07 February 2017

Re-posted: War-Writing Events at AWP2017

Blog-editor's note: Much of this post first appeared on the Red Bull Rising blog Nov. 2, 2016.

The annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs (A.W.P.) national conference is this week, from Feb. 8 to 11, 2017. It will be the 50th anniversary of the event. This year, it's being held in Washington, D.C.

The annual event brings together approximately 12,000 writers, educators, students, editors, and publishers, and travels to different cities each year. A concurrent bookfair showcases more than 800 exhibitors.

A searchable, on-line schedule for the event appears here.

At his Time Now blog, military-lit critic and U.S. Army veteran Peter Molin has posted After Action Reports from earlier AWP conferences. He often comments about a growing cohort of "war writers," who leverage the AWP as something of a moveable feast. Here are some of his reports:
While the motivational value of networking with fellow travelers and cocktails with friends should never be discounted, much of the intellectual energy of the conference is to be found in panel discussions and presentations. Good topics challenge our perspectives and presumptions, and it is particularly notable that AWP2017 includes potential conversations about transnational, multimedia, gendered/queer, poetic, regional, and "imperial" interpretations and applications of conflict, both past and present.

In the spirit of Sherpatudes Nos. 1 and 15, here's what we know so far about "war writing" panels, presentations, and readings at AWP2017. After a quick-and-dirty Internet search, some of the authors below are linked book listings at Amazon. I have also annotated Military Writers Guild memberships in brackets. I look forward to filling in more biographical information in the weeks to come—each of the panelists, I believe, are worthy of seeking out, regardless of an easy hyperlink. Also note this list does not include off-site events, which can be expected to grow in number and intensity in the months to come.

One final caveat: The writer of the Red Bull Rising blog is participating in two of the following panels.

Please direct corrections and suggested edits/additions to: sherpa AT

***** THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9 *****

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017: 9:00 to 10:15 a.m.
Archives, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four 
R121. Writing in a Time of Terror and Environmental Collapse.
(Imad Rahman, Jacob Shoes-Arguello, William Wenthe, Anne Sanow, Jacqueline Kolosov) How do writers give shape to the experiences of war, terrorism, and the disregard for life endemic on this planet? Muriel Rukeyser believed that denying the responsiveness to the world could bring forth "the weakness that leads to mechanical aggression... turning us inward to devour our own humanity, and outward to sell and kill nature and each other." Given global terrorism and the spoliation of the planet, the stakes in being able to respond are terribly high. Writers working in poetry, prose, and hybrid forms, will discuss their ways of meeting this challenge in their works past and present, including the difficulties they face and the sources from which they take inspiration.

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017: 9:00 to 10:15 am
Room 101, Washington Convention Center, Level One
R122. What Journalists Can Teach Literary Writers. (Yi Shun Lai, Valerie Boyd, Steven Levingston, William Gray, Moni Basu)
In nonfiction, is it ever okay to fudge facts, timing, or quotes? For journalists, the answer is no, but literary authors can struggle with the balance of craft and facts. Nonfiction storytelling is an increasingly hybrid form, yet few creative writing students learn the journalism basics—how to interview people, attribute sources, or successfully incorporate research. This panel of print and broadcast journalists emphasizes the magic combination of accurate reporting and literary technique.

Thurs., Feb. 9, 2017: 10:30 to 11:45 a.m.
Supreme Court, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

R144. Citizen-Soldier-Poet: Using Poetry to Bridge the Civil-Military Gap. (Randy Brown, Tessa Poppe, Frances Richey, Susanne Aspley, Eric Chandler [MWG member])
With a boot on each side of the civil-military divide, America's citizen-soldiers and their families are uniquely positioned to bridge the gaps between our armed forces and the society they serve. Five civilian and military-veteran writers of poetry, memoir, and fiction read from their works and discuss how they have specifically used poetry in published, practical ways to promote peace, respect, understanding, and empathy.

