16 September 2007

the writer's edge 2008

Please take note, and please help pass that word: the third annual Writer's Edge conference will be held Friday through Sunday, 25-27 July, in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Sponsored by FC2 and hosted by Portland State University, it will feature five workshops on innovative fiction, two panels, a faculty reading, two open mics for participants, and myriad conversations about experimental prose.

Here are descriptions for next year's workshops, as well as a list of the faculty teaching them. For more information, please click here.

Fairy Tales Almost Blue
Kate Bernheimer
“At an early age, children are weaned on the marvelous, and later on they fail to retain a sufficient virginity of mind to enjoy fairy tales,” André Breton wrote in 1924. “There are fairy tales to be written for adults,” he continued. “Fairy tales almost blue.” (Perhaps not coincidentally, Andrew Lang’s first fairy-tale collection, published in 1884, was The Blue Fairy Book.) This workshop will ask us to transform our minds into virginal ones, to seek the marvelous, to be almost blue, to discover what almost blue means. We will read short fairy tales, with an eye toward abstraction, from Hans Christian Andersen, Angela Carter, the Brothers Grimm, Mohammed Mrabet, and others. We will inspect their language, their motifs. We will discuss intuition and form in fairy tales. We will seek to be weaned on the marvelous, to see where it takes us in writing. We will leave the workshop having written a short fairy tale for adults, and, hopefully, an appreciation for the avant-garde nature of fairy tales.

Usage is More Powerful than Reason
Noy Holland
“Now is the night one blue dew,” James Agee wrote in A Death in the Family. We are urged by many to choose the right word, but, having chosen it, where do we put it? This is a class about syntax and sound—it’s about the music of sentences, the visceral effect of the language. We’ll exercise a poet’s attentiveness to cadence, to where the stresses of syllables fall, to the beauties of repetition. Some of the most glorious sentences in the language are composed of humble and familiar words. Some of the most glorious paragraphs and pages in the language are composed of humble and familiar words. The labor, then, is in the arranging, in the rightly misplaced adjective, in the dissonance produced by concentrations of sound and stress as with “one blue dew”—which, while it describes the loveliness of twilight, surges with something terrible and portentous. The chemical affinities between words are greatly altered by distance and proximity; that is, we manipulate those affinities via syntax, and by this do our work on the body of the (bless you) receptive reader.

The Mosaic Mind: Fiction as Collage
Lance Olsen
Collage is an aesthetic and theoretical gesture committed to liberation through juxtaposition, conflation, fusion, confusion, patchwork imaginations, cyborg scripts, centaur texts, narratologically amphibious writings, the mosaic mind that embrace a poetics of beautiful monstrosity. Through mini-lecture, conversation, and three writing exercises, we shall examine the history of this form in the arts, then visit several theories of the collage, including those posed by Picasso, Duchamp, Lévi-Strauss, Derrida, Burroughs, Ronald Sukenick, Donna Haraway, and Shelley Jackson, exploring how, through the very process of cutting up and cutting off, collage in fiction (and painting, and body modification, and . . .) opens up and out, often calling attention to the sensuality of the page, the canvas, the skin, the surfaces it inhabits. In preparation for this workshop, please read the following: Blood & Guts in High School, Kathy Acker; Snow White, Donald Barthelme; My Body, Shelley Jackson (a hypertext available online); The Last Novel, David Markson.

M(M)MW: Multi(Modal)Media Writing
Steve Tomsula
Anytime a medium goes through a time of flux, exciting possibilities open up. This is certainly the case with writing today where authors can employ visuals or sound as never before. M(M)MW will take up what can be called multimedia, or multimodal, writing: fiction, poetry, e- and hybrid works, both print and electronic, that incorporate visual and/or audio elements, and yet still foreground language as their main material, and are experienced primarily through reading. When is an image gratuitous or only an illustration and when is it part of the fabric of a story? How is a graphic novel different from a film? That is, why write at all? Why not just make an animation? The goal is for everyone to formulate their own M(M)MW poetics: What makes a word-image text good? Bad? Ugly? How can you incorporate this poetics into your own writing? Before the workshop convenes, students will be asked to become familiar with several M(M)MW works, and arrive with a completed, short M(M)MW writing exercise.

Wrestling the Novel
Lidia Yuknavitch
It’s 2008-9. The novel in America has reached an unfortunate kind of product pinnacle, in that what gets named and legitimized as a "novel" either wins a buncha academic prizes, makes a lot of money through its entertainment value and mind-numbing massagery, or makes it onto Oprah. My question is this: what else can the novel be, right now, right here? Using the novels listed below as case-studies, we will explore NOT what is killing the novel, but what IS MADE POSSIBLE by the formation, deformation, and reformation of the novel in America. We will discuss the hardships/challenges of longer work, and we will put ourselves through three writing crucibles in an effort to rescue and engage novelistic writing strategies, the last of which we will use to create a collaborative undoing of the novel by the end of the weekend. Using a framework I am borrowing from the collaborative novel I co-wrote with Ken Kesey and the grad students of the University of Oregon, we will create an undoing of the novel. Our collaborative undoing of the novel will be published by Chiasmus Press. To prep: get your hands on and read around in these books:

VAS/Steve Tomasula
Anxious Pleasures/ Lance Olsen
AVA/Carole Maso
Dra-/Stacey Levine