DESERT NIGHTS, RISING STARS CONFERENCE
The past few days, I’ve been at the incredible Desert Nights, Rising Stars Conference, a writing conference that takes place at the Arizona State University in Phoenix. It’s a brilliantly organized conference and the teachers (all writers) have prepared in depth and fascinating classes. Hopefully the classes I taught were too! I’m grateful to Matt Bell and Meredith Martinez, who made this conference so successful and so pleasant, and I’m also delighted to have made a new friend, Angela Savage, a crime writer from Melbourne (she’s the lady standing next to Dominic Smith (of Sarah de Vos fame) and just above me in the photo. It was great fun finding all the Aussies at the conference for this Aussies in Arizona photo. And it was really illuminating to chat about the process of researching Gwen in a panel with Dominic Smith and Adrienne Celt, two extreme smarty pants. Outclassed but loving it!
I do developmental editing for novelists, nonfiction writers and poets. It’s fun! For me at least. Probably not so much fun for the people who employ me. Testimonials coming soon. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a manuscript that needs an editor.
The work of researching Gwen took several years, both in archives and in libraries across the world. I am very grateful for the assistance of the Musee Rodin in Paris, and for the libraries at the University of Chicago and at Northwestern University, because they enabled me to find many contemporary books about Paris in the early 1900’s. I was also lucky to be able to speak with Sir Michael Holroyd, the biographer of Augustus John, and with Cecily Langdale, the well-known gallerist and compiler of Gwen’s Catalogue Raisonné. And the lovely assistant curator at MOMA, Lilian Tone, allowed me to visit the painting that inspired the book, Girl with a Blue Scarf. If you are interested in reading more about Gwen, you can’t go wrong with any of these books. The starred books were my personal favourites.
Berr, Helene. The Journal of Helene Berr.
I just heard that I have received a residency at Ragdale in Lake Forest, Illinois. Everyone tells me it’s the most idyllic place and I’m absolutely thrilled because I always get good work done in rural or quiet places. Yay!
Ragdale is described as “transformative time and space for artists.” Doesn’t that sound lovely?
BREAD LOAF WRITERS’ CONFERENCE
In 2015, I got to go to the granddaddy of all writing conferences, Bread Loaf. It’s been held in the Green Mountain National Forest in Ripton Vermont since 1926, in old mustard-yellow stick-framed buildings. The buildings are surrounded by meadows of wildflowers, long grasses, forests. There are clouds and birds and rivers. And so many writers.
I find out that I am in Stacey D’Erasmo‘s workshop and I start freaking out, because she is brilliant and analytic and she’ll probably shred my work. I practice squeezing out my tears into a little glass vial so I don’t embarrass myself by blubbing, but of course, the workshop turns out to be nothing like that. Stacey is gracious and kind and analytical and wise. Her fellow, Ted Thompson, also gives great notes on my manuscript, which is the first chapter of Gwen.
I get to hear phenomenal classes from writers like Chris Castellani and Ted Conover; I sit on the grass and read Mavis Gallant with Lan Samantha Chang; I make puns with Peter Ho Davies; I am charmed by the lovely Amy Holman; I stand under the stars and laugh with Rob Cohen; teachers I admire lip synch to Tom Jones and Beyonce. I make new friends. I surprise myself. I love it and want to go back so desperately that it feels like a childhood memory instead of something I just did.