing research and writing residency I’ll be doing this summer. Check it out!

You can contribute to the project here.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Hopefully represented by my current agent.
My tagged writers for next week
The wonderful poet Caroline Goodwin, who also looks northward — to Alaska — in some of her work.