AWP Conference Video Transcription

The overview page of AWP's conference website contains a video with clips assembled from many different featured presentations at the conference. The following is a transcription of this video:

Tom Perrotta (Author, Little Children): Writing is so hard, and ideas are so scarce for me, that it’s not like I can be calculating that. This is the book I can write now; this is the book I have to write now.

Amy Tan (New York Times Bestselling Author): Because I was a successful business writer, it had the advantage to me of feeling I did not have to be a success in writing fiction, that I could do this solely for myself, and had actually been writing about things that disturbed me all my life. Like my mother.

Rachel Kushner (Author, The Flamethrowers): This portrait of a woman who was alone and isolated in the dense and crowded city—in my empty apartment I’d been thinking of the scenes where her phone rings. She answers, and no one is there.

Jorie Graham (Author, The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems from 1974-1994): If you sit down with the blank page with a question that’s, say, Tolstoy’s question like “what are we to do?” you might not get up from the blank page with a poem, but you’ll be undertaking the activity that poetry is capable of undertaking on behalf of a community.

Tobias Wolff (Author, This Boy's Life and In Pharaoh's Army): Maybe it seemed to them, as it did to me, that to be a writer was to escape the problems of blood and class. Writers formed a society of their own outside the common hierarchy. This gave them a power not conferred by privilege—the power to create images of the system they stood apart from, and thereby to judge it.

Cheryl Strayed (Author, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail): We have to survive. You know, we have to survive what we’ve never had or what we lost or what was taken from us. And I think that that was very much the conclusion I came to in Wild.

Robert Hass (Author, The Apple Trees at Olema: New & Selected Poems): One is not born for a reason, though there is a skein of causes. Out of yellowish froth cells began to divide, or so they say, and feed on sunlight for no reason. After that, life wanted life. You’re awake now? I think I’m awake now.

Coleman Barks (Poet; Leading Rumi Interpreter): Something wakes him, and he’s no longer a worm. He’s the entire vineyard, and the orchard too, the fruit, the trunks, a growing wisdom and joy that doesn’t need to devour. Find your place, and close your eyes, so your heart can start to see.

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