#AWP18 Featured Presenter Q&A with Bob Shacochis
AWP | February 2018
Event Title: Writing Place, People, and Culture: Nonfiction at its Finest, Sponsored by Grove Atlantic Press and Rain Taxi Review of Books
Description: Join award-winning and critically-acclaimed writers Bob Shacochis (Kingdoms in the Air), Kao Kalia Yang (The Song Poet), and Molly Brodak (Bandit: A Daughter's Memior), as they discuss crafting nonfiction narratives across myriad forms. From journalism to memoir to travel writing, all three authors explore the challenges of mining one’s past and present, and the joys and difficulties of bringing place, culture, and people to vibrant life on the page. Moderated by Eric Lorberer, editor of Rain Taxi Review of Books.
Participants: Bob Shacochis, Kao Kalia Yang, Molly Brodak
Location: Ballroom C, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Date & Time: Friday, March 9, 1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.
Q: What are some of the conference events (besides your own) or bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing?
A: I'm still overwhelmed by the cornucopia of events and have yet to figure it out. But I will certainly be cruising the bookfair, especially Consequence Magazine, Trinity University Press, Grove Atlantic, and many, many others.
Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: Sabina Murray’s Valiant Gentlemen; Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs; Elliot Ackerman’s Dark at the Crossing; Patricia Engel’s The Veins of the Ocean; Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing; and Kent Wascom's forthcoming novel, The New Inheritors.
Q:What are a writer’s main responsibilities in this particular cultural moment?
A: A writer's main responsibility is not to be swept up and carried away by a cultural moment. Writers, artists, everybody: we all exist in cultural moments—today, yesterday, tomorrow—and every cultural moment needs its outliers, a benevolent resistance that only literature and the arts can produce, or else the cultural moment begins to calcify and turn monolithic and tyrannical, dynamics which suffocate creativity. Every orthodoxy requires a creative counterforce. A writer's main responsibility at any cultural moment is to stand firmly atop a value system and engage in aesthetic soul-searching.
Q: Has public funding for the arts made a difference in your life and career as a writer?
A: Public funding, when I was still young, a student at Iowa, made all the difference in the world. It financed the first true step in the long journey of believing in myself, and I am forever grateful.
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: Crowds. The village has grown into a metropolis.
Q: If you could run into any author, contemporary or historical, at #AWP18, who would it be and what would you talk about?
A: Nabokov and James Baldwin. From the perspective of their own cultural moments, I would love to hear what they have to say about 2017/18.
Q: If you’ve been to Tampa before, what places do you recommend that our attendees should visit?
A: Take a side trip to Crystal River and swim with the manatees.
Bob Shacochis’s first collection of stories, Easy in the Islands, won the National Book Award for First Fiction, and his second collection, The Next New World, was awarded the Prix de Rome from the Academy of Arts and Letters. His novel, Swimming in the Volcano, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and The Woman Who Lost Her Soul won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He is a contributing editor for Outside.
(Photo Credit: Mace Flagger)