Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress: The Muse and the Marketplace Conference Recap
So, as I’ve mentioned, I spent last weekend in Boston at Grub Street’s outstanding annual conference, The Muse & the Marketplace. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record here, but I’m honestly not sure how the team manages to improve this conference each year. Quite simply, they continue to outdo themselves.
I love this conference for lots of reasons: I love seeing so many familiar, friendly faces (and meeting so many new folks, especially those who tell me how much they appreciate this blog and the newsletter); I love being back in Boston; I love the conference’s super-smooth organization (both on site and behind the scenes–it is a delight to be a presenter at this conference); and of course, I love the programming.
On that last point, please consider the following:
I’ve heard such wonderful things about Ann Hood (as an author and a teacher), especially from friends of mine who have attended the Stonecoast MFA program. So I was eager to sit in on Hood’s session, “10 Steps to a Kickass Essay.” It was, in a word, AWESOME. I took copious notes, but I’m going to bow to a shortcut here and point you to Jason Landry’s summary list. (Thanks, Jason!) But I will add a few links to some “kickass essays” that Hood read from and analyzed in her talk: Fae Myenne Ng’s “My Dragon-Dancing Years,” Tony Earley’s “Sweet Corn” (available in full to New Yorker subscribers), Jonathan Lethem’s “Alone at the Movies,” and Bill Hayes’s “A Year in Trees.” (And Ann Hood, if you should happen to read this, I hope that you’ll publish your talk, or some version of it, someday.)
It’s always fairly easy for me to find forthcoming books I’d love to review or pitch service-type articles to magazines. But there’s a type of writing–and it can take the form of a short story, a poem, or an essay–that I find much more challenging. This is because I sometimes find ideas elusive. So I was eager to sit in on two weekend sessions in particular: Mitchell Zuckoff‘s “Hiding in Plain Sight: Finding Story and Book Ideas Other Writers Miss,” and Emma Straub‘s “Finding Stories Wherever You go.” Both presenters shared the sources behind some of their own work, and suggested ways for us attendees to find inspiration as well. And in both sessions, I was reminded of the potential within newspapers, whether by using a headline to inspire some free-writing (as we did in Straub’s session) or by digging deeper into a news brief and asking questions that (for a writer, at least), should flow somewhat naturally (as Zuckoff demonstrated).
The only problem with the conference schedule is that there are too many tantalizing sessions taking place at the same time! I had to duck out of Straub’s session halfway through so that I could catch at least some of the panel on “How to Catch the Reviewer’s Eye,” which featured Bethanne Kelly Patrick, Rebecca Joines Schinsky, Michael Lowenthal, and Nicole Lamy (whom, I realized, I’ve probably known longer than anyone else I saw at the conference–Nicole was on the editorial staff of The Boston Book Review back when I was a contributor.) The discussion here was excellent, and I’m sure it was equally so during the first half.
Of course, there was also the session that I moderated, on writing contests, conferences, and residencies. That recap–and its accompanying handout–can be found here.
This post doesn’t do justice to the conference. You can learn much, much more about it by checking the #Muse2013 hashtag on Twitter, Epilogger’s riches, and, I suspect, video content that will be added to Grub’s website in short order.
See you there in 2014?