‘Life of Labor’ in Letters: Working-Class Storytelling

Room 3501CD, Kansas City Convention Center, Level 3
Friday, February 9, 2024
1:45 pm to 3:00 pm


Midwest author Sarah Smarsh said, "You can pay an entire life in labor, it turns out, and have nothing to show for it. Less than nothing, even: debt, injury, abject need.” Five writers, all with Midwestern and working-class ties, share their approach to showcasing this "life in labor" through storytelling. The panelists will discuss why they write these stories and how, and what precious language and poetry can be mined from what has been called gritty, dirty realism.

Outline & Supplemental Documents

Event Outline: AWP_Outline--‘Life_of_Labor’_in_Letters--Working-Class_Storytelling.pdf



Dustin M. Hoffman is the author of the story collections One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and No Good for Digging. He spent ten years painting houses in Michigan and now teaches creative writing at Winthrop University.

RS Deeren is the author of Enough to Lose: Stories and an assistant professor of creative writing at Austin Peay State University. His fiction focuses on rural working-class people and the jobs he used to work to help pay the bills.

Curtis Chin, a cofounder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, has written poetry, screenplays, essays, and creative non-fiction. He has won awards from NYFA, the C.Y. Lee Foundation, and more. He is currently polishing his memoir Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant.

Joe Milan Jr. is a Korean American author of the novel The All-American (W.W. Norton, 2023), and was selected for the 2019 David T.K. Wong Fellowship at UEA, UK. He holds a PhD in English from UNLV and an MFA in fiction from VCFA and is currently teaching at Waldorf University in Iowa. joemilanjr.com

Toni Jensen is the author of the memoir Carry, a Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist, and the story collection From the Hilltop. An NEA fellowship recipient in nonfiction, she teaches at the University of Arkansas and in the low-residency MFA at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is Métis.


February 7–10, 2024
Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Convention Center