04 August 2007

the writer's edge 2007

I've just returned, settled in, and got my brain back on straight after the awesome second annual Writer's Edge conference held Friday through Sunday, 27-29 July, in downtown Portland, Oregon. Sponsored by FC2 and hosted by Portland State University, the gathering was composed of five workshops, two panels, a faculty reading, two open mics for participants, and myriad conversations about innovative prose. Last year 50 participants from around the country attended. I'm happy to report that this year the number was 65 and we fully expect to see 75 next.

Lidia Yuknavitch and I served as co-sponsors, and our overwhelming impression was one of creative and intellectual good-spiritedness, invigorating energy, and a thoroughgoing committment to the notion of collectivity. We've already begun working on next year's conference, whose faculty will include, in addition to Lidia and me, the remarkable Kate Bernheimer, Noy Holland, and Steve Tomasula. Even as I write this, cyberguru Aaron Waychoff is proving himself divine by setting up a discussion space for past and present participants to come together to talk about their interests. More on all of this and more soon, but right now just a few of the highlights from this year's gathering of the tribe:

At the core of the get-together were those five workshops I mentioned. Lidia Yuknavitch led one on "Corporeal Texts," exploring the interstices between the body and writing where meaning is always in flux. Trevor Dodge focused on hybridity in creative nonfiction. In "Small Fictions in a Row," Lucy Corin posed such questions as: "How many different ways can a writer, who supposedly has one 'voice,' distill narrative and language within limited space?" and "How 'big' can you make a small thing?" Brian Evenson invesitgated the variety of ways in which contemporary writers can and do respond to writers who have come before them in "Collaborating with the Past." "Fiction as Architecture," the workshop I led, interested itself in the question: "How it is both illuminating and stimulating to conceptualize fiction's structures and discourses as spaces one lives in and moves through as one might, for instance, a Bauhaus building, a tenement, an emergency room, a funhouse, a cathedral?"

The Simon Benson House, site of our communal dinner on Saturday evening, as well as a snippet of the Portland State University campus.

Faculty reading: Lidia Yuknavitch.

Faculty reading: Lucy Corin.

Faculty reading: Brian Evenson.

The above panel, featuring Trevor Dodge, Lidia Yuknavitch, Lucy Corin, Brian Evenson, and me, addressed trends in experimental writing. A second panel, featuring innovative film makers Holly Andres, Grace Carter, Karl Lind, Andy Blubaugh, and Andi Olsen, addressed experimental film and narratology.

A photo of faculty who seem puzzled when a camera is pointing at them: Trevor Dodge and Lance Olsen.

And a gargantuan thanks to one and all for helping make this year's coming together startling and thrilling and warm and reengergizing, but most of all the epitome of what an intentional community can and should be.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lance & co.:

I am glad to see that you have posted a sort of round-up of events that occurred at the conference last weekend, along with a number of photos. I had brought a camera along, but was too engaged with what was going on to bother extracting it from my bag even once!

At any rate, I just wanted to point anyone who might be interested to my own account of the conference at my blog: here.

Another big "thanks" to all those who were involved with the event. It was a very stimulating experience for me, as I'm sure it was for many others.


blonde said...

i have recently been ravaged by words and bodies.

i am coming out of the WRITER’S EDGE literary conference this last weekend. i go into it very well prepared. like i know what i’m in for.

and yet i was done in.

it wasn’t the labor of it, which by the way, is formidable, and impossible to manage without my partner in passion and art lance olsen and my second self virginia paterson.

it wasn’t the intensity of the faculty, though they were, breathtakingly intense.

i have been ravaged by the people who, again, made the choice to join us.

strange and beautiful tribe.

i have been ravaged by the words and bodies and heat of you all. your writing. your pulse. your astonishing presence.

i have been ravaged by the soft eyelash quiver of a girl writing new myths, the hair of a tall woman opening language, by the skin-smell of someone sitting near me, by the color of a shirt illuminating a voice, by the slippages of a drunken young man bringing us back to the whole truth of the carnival, by the images running up and down the arms of a friend, by the dizzy dissolving boundaries between film/text/image/music, by an utterly ordered, disordered, reordered chaos, noise, chant, heartbeat.

