#AWP18 Event Organizer Q&A with Amy Brill

AWP | December 2017

Event Title: Past as Present: The Relevance of History in Fiction
Description: Historical fiction may conjure an image of a swooning Victorian lady or hardscrabble homesteader, but the contemporary meaning and urgency of novels set in the past is complex and often overlooked. This panel explores how the prism of history enables reflection that’s impossible in contemporary settings; how the subjectivity of interpreting history leads to innovation and discovery; the line between revising history and reimagining lives; and whether history may "belong" to anyone.
Location: Room 18 & 19, 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 with from your event?
A: I hope that we energize writers grappling with stories set in the past. How to approach retelling known tales in a thought-provoking and imaginative way; how to manage research without being engulfed by it; how to tell a story that turns history on its head or views it through a new prism—and why we ought to—are all things I hope attendees put in their considerator upon leaving our event.

Q: What makes your event relevant and important in 2018?
A: Looking back at the forces that brought us here is one way for writers to reckon with the racism, sexism, misogyny, and white nationalism of our times. Contextualizing the historical record through the prism of storytelling is urgently needed, especially as writers of color, queer writers, Jewish writers, and female writers. Reimagining moments where history collided with humanity can encourage empathy and engage readers in the current moment. Ideally our dialogue will enable and foster new thinking about the forces the past exerts on the present, and collective responsibility for our future.

Q: What are some of the conference events (besides your own) or Bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing?
A: Every year at AWP I want a time turner! Sound and Fury: Understanding Voice in Fiction; The Arts of Death, Mystery, and Perception: Edwidge Danticant, Maud Casey, and Christopher Castellani; Stranger and Truthier than Truth: Fiction in the Age of Trump; and Nathan Englander and Lauren Groff’s reading are all on my can’t-miss list. If I’m still standing on Saturday I’d love to attend Arab-American Poetics and Imagining Others: Writing Fiction in English About Non-English Speaking Communities. Of course I’m also really excited about my other panel, Difficult History: Jewish Fiction in the Alt-Right World.

Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi; Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book of nonfiction, 8 Years in Power; Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere; and of course all the books by all my amazing co-panelists (Wench, The Queen of the Night, Enchanted Islands, A Dual Inheritance, Judenstaat, The Book of Esther, The Imperial Wife, and Everything Belongs to Us).

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