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Block 4 [clear filter]
Friday, April 3

3:30pm EDT

4A: Realism with a Twist: Bending the Truth to Get Closer to It
Limited Capacity filling up

Franz Kafka transformed his unhappy Samsa into an insect. Colson Whitehead brought Cora from slavery on an actual underground train. Mohsin Hamid sent his refugees through a door to a different life. All of these books tweak the boundaries of realism. They tell of worlds that look much like our own – no dystopian futures or imagined planets – but some element is made strange. And as a result, we can see our troubled world more clearly.

When we’re writing about frightening political, social, and climate situations, realism can’t always adequately describe the real world. In this session, through lectures and exercises, we’ll explore adding magic and metaphor to the realist novel. We’ll look at work by Zadie Smith, Ruth Ozeki, Valeria Luisella and others as we talk about ways to wake up our readers. How can we defamiliarize difficult truths that we often try to ignore? What can we learn from allegories and fairy tales? How can we, as writers, pay attention differently in order to know the world better?

avatar for Heather Abel

Heather Abel

Heather Abel’s debut novel, The Optimistic Decade was an Indie Next pick, a Massachusetts Center of the Book 2018 "Must Read" and received praise from the New York Times, People Magazine, New York Magazine, and the Seattle Times, among many other places. Her essays have appeared... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
St. James Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4D: Negotiating Time in Memoir and Novels
Limited Capacity full

In books, as in life, timing is everything. How do we deliver a story in the right order? How should a book unfold? In memoir and fiction, linear chronology can be boring, but if we play around with the sequence of events too much, the reader may feel confused or disconcerted. 

In this session, we will think about structure and how to organize a story's timing for maximum impact. Specifically, we look at how to incorporate backstory. Too much of it up front and you risk losing the reader; too little, and your story may lack depth. We will examine how to raise the stakes so that flashbacks feel necessary and urgent. We will also explore when in time a story should begin. We'll consider techniques and strategies to manipulate the reader's experience of time, with an eye towards how these affect pacing and voice.

avatar for Maya Lang

Maya Lang

Maya Shanbhag Lang is the author of What We Carry: A Memoir, forthcoming from Random House in April 2020, and The Sixteenth of June: A Novel. Her novel was featured in The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and In Style, was a Finalist for the 2015 Audie Awards for best... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Tremont Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4E: Researching and Choosing Agents to Query
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You've spent years of hard work writing and revising your first book, and it is time to begin looking for an agent. You have a query letter with a great hook and your first twenty pages sparkle. Now it's time to create a well-researched list of agents to query.

A carefully-curated agent list can save you both time and the pain of multiple rejections. Using online tools such as the Publishers Marketplace database and Query Tracker, I'll show you how to research agents, how to whittle down the list, and tips on how to plan your querying strategy.

Please bring your questions and titles of contemporary books similar to yours in genre, voice, and plot. If time permits, we will use these to demonstrate how to begin your research during the session.

avatar for Louise Miller

Louise Miller

Louise Miller is a writer and pastry chef living in Boston, MA. Her debut novel, The City Baker's Guide to Country Living was selected as an Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association, a Library Reads pick by Librarians across the U.S., and was shortlisted by the America... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Whittier Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4F: The Oversight Draft: From Manuscript to Publishable Draft
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What keeps a finished manuscript from being accepted for publication, or from catching a judge's eye or attention, or from being read all the way to the end? How do you know when your manuscript is truly done? From flat plots to false dialogue. thin and under researched scenes, we will discuss the most common mistakes that keep a finished manuscript from being ready for publication and then offer suggestions about how to address these issues in an "oversight" draft.

avatar for Amina Gautier

Amina Gautier

Amina Gautier, Ph.D., is the author of three award-winning short story collections: At-Risk, Now We Will Be Happy and The Loss of All Lost Things. At-Risk was awarded the Flannery O’Connor Award, The First Horizon Award, and the Eric Hoffer Legacy Fiction Award. Now We Will Be... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Beacon Hill Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4H: A Tale of Two Narrative Modes: Linear vs. Atmospheric Storytelling
Limited Capacity full

Are you someone who relies on drama to push your stories or essays forward? Or do you prefer to "feel" your way into a narrative by creating a distinctive atmosphere?

