Writer’s Edge 2008
The 3rd annual Writer’s Edge conference was held at Portland State University from July 25th to July 27th. This was my first time at the conference – I’ve heard amazing things about it from past participants and the conference blew away my expectations. Portland’s an amazing place: amazing food (and drink!), great weather (especially for me escaping the Utah summer for the weekend), friendly people, the best bookstore (period), and for a weekend this summer, home to the center of innovative writing. For three days an all-star line-up of faculty writers joined the greatest concentration of talent, creativity, innovation, and enthusiasm I’ve ever had the pleasure of joining.
It’s taken me a couple weeks to pinpoint exactly why the Writer’s Edge is so good. There’s the usual conference/workshop benefits – camaraderie, the rare experience of being surrounded by people gathered with a common passion, and new friends, yes, but more than anything else I came away with a bunch of new stuff – not a tote bag full of journals and books – but burning ideas and inspiration. For me (and I suspect many other participants) the Writer’s Edge isn’t just about community (although that’s a large part). It’s about writing. And that’s what I flew home with: a notebook full of words, a renewed enthusiasm, and a real sense of community that tells me that the state of reading and writing is alive and well and more than any other time in recent memory, in good hands (our own).
Here’s how it went down:
The conference hit the ground galloping with Lance Olsen’s workshop The Mosaic Mind: Fiction as Collage in which Lance and workshop participants explored the possibilities in applying collage techniques to fiction. In Lance’s words, using “the process of cutting up and cutting off” to liberate narrative. Lidia Yuknavitch’s workshop, Wrestling the Novel, opened with a discussion of the difficulties of the novel: how we define a novel, how we write a novel, and moved into the possibilities of the novel, ending with a massive write-in in which participants worked on the seed of a massive collaborative novel. Steve Tomasula’s M(M)MW: Multi(Modal)Media Writing workshop immersed participants in the possibilities on the page that exist beyond the written word in illustration, video, audio, and animation. Kate Bernheimer’s Fairy Tales Almost Blue encouraged participants to come to our writing with a “virginal mind” and explored the possibilities of the marvelous and fantastic in the form of the fairy tale. And, in Noy Holland’s Usage is More Powerful than Reason, participants got down and dirty with our sentences: ripping them to shreds and stitching them together. In addition to the workshops we managed to squeeze in a faculty reading at Powell’s and an amazing lightning-reading by participants. The panel discussion on Sunday on the state of publishing transformed into a group discussion on the state of our community, the state of innovation, the state of the art. In the words of San Diego’s Rocket from the Crypt: the state of the art is on fire.
So, I’ve got more ideas than I know what to do with – more than enough to keep busy until next year’s Writer’s Edge (to be held in Cuernavaca, Mexico!) Details on that will be posted soon.