#AWP17 Featured Presenter Q&A with Angela Flournoy
AWP | January 2017
Event Title: The Ghosts of History: and the Secrets They Tell, Sponsored by Blue Flower Arts
Description: Three master storytellers delve deeply into the inner workings of their characters—or their own life—revealing layers of personal, familial, and cultural histories as the world passes from generation to generation. Whether haunted by uncertain destinies, ancient silences, or the wiliness of love, these writers each bear witness to the secret whisperings of these ghosts of history and, with their words, grind a lens through which we can see the world anew.
Participants: Angela Flournoy, Aminatta Forna, Andre Dubus III
Location: Ballroom A, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level Three
Date & Time: Saturday, February 11, 1:30 p.m.–2:45 p.m.
Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: I really enjoyed The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan. Broadly, the novel tells the story of the aftermath of a bomb in a market in Delhi. Maharani is very good at exploring the psychological peculiarities of both major and minor characters.
Q: When AWP was founded in 1967, there were a dozen creative writing programs. Now there are approximately 1,800 undergraduate and graduate programs. What do you think has changed for readers and writers since creative writing became ascendant as an academic discipline?
A: I'm not sure if much has changed for readers since the increase of the MFA, but for writers it means that more of us have the option (if our lives are situated for it, and costs aren't prohibitive) to pursue writing with the intensity and seriousness one might apply to studying law.
Q: What advice can you offer to writers who must navigate between the solitude of artistic work and our nation’s politics and culture at this moment?
A: I think it helps not to think of these two elements as at odds with one another. If we use our writing to explore what it means to be alive, then there is certainly room to incorporate all aspects of life, including the political.
Q: If you’ve been to Washington, DC, what places do you recommend our attendees visit?
A: DC is home to some of the best Ethiopian restaurants in the country. Any one you stumble into is liable to be better than what you'd find elsewhere. Also, as a former DC Public Library employee, I recommend a visit to a neighborhood branch. I'm partial to the Tenley-Friendship branch because I used to work there and the building gets great natural light.
Q: If you could run into any author at #AWP17, contemporary or historical, who would it be and what would you talk about?
A: Since it's DC, I'm crossing my fingers for an Edward P. Jones sighting. I'd love to talk about movies with him because I think his writing has a very evocative, cinematic quality.
Angela Flournoy is the author of The Turner House, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, the PEN Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, and an NAACP Image Award, among others. She has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The New Republic.