#AWP16 Featured Presenter Q&A with Francisco Goldman
Event Title: Writing the Personal with Helen Macdonald, Rabih Alameddine, and Francisco Goldman, Sponsored by Grove Atlantic Press
Description: Join award-winning and bestselling Grove Atlantic authors Helen Macdonald, Rabih Alameddine, and Francisco Goldman as they discuss the ways in which real life enters their literary work and to what critical and personal effects. As fiction and memoir writers from three different countries and cultural backgrounds, they discuss, among other things, how reactions to the personal in their work differ across genres, if at all.
Participants: Rabih Alameddine, John Freeman, Francisco Goldman, and Helen MacDonald
Date & Time: Saturday April 2, 2016, 4:30pm – 5:45pm
Q: What are some of the conference events (besides your own) and/or bookfair exhibitors you are most excited to see?
A: I think I'm most excited to hear Maggie Nelson speak. She's so brilliant but I've never listened to her in person. Also Juan Felipe Herrera, especially if he's going to read poetry—that will be pretty thrilling. But it seems like quite a line-up and I haven't even looked at the whole calendar yet. I hope there aren't too many events I want to see that overlap.
Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: I've just finished re-reading The Red and the Black, though I hadn't read it since the 1980s so it was as if [it was] for the first time. What a great, exhilarating novel. [I] have filled half a notebook with favorite quotes. ("Julien fell asleep dreaming of honors for himself and liberties for everybody else.") The Elena Ferrante novels (read the second and third books of the quartet this past year; waiting for the fourth to come out in Spanish.) My Documents, Alejandro Zambra. The three J.M. Coetzee memoir/novels published now as the Scenes from the Provincial Life trilogy by Penguin, incredible.
Q: Given how much time writers spend alone to practice their craft, what do you think are the advantages of creating the large community that exists at the AWP conference?
A: I've never been to an AWP conference or even to anything similar, so I really don't know, but I'm curious to find out. Seeing some old friends, making some new ones—that would be more than enough for me!
Q: What question that you’ve never been asked before would you like to ask yourself? And how would you answer that question?
A: If there really were a question out there that I wanted to be asked, which is to say a question that I already had a specific answer ready for that I've just been waiting for a chance to give, then I'm sure I would have found a way to give it by now, even if it didn't seem like a direct answer to whatever I'd been asked—the way a politician would, I guess. There may be some questions I put to myself that I would never want to either be asked or try to answer in public; I'm sure everyone has those. I would like to find an unpretentious but convincing way to suggest that the ideal writing-related question would be one that I could best answer by writing a novel—or a story, or a nonfiction piece—than by anything I might say. I haven't written short stories since my twenties but it's something I'm determined to try again. So: Q. How do you propose to write that short story set in Lexington, Kentucky that you've been thinking about? A. Excuse me, hold on, I won't be long, well, hopefully not too long... And when I come back, I read it.
Q: Outside of the conference, what about Los Angeles are you looking forward to? Are there any Los Angeles activities you would recommend to conference attendees?
A: I'll get to see my goddaughter, Aura Steinberg-Pérez! Looking forward to going back to that ramen place Aura's parents took me to last time I was in LA, and a visit to In-N-Out Burger. I can't say I know LA that well but one piece of advice would be: try not to get stuck in traffic for too long. That's crucial, actually, here in Mexico City and in LA too.
Francisco Goldman is the author of Say Her Name, winner of the Prix Femina Étranger, and four other books. He has received a Cullman Center Fellowship and a Berlin Prize, among other awards and honors. Every year he teaches one semester at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and then hightails it back to Mexico City.
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