Thursday, April 5, 2012

APRIL 20-21: The Mark Twain House Writers' Weekend Update

"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

At a great author's home, immerse yourself in the craft!

The Mark Twain House & Museum is announcing new details of its Writers' Weekend, which celebrates and extends the Writing at the Mark Twain House program that has helped dozens of adult participants progress in the arts of memoir, general non-fiction and fiction.

The event, which includes a reception and keynote speech on Friday, April 20, and a full day of events on Saturday, April 21, brings together a broad range of authors, editors, and teachers in a number of disciplines.

The event is headlined by its renowned keynote speaker, Lewis Lapham, editor emeritus of Harper's and editor of Lapham's Quarterly. Saturday kickoff speaker is novelist Jon Clinch, author of Finn and Kings of the Earth. A star-studded panel of playwrights winds up the day : Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy), A. R. Gurney (Love Letters), and Donald Margulies (Dinner with Friends).

Fifteen sessions over the course of the day Saturday will explore many aspects of writing, all of which Mark Twain practiced: memoir, fiction, travel writing, and even playwriting and poetry -- and though yes, he didn't blog, he kept a journal which in its breadth and brilliance has a kinship with the best blogs online today.

Topics include the art of memoir, the pleasure of poetry, the craft of mystery writing, writing synopses for agents or publishers, new ways of storytelling in the Internet age, finding voice in fiction -- and finding a way to get your work published. (See list of sessions at right.)

The event will run from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Friday, April 20, and 9:00 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.

Books by faculty members and others will be available in the Mark Twain Museum Store.

The cost of the Writers' Weekend for participants is $100. This includes the Friday night reception and lecture, all Saturday sessions, 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.

There are a limited number of tickets available for the Lewis Lapham keynote on Friday night and the Playwrights' Panel on Saturday afternoon. Tickets for each of these events are $30 ($25 for Mark Twain House & Museum members). Call 860-280-3130.

The Keynote Speaker

Lewis Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly, a distinguished literary journal, and was Editor of Harper's magazine for 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.

The Kickoff Speaker

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," says 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 with his wife, the author and blogger Wendy Clinch. Both are taking part in our sessions, Jon on "Voice in Fiction, its Varieties and Control"; Wendy on "The Art of Blogging" (see listing at right).

The Saturday Panels
Uhry, Gurney, Margulies on Playwriting

Three of America's foremost playwrights convene for a one-time-only conversation on writing, creativity and the business of theater.
--Alfre d Uhry is the only playwright to receive the Pulitzer Prize (for D riving Miss Daisy), the Oscar (for its screen adaptation) and the Tony Award (The Last Night of Ballyhoo and Parade).

--A.R. Gurney is a Drama Desk Award-winner and one of the most produced playwrights in the country. His famed titles include Love Letters, Sylvia, The Dining Room, and The Cocktail Hour.

--Donald Margulies is a Pulitzer Prize-winner (Dinner with Friends). He was recently represented on Broadway with his Tony-nominated drama, Time Stands Still.
The panel discussion will be moderated by Howard Sherman, theater consultant and former head of the American Theater Wing, which hands out the Tonys.

Can Writing Be Taught?

Is knowing how to write something innate? Is it something you can pick up when you've really done other things most of your life? What are the steps that take you from neophyte to accomplished practitioner? Participants in the Writing at the Mark Twain House program -- teachers Lary Bloom, Suzanne Levine, and Susan Campbell and students Barbara Wysocki and Carmen English -- try to answer these and other questions in a panel moderated by Steve Courtney, Publicist and Publications Editor at The Mark Twain House & Museum and a founder of Writing at the Mark Twain House.

The Faculty

On Saturday, 50-minute sessions (three at a time) will be held – talks, discussions, workshops -- led by the following:

Cindy Brown Austin, a novelist (By the Rivers of Babylon) who also excels at searing non-fiction portraits of urban life, on "Truth-telling in Fiction and Non-Fiction"

Lary Bloom (The Writer Within), author and a founder of Writing at the Mark Twain House, who brought along a generation of writers as editor of Northeast magazine for two decades, on "The Art of Memoir"

Susan Campbell, whose Hartford Courant work and award-winning memoir Dating Jesus speak truth to power, on "Telling Your Story Without Embellishment"

Wendy Clinch (Fade to White), the author of mysteries set in the world of skiing -- who also runs the largest blog for women who ski,, on "The Art of Blogging"

David Handler (The Blood Red Indian Summer), whose 18 mysteries (including an Edgar winner) charm and mystify, on "The Anatomy of a Mystery"

Denis Horgan, newspaper columnist, novelist and short story writer (Ninety-Eight Point Six) -- deeply humane with a Twainian edge -- on "Old Wine, New Bottles: Storytelling in the Internet Age"

Suzanne Levine, a founder of the Writing in the Mark Twain House program, acclaimed and much-published poet (The Haberdasher's Daughter) with a deft, quiet and retrospective touch, on "Poetry as Memoir"

Bessy Reyna, (Memoirs of the Unfaithful Lover/ Memorias de la amante infiela) Latina poet who writes in Spanish and English with extraordinary grace and passion on "Love, Longing and Laughter: The Gift of Poetry."

Kate Rothwell (Seducing Miss Dunaway), the author of many successful romance novels, under her own name and as Summer Devon, on "Writing a Synopsis That Sells"

Susan Schoenberger, author of the moving, deft and Faulkner award-winning novel A Watershed Year, and a Writing at the Mark Twain House workshop leader, on "Finding an Agent"