#AWP18 Event Organizer Q&A with Katherine Coles

AWP | February 2018

Event Title: Power, Change, and the Literary Establishment
Description: As women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color move into positions of power in literary culture, we may imagine we are ahead of other professions in addressing gender and racial inequities. In a cultural climate that makes these inequities urgently visible, the participants in this roundtable will open a discussion about whether power dynamics and double standards that lay the ground for mistreatment are more deeply entrenched than we think, expressed in routine interactions too subtle to take on directly, and we will ask how we might work to make these dynamics visible, and so, subject to change.
Participants: Katherine Coles, Lucinda Roy, Brynn Saito, Peter Covino, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram
Location: Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Date & Time: Friday, March 9, 9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. 


Q: What new understanding or knowledge will attendees walk away from your event with?
A: As we are acutely aware just now, nearly everyone has a story about how the all-but-invisible power structures that underlie not only our larger culture and politics but also hierarchies and politics within the literary establishment, work to keep women, ethnic, and racial minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and others not in the mainstream, but “in their places.” The goal of this roundtable discussion will be not to tell these stories, as important as it is to do so, but to illuminate and examine the assumptions that make even casual abuses not only possible but difficult to identify in real time. The goal is to help attendees not only navigate such issues in their own lives, but also return to their institutions with specific ideas about how to identify and talk about problems.

Q: What makes your event relevant and important in 2018?
A: These issues are not new, but in the age of Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and Roy Moore, they are newly salient and present. As disturbing as these events are, they have begun an important discussion. There is a recent podcast analysis of the John Hockenberry/The Takeaway/PRI harassment case that provides an excellent analysis (and perhaps some unintentionally revelatory moments) of how power structures at WNYC allowed harassment to occur and persist (barely) under the radar; it addresses gender, race, and disability.

Q: What are some of the conference events (besides your own) or Bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing?
A: F202. Writing a New Identity: Caribbean Women Writers from Beach & Carnival Culture to Political & Survival Text (Keisha-Gaye Anderson, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, Mercy Tullis-Bukhari, Donna Weir-Soley, and R. Erica Doyle). “Caribbean women writers like Audre Lorde, Jamaica Kincaid, and June Jordan have pioneered a tradition of writing that is authentically Caribbean, while introducing styles that distinguish them from their predecessors. How do today's Caribbean women writers continue boldly tackling issues like sexual identity and social justice, birth new worlds while honoring the legacy of our ancestors? We are Caribbean women writers honoring our carnival culture while reclaiming lost spirituality, dialect, and dignity.”

F203. Challenges and Triumphs: Underrepresented Voices in Publishing (Ayesha Pande, Sonali Chanchani, Emi Ikkanda, SJ Sindu, and Rakesh Satyal). “In this panel, we’ll hear from a diverse mix of agents, editors, and authors at different stages in their careers. The panelists will talk about the challenges they face as part of communities underrepresented within the publishing industry, their approaches to overcoming these obstacles, and what we can do to foster diversity and inclusivity among both readers and publishing professionals.”

R133. Gender Outlaws: Teaching Gender Identity in Creative Writing (Jody Keisner, Meg Day, Ching-in Chen, Misha Rai, and Alea Hall). “This multigenre, gender-diverse panel will discuss inclusive pedagogical approaches that move beyond the gender binary in order to expand their students’ creative writing potential. Panelists offer examples of practical application in the classroom and also discuss the challenges they faced, such as seeking institutional support for LGBTQIA+ curriculum, incorporating lessons into classes that aren’t designated as gender special topics, and teaching a classroom of cis-identified students.”

R185. Stay In Your Lane Or.... (Timothy Seibles, Remica Bingham-Risher, Quenton Baker, and Shara McCallum). “Black poets are often frustrated by assumptions about their subject matter and modes of expression: you're spoken word, you're jazz, you're hood, you're the black experience. However, their work springs from a network of surprising intersections engaging every known literary territory. What fuels the resistance to these intricate realities of black poetry? Are there implications for pedagogy? The panel will address this and share works that contradict limiting assumptions.”

R112. The Facts About Alternative Facts (Lina Ferreira, Sarah Viren, Inara Verzemnieks, Adam Weinstein). “After Kelly Anne Conway uttered the now infamous phrase “alternative facts," a conversation concerning language, accuracy, and the verifiable experience suddenly became both ubiquitous and urgent in the media and the classroom. In some circles, a finger was pointed at creative nonfiction for “falsifying history” and opening us up to a loose and dangerous interpretation of the truth. In this panel, we will discuss the responsibilities and debts of nonfiction writers in the era of alternative facts.”

S221. Draining the Swamp: The Future of Environmental Writing on a Changing Planet (Taylor Brorby, Nick Neely, Alison Deming, Joe Wilkins, and Rose McLarney). “This panel explores environmental creative writing in the midst of radical political and climatic change. If stories help us imagine alternatives to how we live, then inspired and strategic writing is our best hope to keep this planet alive and healthy. These five cross-genre writers will discuss environmental writing’s Transcendental roots, its strides towards greater inclusiveness, and where it must go now given rising tides, species loss, and overall environmental injustice and instability.”

R238. Teach Me All the Things: New Approaches to Multi- & Hybrid-Genre Writing (Susanna Childress, Paisley Rekdal, Marcela Sulak, Lee Upton, and Janet Burroway). “While hybridity is all the rage in lit mags and progressive presses, how does blurring or opening genre play out in undergraduate and graduate classrooms where students approach genre with traditional boundaries and/or processes in mind? Our panelists, all multi- or hybrid-genre writers as well as multigenre textbook authors and hybrid anthology editors, offer both personal and pedagogical perspectives to welcome students to the piquant, generative world of genre jambalaya.”                    

And many, many others!

Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: Katherine Coles: Ada Limon’s Bright, Dead Things, Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, and Salman Rushdie’s The Golden House
Lucinda Roy: Benjamin Bush’s Dust to Dust: A Memoir.
Lillian-Yvonne Bertram: Patricia Smith’s Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah and Incendiary Art, Kristin Sanders’s Cuntry, and Eric Bennett’s Workshops of Empire.

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