This session will consider two different "modes" of storytelling and explore the strengths and challenges of each. We’ll examine excerpts from two highly accomplished authors: international bestseller Elena Ferrante (translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein) and Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano (translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti, among others). While Ferrante often uses events and plot points to drive her narratives, Modiano's atmospheric novels lure the reader toward a truth or mystery that is ultimately elusive.

Through discussion, Q&A, and, as time allows, writing prompts, we’ll consider the effects of these different narrative approaches. You’ll leave with tools to discover compelling forms for your own project.

avatar for Shuchi Saraswat

Shuchi Saraswat

Fiction & Nonfiction Writer
Shuchi Saraswat's work has appeared in Ecotone, Tin House online, Literary Hub, Women’s Review of Books, and Quick Fiction. Her essay "The Journey Home" received a special mention in Pushcart XLII 2018 and is anthologized in Trespass: Ecotone Essayists Beyond the Boundaries of Place... Read More →
avatar for Stacy Mattingly

Stacy Mattingly

Stacy Mattingly is coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Unlikely Angel. Her work has appeared in the Oxford American, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, EuropeNow, and elsewhere. In 2012, she launched the Sarajevo Writers' Workshop in Bosnia and Herzegovina and later helped lead the... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Cabot Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4I: Addressing Race and Racial Identity as Writers and Readers
Limited Capacity seats available

In our race-conscious society, white people are asked, often reluctantly, to define themselves as racial beings, a process to which people of color have been socialized since birth. Racial identity is the psychological connection we have with our race; its resolution process occurs for everyone, regardless of one’s identified race.

As writers, how might our characters, arguments, and storylines reflect any conscious and unconscious racial bias that we hold? As readers, how might our racial identities affect how we resonate with, review and recommend books, short stories, essays and poetry?

In this engaged conversation, two writer-psychologists explore with participants how to challenge and reframe dominant narratives about race, how to sharpen our perceptions of the impact of our racial identity on our writing, and how to read with greater racial consciousness. Using our collective wisdom, we will work toward a more enlightened understanding of race and racial identity in writing.

avatar for Molly Howes

Molly Howes

Molly Howes is a graduate of both the first Memoir Incubator and the only Nonfiction Career Lab, two of GrubStreet’s yearlong, intensive programs.Her work has appeared in the New York Times “Modern Love” column, Boston Globe Magazine, WBUR “Cognoscenti” column, NPR Morning... Read More →
avatar for Deborah Plummer

Deborah Plummer

Chief Diversity Officer, UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care
Deborah L. Plummer, PhD is a psychologist, university professor, diversity thought leader, author, and speaker on topics central to racial equality, inclusion, and mutual respect.Her groundbreaking and timely book, Some of My Friends Are…The Daunting Challenges and Untapped Benefits... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Franklin Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4K: The Poet's Marketplace
Limited Capacity seats available

Prose-writers often speak of agents and synopses and book proposals, but what do you do if you're a poet? How do find enthusiastic audience for your poetry, whether in submitting collections to presses and contests, networking with editors, or building an audience poem by poem? Join this lively discussion among prominent poetry editors, publishing staff, active community members, and fellow successful poets about an opaque but vital topic: the "marketplace" of poetry. You'll leave with a clearer understanding of this landscape, and how to proceed in finding the readers you'll connect with most.

avatar for Erica Charis-Molling

Erica Charis-Molling

Education Director, Mass Poetry
Erica Charis-Molling is a poet, educator, and librarian. Her writing has been published in Crosswinds, Presence, Glass, Anchor, Vinyl, Entropy, and Mezzo Cammin and is forthcoming in Redivider. She has taught workshops at the Boston Public Library and online courses for Berklee Online... Read More →
avatar for Kristina Darling

Kristina Darling

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of thirty-four books, including DIFFICULT: Essays on Contemporary Feminist Poetry (Black Ocean, forthcoming); Look to Your Left: A Feminist Poetics of Spectacle (Akron Poetry Series, forthcoming); Angel of the North (Salmon Poetry, forthcoming... Read More →
avatar for Martha Rhodes