Thurs., Feb. 9, 2017: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Monument, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

R209. From Verse to Stage and Screen, Veterans Adapt. (Brian Turner, Benjamin Busch, Maurice Decaul, Jenny Pacanowski, Peter Molin [MWG member])
This panel features four war writers who are adapting verse and memoir into more public modes of expression: stage, screen, opera, and performance. The panelists will discuss the challenge of moving beyond the word to theatrically present the events and emotions inherent to combat and military life. Offering insight into issues of craft and collaboration, the panel explores how private modes of literary representation can be transformed into dramatic artworks produced and experienced socially.

Thurs., Feb. 9, 2017: 4:30 to 5:45 pm
Liberty Salon N, O, & P, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
R279. The Politician as Writer: The Rise of the Political Autobiography. (Rachael Hanel, Jesse Goolsby [MWG member], Keith Urbahn, Stephanie Sheu-Jing Li)
Cash donations, an advising team, focus groups—and a book? Barack Obama’s 2004 book, Dreams From My Father, started the recent trend of politicians who first hint at a national campaign by releasing an autobiography. Join the discussion as a literary agent, a novelist and former Pentagon speechwriter, and professors who study English and public relations critically examine these books from literary and marketing perspectives. Can a book be promotional and still have literary merit?

***** FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10 *****

Fri., Feb. 10, 2017: 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.
Marquis Salon 6, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

F110. The Middle Americans: How Flyover Country Responds to War. (Randy Brown, M.L. Doyle, Kayla Williams, Matthew Hefti, Angela Ricketts)
By various measures, rural Americans are more likely to enlist in the US armed forces. Despite isolation from traditional centers of publishing and military power, voices with Midwestern roots have sprung forth like dragon's teeth to deliver clear-eyed, plainspoken views of war, service, and sacrifice. The civilians and veterans of this stereotype-busting panel of published writers offer their insights regarding themes, trends, and markets in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Fri., Feb. 10, 2017: 10:30 to 11:45 a.m.
Capital & Congress, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

F150. Workshopping War: The Challenges of War Writing in the Classroom. (Whitney Terrell, Jayne Anne Phillips, Matt Gallagher, Teresa Fazio, Anne Kniggendorf)
Narratives about war and military life present unique challenges in workshop. How does personal trauma become a story? How can a teacher with no military experience advise a veteran? Or vice versa? Should war writers be encouraged to consider, say, the stories of Iraqis? How do gender and race enter the conversation? The panel pairs teachers of writing with students at work on narratives about war and the military. All have experience in MFA programs or veteran workshops like Words After War.

Fri., Feb. 10, 2017: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Marquis Salon 12 & 13, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

F207. U.S./Pacific Poets Confronting U.S. Empire. (Collier Nogues, Brenda Shaughnessy, Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, Lehua Taitano, Lyz Soto)
U.S. military infrastructure in the Pacific enables both global US imperialism and the militarization of local communities there and throughout the US. Join five poets with ties to Okinawa, Guåhan (Guam), Vietnam, the Philippines, and Hawai‘i as they invite the audience to collaboratively envision how writers can use language and performance in our local, national, and international literary spheres to resist the linguistic and cultural violence of military imperialism.

Fri., Feb. 10, 2017: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Virginia Barber Middleton Stage, Sponsored by USC, Exhibit Halls D & E, Convention Center, Level Two

F224. Voices of Main Street. (Katie Manning, Yehoshua November, Colin D. Halloran, Leslie McGrath, Charlie Bondhus)
Five winners of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award from 2009 to the most recent will read from their books. The reading will be moderated by Main Street Rag's publisher.

Fri., Feb. 10, 2017: 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.
Marquis Salon 3 & 4, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

F272. 90 Years and Counting: A Reading Celebrating Prairie Schooner. (Ashley Strosnider, Brian Turner, Kevin Simmonds, Safiya Sinclair)
A perfect time capsule of the diverse, experimental trends in American literary publishing, Prairie Schooner’s ninety-year legacy of uninterrupted quarterly publication charts the course of a little journal on the prairie and its path to becoming a key player among literary journals, publishing major contemporary American voices alongside an increasingly global list of contributors. Hear poets and fiction writers read work that speaks to where we’ve been and where we’re headed next.

***** SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11 *****

Sat., Feb. 11, 2017: 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.
Room 202B, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

S128. I Wouldn’t Go there if I Were You: Literary Journalism and the Craft of Writing Dangerous Places. (Benjamin Busch, Jennifer Percy, Elliot Ackerman, Deni Béchard)
When writers of poetry, creative nonfiction, or fiction serve as overseas correspondents, the narratives they craft are deeply felt and unique. From travel and interpreters to notes and drafts, these writers ventured to the fringe to experience their stories. This panel explores how four writers chased curiosity into endangerment to bring back stunning portraits of war, disease, humanity, and environment in crisis and how they teach ways to write literary reportage in workshops and MFA programs.

Sat., Feb. 11, 2017: 10:30 to 11:45 a.m.
Room 102B, Washington Convention Center, Level One
S154. Translating Iraq. (Alana Levinson-LaBrosse, Neil Shea, Heather Raffo, Andrew Slater)
Since before the Iraq War began in 2003, Americans have worked to understand Iraq: a country incomprehensible to many of its own citizens. The major and minute divisions and the competing desires can overwhelm even the most conscientious observer. The participating American writers of this panel have lived and worked in Iraq. Bringing home Iraq's realities, whether through poetry, fiction, documentaries, Instagram, plays. or operas, is an act of delicate artistic and cultural translation.

Sat., Feb. 11, 2017: 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Marquis Salon 9 & 10, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two
S206. The New Normal in Nonfiction: Diverse Voices in Nonfiction from The Normal School. (Jericho Parms, Jaclyn Moyer, Sarah Minor, Steven Church, Matthew Komatsu [MWG member]) Four nonfiction writers representing diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives consider questions of race, identity, family, culture, and consciousness. Representing emerging writers, students, farmers, first-book authors, and tenured MFA program faculty, the panel members have all been published recently in the literary magazine The Normal School. They celebrate a variety nonfiction styles, from the more traditional narrative essay to lyric essays and research-driven work.

Sat., Feb. 11, 2017: 3 to 4:15 p.m.
Room 202A, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

S258. The Art of War: The Power and Role of the Writer in Times of Crisis. (Pireeni Sundaralingam, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Lidia Yuknavitch, David Shields)
As an increasing percentage of the world is plunged into conflict, our panel brings together award-winning novelists, poets, and nonfiction writers to explore how creative writing can shape, distort, and challenge the way we understand war. Drawing on examples from our own work and the work of others, we will discuss the power of the written word in relation to image and other forms of propaganda, and share our personal experiences of how our books have influenced a wider political discussion.

Sat., Feb. 11, 2017: 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.
Marquis Salon 12 & 13, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

S272. Writing War, Teaching Craft: Veterans & Cadets in the Creative Writing Classroom. (Mary Stewart Atwell, Kevin Powers, Ron Capps, Benjamin Busch, Katey Schultz)
The upsurge in literary work by veterans has sparked an interest in teaching writing to this population, but a less-noted phenomenon has been the recent increase in course offerings in creative writing at service academies and military colleges. A panel of writers and teachers who have worked with both veterans and cadets—those returning from war, and those preparing to serve—put these two groups into new and enlightening conversation.

Sat., Feb. 11, 2017: 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.
Liberty Salon N, O, & P, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Fou
S277. Poetry in the Age of the Drone: A Reading. (Corey Van Landingham, Solmaz Sharif, Philip Metres, Nomi Stone, Jill McDonough)
How does poetry function in the age of the drone? Can poets avoid the anesthetizing remove enacted by the drone when writing about political subjects from a safe distance? What is the role of poetry in a time of perpetual war—does it, as Auden says, make nothing happen? Five poets read work that shows the different ways poetry reacts to, and interacts with, the idea of the militarization of the drone, targeted killing, and the difficulty of writing about war from afar.

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