Just received my itinerary for Muse and the Marketplace, a writer's conference this Saturday, May 1, in Boston. Happy to report that I received all three of my first-choice sessions. I will also be meeting one on one with a literary agent who will have read an excerpt of my manuscript in advance. This will allow me to hear a rejection in person, with rationale, as opposed to a form postcard wishing me luck. I hope to get feedback that doesn't make me want to give up living. But we shall see.
Here is my itinerary:
SESSION 1E: "This Is How A Caged Writer Sings"
Description: Can listening to the right songs make your prose sing? Steve Almond says yes. And he’s got a whole record collection full of proof. In this strange and potentially aerobic session, Steve will play a number of his favorite literary songs and discuss the relationship between songwriting and prose writing, with a particular emphasis on the melody and rhythm inherent in language, and the importance of overt emotional involvement. (Unless requested, Steve will not be perform his world-famous rendition of “Your Song” on harmonica.) Bring a pen, an open mind, and your dancing shoes.
Type: Lecture with Q&A
Author: Steve Almond. Steve Almond is the author the story collections: My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow, the novel Which Brings Me to You (with Julianna Baggott), and the non-fiction books Candyfreak and (Not That You Asked). His new book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, is just out. He has also, crazily, self-published a book called This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey, composed of 30 very brief stories and 30 very brief essays on the psychology and practice of writing.
SESSION 2G: “The Essentials of Dialogue”
Description: Effective dialogue is more than a simple transcript of speech; our characters’ conversations must be shaped to do work for narrative, to develop character, setting, and voice, and to propel the plot forward. We will practice a range of techniques for the creation of vivid, engaging dialogue, illuminated by examples from authors such as Richard Bausch, Flannery O’Connor, Sherman Alexie, and Raymond Carver. By the end of this session, you will have an enhanced toolbox bringing your characters’ words to life.
Type: Lecture, Q&A, Guided Writing
Leader: Adam Stumacher. Adam Stumacher's fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices, has been published in TriQuarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Carve, Barnstorm and The Sun, and was winner of the Raymond Carver Short Story Award. His nonfiction has appeared in the Guardian (UK) and the anthology Peace Under Fire. He holds degrees from Cornell University and Saint Mary's College, where he was recipient of the Jeanine Cooney and Agnes Butler fellowships. More recently, he was the the Carol Houck Smith Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, where he taught undergraduate courses. In addition to his work at Grub Street, he teaches creative writing at MIT and has many years experience as an educator in urban high schools. He is the author of a short story collection, Slipknot, and is currently working on a novel, entitled A Liar's Opus.
SESSION 3D: “Don’t Give Up: First-Aid for the First-Person Narrative”
Description: This class is designed specifically for frustrated writers who have tried and failed to complete a first-person nonfiction narrative. Nothing is more discouraging than knowing you have a compelling, true story to tell—whether it is based on personal experience, the lives of others, or original research—and watching it fade and fail on the page. Bring your frustrations; bring a one- or two-sentence synopsis of the story you want to tell. We’ll discuss them along with a few opening paragraphs of published memoirs, topical nonfiction, and reflective essays, paying particular attention to the distinct roles assigned to writer, narrator, and character. Because you can’t do it alone: it takes three of you to bring a first-person story to life.
Author: Michael Downing. Michael Downing’s novels include the national bestseller Perfect Agreement and Breakfast with Scot, which was adapted as a movie that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. In addition to Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center, a narrative history of the first Buddhist monastery outside of Asia, Michael’s nonfiction includes the updated 2009 edition of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, and a memoir, Life With Sudden Death: A Tale of Moral Hazard and Medical Misadventure. His essays and reviews appear in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. A frequent commentator on clocks, Congress, and confusion about daylight saving on NPR, PBS, and network and cable news programs, Michael teaches creative writing at Tufts University. You can read more about his work at www.michaeldowningbooks.com.
Manuscript Mart Literary Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown, Ltd.
Katherine Fausset is an agent with Curtis Brown, Ltd., New York. She has worked in publishing since 1998. In non-fiction she looks for dynamic, bold voices and subject matter that alters our view of the world. In fiction, she particularly loves rich, atmospheric detail; humor; explorations of family dynamics; anything set during a revolution; and morally-complicated protagonists. Some of her non-fiction clients are Moustafa Bayoumi, Mary Ann Caws, Ioan Grillo, Daniel Hernandez and Chris Rose. Her fiction clients include Benjamin Percy, Laura van den Berg, James Magruder, Katharine Davis, Jerry Gabriel, Janna McMahan, Justin Allen and John Nichols.