Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Kostova’

Ann Arbor Book Festival

When I moved to Ann Arbor late last summer, I did my best to become involved with the local literary community. After some Google searches, I found the Ann Arbor Book Festival. I met with executive director Kathy Robenalt and became a volunteer and presenter. It was so much fun to experience it this weekend.

There were an amazing number of events connected with the Ann Arbor Book Festival  this weekend and in the weeks and months leading up to it. You might remember my blogging about the Bacon Brunch at Zingerman’s.

The Ann Arbor Book Festival organizes a Writer’s Conference. I presented the workshop “Writing Your Family History,” which was great. We discussed not only how to gather information about your family, but also how to put it into a readable form. Participants completed some great writing in response to prompts. In particular, I remember one participant’s short piece on removing gefilte fish from a jar onto plate. She described the texture and smell perfectly.

I attended the lunch with keynote speaker Elizabeth Kostova. She discussed her writing process and how she completed her first book. Her talk was illuminating, although I’ll never understand participant questions at these kinds of events. There is a sense that writers know a mystical secret about writing and if participants can just hear the trick (write in the morning, write every day, hire a book doctor, etc.) then they will achieve the same product. Kostova was able to share her own techniques, but did a fine job of illuminating the simple work of writing. Write, share your work with others, edit fiercely. Indeed. 

The highpoint of the day was Colson Whitehead’s talk “How to Write, Or A Few Things I Learned From Listening to the Donna Summer Version of ‘MacArthur Park’. I will admit that I have never read any of his books, author and friend Erika Dreifus’ blog Practicing Writer recently led me to explore his writing and attend the session.  His talk was funny, sincere, and illuminating. He offered “rules” for writing and then undid them with humor and ended with the idea that that rules sometimes work, but mostly don’t. Everyone who had been at lunch should have heard his talk before asking Elizabeth Kostova questions. I look forward to reading his new and older books. 

I had some wonderful conversations with participants and authors from the conference. I met children’s author Tara Michener at the Author’s Reception at the library. Check out her cool book and blog about diversity, Who I am, not what I am.

I helped with the Author Breakfast on Saturday morning in the Michigan League. What fun to meet all of the authors – especially Desiree Cooper who led the conversation with the authors (despite the fire alarm going off just as she started!)

Here are a few photos:

 Colson Whitehead at author breakfastWilliam Powers and Desiree Cooper at Author Breakfast



Each writer graciously shared experiences and advice. As a volunteer, I helped to coordinate the event and had the pleasure of meeting almost all of the authors. I was lucky enough to sit with NJ based author Sung Woo and Detroit based Sharon Stanford. When I was in line for breakfast, I overheard Masha Hamilton encouraging a writer who had been in her session the day before. She encouraged the participant to take classes and publish her work. I was moved by the fiction writer’s dedication. She emphasized that we often sit on projects for too long when in fact, the public should have accessed to the well-crafted work. She offered suggestions about how to break down a longer project, in this case with a textbook with a cultural component, into smaller, perhaps more easily publishable pieces. (I will admit that I was surprised when Peter Yarrow, of the legendary Peter, Paul and Mary, arrived a bit late and was less pleasant. In fact, I was shocked that this peace-loving hippie folk singer snapped at me more than once.) 

Later that morning, I attended William Power’s talk on the business of writing. His focus was on finding your passion, pitching it and writing about things that interest you. He was efficient, clear and inspiring in his talk. He offered the perfect combination of left and right brain thinking. For example, he stressed rapid clustering as a brainstorming technique and precise editing for the pitch to editors. I look forward to reading his books.

At the book fair, I learned more about some local literary magazines, from The Michigan Quarterly Review to The MacGuffin There were a number of self-published authors, too, selling their books.

All in all, a great time. I look forward to being involved next year.

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