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Northwestern Summer Writers' Conference

Thursday was a good day all around at the Northwestern Summer Writers' Conference. Even having to schlep all the way up to Evanston (last year's sessions were at the Chicago campus) wasn't so bad--in fact, it's the first time I've been on the NU campus for anything other than an athletic event.

Alex Kotlowitz gave a great talk on the writer's life--the good and the bad, though he admits there isn't much bad for him, since he truly loves what he does and considers himself incredibly fortunate to being able to write for a living. (I thoroughly envy him, especially as I'm writing this from my corporate cubicle.) It's interesting to note that he never had any sort of great plan to become a writer, saying that a writing career is "a series of stumbles and wrong turns." Afterward he was kind enough to sign my copy of his landmark There Are No Children Here (shown above; I believe it reads "And to writing.").

Next up was a workshop called "Image as Story", led by Peggy Shinner. The focus was on incorporating image into a narrative to drive the story forward, and we worked through several writing exercises on our own as well as discussing several image-rich stories, including George Saunders' wonderful "Sticks".

Then after lunch, it was Deb Olin Unferth's workshop "The Short-Short Story." Deb is a wonderfully enthusiastic instructor (not to mention tolerant, as she smilingly excused our ignorance of Diane Williams, Lydia Davis, and other short-short masters) who has undeniable passion for the short-short form. Again, we wrote several short-short pieces and discussed several published works which, I admit, weren't entirely my cup of tea but none the less made for instructive discussions. And then, on my walk back to my train I stopped to browse at Comix Revolution, where my eye was drawn to the debut issue of Unruly, which included a nice short-short by (you guessed it) Deb Olin Unferth. Her story even illustrated several of the unique characteristics of short-shorts which she had just finished explaining in our class. Nice coincidence.

As was the case last year, the conference was a thoroughly rewarding experience, one which I recommend to any aspiring writer in the Chicago area.

July 31, 2006 in Books, Fiction | Permalink


Great post, once again. I really enjoyed the Deb Olin Unferth link, I hadn't read her before, and I'm reading a lot of short short fiction lately...

Posted by: Jason Boog at Aug 1, 2006 2:16:55 PM