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.