Monday, February 28, 2011

Little Utopias and Blurring the Lines

Not too long ago, I went to the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis to watch Utopia in Four Movements, a documentary that generated plenty of buzz at the 2010 Sundance Festival. Created by San Francisco filmmakers Sam Green and Dave Cerf, it turned out to be a documentary and then some, with the extra lime twist of being live. Green was there, in person, on stage, narrating beside a screen that flashed a series of archival and original material, still and moving images. Meanwhile, a live band (The Brooklyn-based group The Quavers) played a live soundtrack. You couldn’t wait and watch this later on DVD or on your iPad or iPhone. You had to be there to watch Green riff on his four examples of 20th-century hopefulness, or you missed it, as simple as that.

So was it a documentary or a performance that I witnessed with hundreds of others that evening? It was something different, something in between. Naturally, this got me thinking about CNF, which often butts against definition, where the lines between it and other genres constantly get blurred. Part of the excitement of CNF is the way it pushes the boundaries, mutating in directions previously unimagined.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I Swear I'm Not Stalking You, Ira Sukrungruang: My Experience at AWP, Part 2

The side picture is from the Hamline University table at the AWP Bookfair.  (Check out those neat Grout bookmarks.)  For those of you who have never been there, the bookfair is kind of chaotic but a great place to spot some of your favorite writers.  Our table was two tables over from the table run by Sweet, an online literary confection, and often Ira Sukrungruang could be found working there.  I have only read a few pieces by him, but we are reading Talk Thai this semester, I heard him read at Barrie's panel last year, and he is the 2011 Hamline Summer Writing Workshop guest CNF writer, so I was really excited to see him.  Maybe too excited.  I would comment every time he appeared.  "There's Ira again!"  "Or Ira's back, I hope he doesn't notice me looking at him."  But I never had the guts to go introduce myself.

I planned to have Barrie (Barrie Jean Borich, beloved CNF professor at Hamline) introduce me to him after their panel together this year, but I chickened out and she had to dash to a second panel.  The panel they sat on, Bodies Politic, was amazing, though.  And not just because it had such great writers (along with Barrie and Ira it had Judith Barrington, Ann Pancake, Brian Teare, and Kekla Magoon).  Each of the writers said fascinating things about writing about the body and the politics involved sometimes, whether it is because of gender/sexuality issues, disability, geography or regional characters, size concerns, or the intense connection between body and memory.  I could write an entire blog posting just about this panel, but if you ever get a chance to hear these writers speak, or read some of their work, do it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Colorful Tights, Bad Carpeting, and (Un)ironic Beards: My Experience at AWP, Part 1

The annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference met last weekend at the Marriott Hotel in Washington D.C. For those of you who were not in attendance, I will be recapping the experience in a two-part blog. I attended AWP for the first time last year in Denver, and I found it overwhelming, in part because I tried to cram as many sessions into my day as possible. By the end of it my brain hurt. This year, I picked my top two panels each day and stuck to them. I spent as much time at the bookfair as I did in panel sessions, and I focused on what I believe the main idea behind AWP is: networking and mind-melding with other writers. The venue was lovely, despite our somewhat disappointing table placement at the bookfair and the carpeting, which someone likened to the floor of a casino (see the photo above).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Starting to Pay Attention to This e-Book Thing

Despite the fact that I am both a writer and a bit of a tech freak, up to this point I've been pretty uninterested in the discussions about e-book publishing. Granted, this  is probably partly because the term "e-" anything seems to be straight out the awkward web-talk of the 1990s. But also because digital books just seem like an inevitable next step in the evolution of publishing. A phenomenon with little immediate relevance to writers.

However over the past week there's been a flurry of news about digital publishing that has me paying attention and thinking about how it could eventually influence my writing.