#AWP16 Featured Presenter Q&A with Jess Walter
AWP | January 2016
Event Title: Domingo Martinez, Susan Orlean, and Jess Walter: The Thrills and Perils of a Screen Adaptation, Sponsored by Hugo House
Description: Celebrated authors Domingo Martinez, Susan Orlean, and Jess Walter discuss their fascinating, heartbreaking, and amusing experiences being involved (or uninvolved) in the adaptation, or rumored adaptation, of their books for television and film. Their presentation represents a full range of experiences with this so-called "fifth genre" (adapting an original work for a different medium).
Participants: Domingo Martinez, Peter Mountford, Susan Orlean, and Jess Walter
Date & Time: Thursday, March 31, 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 really admire the way Percival Everett continually shifts genres and subverts expectations; he's unpredictable all the way to the sentence level. I'm excited to hear him read. There's an event for an upcoming Prairie Schooner sports-themed issue that features a couple of my favorite poets, Natalie Diaz and Kwame Dawes. (I meant to submit a story to that issue, but I forgot, so just like my actual sports history, I'll be watching from the bench.)
Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: I'm a recent convert to Elena Ferrante's novels. In this long season of memoir-infused fiction, Ferrante is a sharp reminder to Americans and Knausgaardians alike that you can actually have other characters in your self-absorbed fiction! I just finished a terrific, lovely and strange novel, The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli and I read some great story collections in 2015 by Adam Johnson, Padgett Powell, and Alejandro Zambra.
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: Since I don't have an MFA, don't teach and have never lived in New York (FU MFA vs NYC!), my cynicism tank starts pretty low. So I find it thrilling to see so many people chewing on ideas and issues I've never considered or have only contemplated alone in the quiet of my office. The first day of AWP I'm like Jimmy Stewart running down the streets of Bedford Falls at the end of It's a Wonderful Life. (Merry Christmas, you big beautiful language poets! Haha! Merry Christmas, queer theory essayists!)
Q: What question that you’ve never been asked before would you like to ask yourself? And how would you answer that question?
A: I've been asked this question before and I never know how to answer. What question would I ask myself? As a writer all I do is ask myself questions (What's the matter with you? Is that all you plan to write today?), so I would prefer a simple, questionable statement over an actual question. Something like: "Well, you look nice."
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: Here's what I like to do in LA:
1. Go to the gymnast rings on the beach in Santa Monica, just south of the pier (go early before the line forms) and swing and spin.
2. Go see a film at the Nuart, preferably the Friday night midnight movie.
3. Have a hamburger and a beer at Father's Office Tavern.
4. Drive to Malibu and go for a hike.
5. Call one of those fancy Million Dollar TV real estate agents and trick him into showing me a $6 million Bel Air mansion. Then tell him I'm a novelist and watch the color leave his face.
Jess Walter is the author of eight books, most recently the story collection We Live in Water and the novel Beautiful Ruins, a No. 1 New York Times Best Seller. He was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for The Zero and won the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Citizen Vince. He has been a finalist for the PEN/USA Literary Prize in both fiction and nonfiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and has twice won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. His books have been published in thirty languages, and his short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, Harper's, McSweeney's, Esquire, Tin House, and elsewhere. He lives in Spokane, Washington with his family.