Martha Rhodes

Martha Rhodes is the author of five poetry collections, most recently The Thin Wall (Pitt Poetry Series, 2017). She teaches at the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and at Sarah Lawrence College. She is a guest editor at Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Colrain... Read More →
avatar for Regie Gibson

Regie Gibson

Regie Gibson, has lectured and performed in the U.S., Cuba, and Europe. In Italy, representing the U.S., Regie competed for and received the Absolute Poetry Award (Monfalcone) & the Europa en Versi Award (LaGuardia di Como). Himself & his work appear in love jones: a feature-film... Read More →
avatar for Frances Donovan

Frances Donovan

Frances Donovan’s chapbook Mad Quick Hand of the Seashore (Reaching Press, 2018) was named a finalist in the 31st Lambda Literary Awards. Publication credits include The Rumpus, Snapdragon, and SWWIM. She holds an MFA in poetry from Lesley University, is a certified Poet Educator... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Charles River Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4L: When Small Presses Take You Big Places: Maximizing the Impact of Small Press Book
Limited Capacity seats available

Big publishing houses want big stories – stories that reaffirm what people already believe, stories that they “know” will sell well. Small presses, on the other hand, can-- and want to-- take bigger risks, challenging readers with unexpected stories. They often value quality and originality over marketability and "platform,” and give authors more personalized attention than a large press. This session features authors who had original, unexpected stories to tell, and who each eventually decided that a small press would give them greater freedom to tell these stories truthfully. Is your story "difficult?" Does it challenge dominant beliefs? Is your form creative or nontraditional? Then maybe a small press is right for you, too. This session will discuss how these authors made their choices, and suggest how you might make your own.

avatar for Nina McConigley

Nina McConigley

Nina McConigley is the author of the story collection Cowboys and East Indians, which won the 2014 PEN Open Book Award and a High Plains Book Award. She was born in Singapore and grew up in Wyoming. She holds an MFA from the University of Houston and an MA from the University of Wyoming... Read More →
avatar for Ron MacLean

Ron MacLean

Ron MacLean teaches writing at GrubStreet. His short fiction has been anthologized, and has appeared widely in magazines including GQ, Narrative, Fiction International, Night Train, Other Voices, Drunken Boat, Best Online Fiction 2010, and elsewhere. He is author most recently of... Read More →
avatar for Nathan Rostron

Nathan Rostron

Editor, Restless Books
Nathan Rostron is the Editor and Marketing Director at Restless Books, an independent, nonprofit publisher of international literature, based in Brooklyn. Restless is devoted to championing essential voices from around the world, whose stories speak to us across linguistic and cultural... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Stuart Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4M: History Walks With Us: Mythology, Memory, & Fantasy in the World and in Fiction
Limited Capacity seats available

Mythology, history, and memory all play central roles in how we process the world, form narratives about our lives, and make sense of our current crises. In this lecture and discussion, we'll dive deep into how these overlapping languages can clash and collaborate to create great stories.

As an author of fantasy fiction-- both historical and contemporary-- Older and Scott are fascinated by the way we tell stories, and make mythology from the past to determine the future. We'll discuss: What do the crossroads of myth and history tell us about where we go from here? How can art and story change the world? And most importantly, how do we USE this knowledge as we return to our desks, to write our own fiction and nonfiction? Come for an engrossing, high-stakes conversation.

avatar for Rion Scott

Rion Scott

Rion Amilcar Scott is the author of the story collection, The World Doesn’t Require You (Norton/Liveright, August 2019). His debut story collection, Insurrections (University Press of Kentucky, 2016), was awarded the 2017 PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and the 2017 Hillsdale... Read More →
avatar for Daniel José Older

Daniel José Older

Daniel José Older is the award-winning author of both YA and adult books. His most recent adult novel is The Book of Lost Saints (Macmillan, 2019), which Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review, called, “thoroughly transportive,” and Marlon James called “spellbinding... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Gloucester Room - 4th Floor