Wednesday, February 29, 2012
"The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning," Mark Twain wrote in 1888.
Writers in many genres, and all levels of experience, who want to end up on the right side of this distinction can immerse themselves in the craft at The Mark Twain House & Museum Friday evening, April 20, and all day Saturday, April 21, as the museum launches its first Writers' Weekend.
Within a few hundred yards of America's iconic author's beloved home, participants will hear legendary Harper's editor Lewis Lapham keynote the conference and then follow it up the next day with a range of activities -- from honing a novel they're working on to hearing about the joys and pitfalls of blogging to attending a panel with Alfred Uhry and A.R. Gurney, two distinguished playwrights whose works have influenced millions.
The Friday-Saturday event begins with an April 20 early-evening reception followed by the keynote speech by Lapham, a witty and prolific commentator on wealth and politics and the social scene, who as editor of Harper's and now Lapham's Quarterly has influenced a whole generation of writers and editors.
Fifteen panels, talks and workshop sessions will follow on Saturday, including a kickoff talk by novelist Jon Clinch (Finn, Kings of the Earth) and a panel including playwrights Gurney (The Dining Room) and Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy). A panel of faculty and students in the Writing at the Mark Twain House program, which has offered evening courses in fiction, non-fiction and memoir over the past few years, will discuss the ins and outs of teaching the writer's art.
No fewer than two winners of the Connecticut Book Award Lifetime Achievement Award will be participating in sessions during the Writers' Weekend: Lary Bloom, longtime editor of Northeast magazine, columnist, author of many books (including The Writer Within), and sage teacher of writing at the Mark Twain House and many other places; and Bessy Reyna (Memoirs of the Unfaithful Lover), the beloved Cuban-born poet who has been called "a clear-eyed guide to the world we see but don't see" by Martin Espada.
Among other authors slated to lead 50-minute sessions on Saturday are Susan Campbell (Dating Jesus), Susan Schoenberger (A Watershed Year) Suzanne Levine (The Haberdasher's Daughter), Denis Horgan (Ninety-Eight Point Six), Cindy Brown Austin (By the Waters of Babylon) and Wendy Clinch (www.theskidiva.com). There will be sessions on fiction, non-fiction , memoir, poetry, travel writing, blogging, the business of getting published, and new forms of storytelling unleashed by the existence of the Internet.
The event will run from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Friday, April 20, and 8:00 am to 7:00 p.m.on Saturday, April 21. A box lunch will be provided on Saturday, and the Weekend winds up Saturday evening with a closing reception.
The cost of the Writers' Weekend for participants is $100. This includes the Friday night reception and lecture, all Saturday sessions, a box lunch and the Saturday night closing reception. Participants will also receive a voucher good for a tour of the Mark Twain House at any time. Space is limited to 100 participants, so advance registration and payment is a must: Call 860-280-3130 to register.
The Writers' Weekend builds on the success of Writing at the Mark Twain House, the writing program that bears out The Mark Twain House & Museum's explicitly stated mission, promulgated in 1955, to develop a literary center. The program has offered fall and spring evening courses in memoir, non-fiction, and fiction over the past few years.
Selected students in the Department of English at the University of Connecticut's Greater Hartford Campus will be serving as interns during the Writers' Weekend. The partnership between The Mark Twain House & Museum and UConn has been arranged through the university's Office of Service-Learning.
More details on participants and sessions will be posted on the Mark Twain House & Museum website, http://www.marktwainhouse.org/; the Writing at the Mark Twain House blog, http://writingatthemarktwainhouse.blogspot.com/ ; and the museum's Facebook Page, http://www.facebook.com/MarkTwainHouse.
About the Keynote and Kickoff speakers:
Lewis Lapham: In her brilliant first-hand account of life at the lowest rungs of the American social ladder, Nickle and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich describes Lewis Lapham's editorial style. Discussing issues of poverty with Lapham, her editor, she writes, "I said something that I have since had many opportunities to regret. 'Someone ought to do the old-fashioned kind of journalism -- you know, go out and try it for themselves.'" She meant some young, hungry reporter. "But Lapham got this crazy-looking half smile on his face and ended life as I knew it, for long stretches at least, with the single word 'You.'" Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly, a distinguished literary journal, and was Editor of Harper's magazine for a total of 27 years. He is the author of numerous books, including Money and Class in America, Theater of War, Gag Rule, and, most recently, Pretensions to Empire. The New York Times has likened him to H. L. Mencken; Vanity Fair has suggested a strong resemblance to Mark Twain; and Tom Wolfe has compared him to Montaigne. A native of San Francisco, Mr. Lapham was educated at Yale and Cambridge.
