#AWP18 Event Organizer Q&A with Melanie Brooks
AWP | February 2018
Event Title: Writing the Pain: Memoirists on Tackling Stories of Trauma
Description: Writing about traumatic experiences does not repair them. However, re-entering those memories, taking them apart, and then putting them back together again on our own terms can transform them into something meaningful, perhaps even beautiful, for both writer and reader. On this panel, those who’ve courageously written about topics such as loss, illness, grief, or family dysfunction in poetry and prose explore the merit of giving narrative shape to our painful stories.
Participants: Melanie Brooks, Richard Blanco, Andre Dubus III, Kyoko Mori
Location: Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Date & Time: Saturday, March 10, 1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.
Q: What new understanding or knowledge will attendees walk away from your event with?
A: Writing can feel like a very lonely endeavor, especially when we find ourselves deep in painful and traumatic territory. My hope is that attendees of this panel will feel encouraged by the journeys of other writers who’ve traveled similar territory and be inspired to continue showing up to the blank page knowing that there’s solace at the end of the process of shaping our stories into something meaningful for others.
Q: What makes your event relevant and important in 2018?
A: The themes of exposure, risk, and vulnerability that this panel explores have become deeply significant lately in our cultural conversation as more and more individuals have stepped forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault. For so many, hearing others share similar stories helped them find the courage to speak. The same is often true for writers of trauma. With our narratives, we invite others to lean toward our experiences and give them permission to share some pieces of their own.
Q: What are some of the conference events (besides your own) or Bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing?
A: I’m excited to hear George Saunders’ keynote and to listen to Mark Doty, Khaled Mattawa, and Layil Long Soldier read their poetry. The following panels are among the many I’m interested in: Memoir As an Agent of Social Change, with Connie May Fowler, Alice Anderson, Joy Castro, Sue William Silverman, and Parneshia Jones; Faith, Fervor, and Fundamentalism: How Writers Are Impacted by Their Religious Beliefs, with Deirdre Sugiuchi, Sabrina Orah Mark, Garrard Conley, Yvonne Brown, and Daniel Khalastchi; The Arts of Death, Mystery, and Perspective: Edwidge Danticat, Maud Casey, and Christopher Castellani, Sponsored by Graywolf Press, with Fiona McCrae, Edwidge Danticat, Maud Casey, and Christopher Castellani; and The Art of Politics, The Politics of Art: Writers, Gun Violence, and the Literature of Social Engagement, with LeAnne Howe, Sharbari Ahmed, Richard Blanco, Dean Rader, and Brenda Hillman.
Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of Lisa Romeo’s debut memoir, Starting With Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love after Loss, which is to be released in May 2018. Her story is a beautiful example of how complicated relationships can still be redeemed as we roam the territory of grief. Others on my “just read“ list include Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton, Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, and Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.