heart beaten, i have been ravaged.

red dresses and boots.

the splayed hair of a woman resting on a black leather couch, her back toward the action.

chocolate covered strawberries.

anxious pleasures, wavering knives, lane bryant girls and women in dangerous positions mooning and turning.

someone naming me in a song.

my scotch in the toilet, glass shattered, my hands dipping into my own pee.

i’m telling you i would rather be ravaged everyday of my life like this than participate in the death culture of my current social order.

i’m telling you thank you.

for this ravishment.

it is enough.

come again.

with love,


rebecca said...


i want to thank you and lidia (who killed me with that entry above) for putting this out there, calling "the tribe" in for a meeting, an exchange of lives. i want to thank ted for encouraging me to attend (as well as everything else). i want to thank all the fascinating people i met and moreso the ones i talked to in depth, who came when they heard the call and were willing to open themselves up. and i want to thank portland for being such a cool chill open city where a gal who's consumed too much Philly can relax a little.

and now that i've left my first comment after reading this blog for so long, expect me to pop in from time to time with my randomness in tow.


Erin Jourdan said...

From my blog, semioticiantothestars.blogspot.com
if you want to see it with links!

The Semiotician spent last weekend in Portland, OR for the 2nd annual FC2 conference at Portland State University. I had heard about the collective from fiction writer Kris Saknussemm, author of Zanesville, a fine post-apocalyptic novel for which I wrote a review a few years ago which can be accessed here on the SFStation.com site.

As someone who is attempting to write in all forms, or perhaps more accurately, just write and let the form come from the work, I appreciated being amongst like minds. It is wonderful to not have to begin every conversation tabula rasa, since at the conference most of the attendees had read at least part of what most would sneering-ly call the "Experimental Canon." (Of which, I will leave the definition to others, since if it was up to me I would provide a link like THIS just to be cheeky.)

Experimental writing is, to paraphrase Lance Olsen, "fiction which asks 'what am I' while it is being written."* Meaning that it is fiction without form considerations or structure as it is being written. It is about lack of conformity, mistakes, writing outside the comfort zone, and the urgodic. It is about work and fun, and in my mind an iterative process. To me, it is like being on Iron Chef and being asked to prepare snails in fifty different ways in the timespan of an hour.

* Or Jean Francois Lyotard says experimental fiction is, " art that looks for the rules that define the art, but the rules do not exist."

We looked at pieces of architecture and wrote what we thought the structure would have as a narrative. After looking at a White Castle restaurant, I wrote, "Yeah Caesar, tattoo my name on your bicep, big boy. Happy fucking 4th of July, asshole. I died for your freedom."

For Frank Gehry's Disney Opera House here in Los Angeles, " A playground for dead opera singers. The acoustics in Heaven are fabulous."

I would definitely try this exercise again. It reminds me of what I tried to do here in Santa Monica, writing short narratives based on the names of apartment buildings. If you want to check it out, the link is here.

There were also fantastic workshops with Lidia Yuknavitch, Lucy Corin and Brian Evenson.
(Which I would totally comment on, but I am in the middle of doing laundry and attempting to clean my apartment while I write this...)

The other fascinating thing I was exposed to was a book Lucy Corin won at a bar by answering a trivia question. It is called Creative Aggression and the Art of Assertive Living and it is hair on fire wild! It was published in 1975 and I swear it is practically a work of groundbreaking language poetry. In this text, you break down niceties in your relationship with something akin to scream therapy. One type of this exchange is "The Vesuvius" where each person gets a three minute turn to scream at the other. Another one is referenced as the "Virginia Woolf" where you get to have a no holds barred insult exchange with your partner and then agree to never discuss it again. Another method of therapy is called "The Haircut" where you ask your partner..."can I give you a haircut?" and if they say yes, you get to scold them and then offer some sort of penance which is called, "The Doghouse Release."

It is relationship science fiction and made me want a strong martini while watching the film version of The Ice Storm.

Anonymous said...

I'm so grateful to you guys for making so much of the conference accessible on the web for us east coast kids who couldn't make it to Portland, and for making something like this exist at all. No kidding. I love you all. Hopefully I'll see everyone again next year. The end.