Jon Clinch: Jon Clinch's first novel, Finn, was called "a triumph of imagination and graceful writing" by USA Today; his second, Kings of the Earth, is "blunt and brutal yet beautifully told," said Julia Glass. Finn's take on the story of Huckleberry Finn's brutal father brought Clinch in touch with the Mark Twain House just around the time when it needed friends, during a 2008 fiscal crisis. He pitched in, organizing a major event for writers that year, and helped the museum survive and get back on the upswing. Born and raised in the remote heart of upstate New York, Clinch has been an English teacher, a metalworker, a folksinger, an illustrator, a typeface designer, a housepainter, a copywriter, and an advertising executive. He lives in Vermont; his wife, Wendy Clinch, a blogger and author of ski-themed mysteries, is leading a blogging session at the Writers' Weekend.
About Alfred Uhry and A.R. Gurney
Alfred Uhry is the only American playwright to have won a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and two Tony Awards. His first play, Driving Miss Daisy, opened in New York in 1987 and won the Pulitzer in 1988; the film version with Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1990 -- as well as the Best Picture Award. It was recently revived on Broadway and the West End with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave. He is the author of The Last Night of Ballyhoo, which won the 1997 Tony Award for Best Play. His book for the musical Parade won the Tony Award in 1999. Other plays incluide Without Walls, Edgardo Mine and the book for the musical Lovemusik. Most recently he co-created the dance-theater piece Angel Reapers with Martha Clark.
A.R. Gurney is one of the most prolific and most produced playwrights in America. He has written more than 32 plays and three novels over more than 30 years. His breakthrough success came in 1982 with The Dining Room. Love Letters (1989), has enjoyed tremendous popularity for many years with its two-character cast. Gurney adapted his novel, The Snow Ball, for the stage; other novels include The Gospel According to Joe and Entertaining Strangers. In 1999, Gurney wrote the libretto for Strawberry Fields as part of a trilogy presented by the New York City Opera. Gurney is the recipient of many awards, notably a Drama Desk Award in 1971, a Rockefeller Award in 1977 and Lucille Lortel Awards in 1989 and 1994.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
But there is the day when even an acclaimed novelist has to take that first step toward her achievement -- the day she has to get started. On Saturday, March 3, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Schoenberger will lead a special three-hour workshop with a small group in just that subject: "The Novel: Getting Started." And its corollary, finding the new novel's core: "Writing the Novel: The Big Idea".
The special three-hour Fiction Workshop, a special event in our Writing at the Mark Twain House program, comes with a special price -- only $20, thanks to Schoenberger's generosity.
Included in the "getting started" portion of the afternoon will be exercises in "free-writing" and discussion of some of the practicalities -- such as what literary agents and editors say about the importance of the first pages. And, Schoenberger says, she will provide "advice about listening to your gut on the best place to start," in which she will relay her own experience with A Watershed Year.
"I want to focus on getting the importance of the first pages and help participants get over the hump of getting started," Schoenberger says.
The second part of the session will focus on the challenge of crafting an idea weighty enough to sustain a full-length novel. The afternoon will not be a one-way experience: There will be opportunities for participants to share their ideas and workshop with Schoenberger and each other.
Register early, as enrollment is limited for this special event. Tickets are $20 and can be obtained at 860-280-3130.
Writing at the Mark Twain House has offered spring and fall writing classes over the past three years, including A Class in Memoir with Lary Bloom and Suzanne Levine, which runs from March 7-April 25. And for the first time this year, Writing at the Mark Twain House will hold a Writers' Weekend (April 20-21) keynoted by Lewis Lapham and including sessions with Jon Clinch, Alfred Uhry, Bessy Reyna, Lary Bloom, Susan Campbell and A.R. Gurney. For information on these programs, contact Steve Courtney at 860-247-0998, Ext. 243, or firstname.lastname@example.org.