S264. Uncommon Knowledge: Researching and Writing Nerd Novels

Room 214C, Henry B. González Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
Saturday, March 7, 2020
3:20 pm to 4:35 pm


Fiction writers work from a mix of imagination, observed realities, inherited stories, and common knowledge—but some novels are propelled by uncommon knowledge. When a character’s professional expertise is pivotal to her identity, or a plot or theme relies on complex concepts and obscure facts—whether in physics or clinical psychology, Shakespeare studies or chemistry, birdwatching or airport security—research is crucial. How can we use it to bring our nerdy narrative visions to life?

Outline & Supplemental Documents

Event Outline: Uncommon_Knowledge_Outline.pdf



Edward Schwarzschild's books include Responsible Men, The Family Diamond, and the forthcoming novel, In Security, which follows the life of a TSA officer. Schwarzschild is director of the creative writing program at the University at Albany, SUNY and a fellow of the New York State Writers Institute.

Padma Viswanathan's novels, The Toss of a Lemon and The Ever After of Ashwin Rao, have been published in eight countries. Her translation of St. Bernardo, a novel by Graciliano Ramos, was published by NYRB in 2019. She teaches creative writing at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.

Susan M. Gaines is the author of the books Accidentals, Echoes of Life, and Carbon Dreams. Her short stories have appeared in North American Review, Missouri Review, Best of the West, and other anthologies. She is a founder of the Fiction Meets Science Program at the University of Bremen in Germany.

Jean Hegland's first novel, Into the Forest, has been translated into seventeen languages and adapted as a Canadian film (starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood) and a French graphic novel. Her most recent novel, Still Time, is about an aging Shakespeare scholar's final encounters with the plays.

Catherine Bush is the author of the forthcoming novel Blaze Island, as well as four other novels, including The Rules of Engagement, chosen as a New York Times Notable Book. She is associate professor at the University of Guelph and coordinator of the Guelph Creative Writing MFA located in Toronto.


February 7–10, 2024
Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Convention Center