#AWP19 Featured Presenter Q&A with Rebecca Makkai
AWP | January 2019
What are some of the conference events or bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing at AWP?
AWP is always about the people for me. Certain people's panels are always amazing (go to anything Jean Kwok or Arna Bontemps Hemenway moderate), and certain people are guaranteed to be hilarious (Mitchell S. Jackson, Jami Attenberg, Mira Jacobs) or revelatory (Alexander Chee, Charles Baxter, Roger Reeves), whatever panel they're on. I'm never ready to look at the schedule till I'm at the airport on my way there, and then I'm really looking for names rather than topics. It's a bit of "take the professor, not the class."
What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
The Caregiver, the second and last novel by the late Samuel Park. I always think of Sam at AWP because, despite the fact that we lived in the same city, we always had a lunch date during the conference. The book is brilliant and life-affirming, the story of a Brazilian woman living LA and caring for a woman dying of stomach cancer, which is what we lost Sam to. It's so beautiful.
Has public funding for the arts made a difference in your life and career as a writer?
I received an NEA fellowship in 2014, which was a really key moment for me. I'd quit my full-time job teaching elementary school and was trying to piece together a living as a writer, but I wasn't yet getting the teaching or lecturing gigs that would come later. That fellowship helped build the bridge between my old life and my new one.
If you could run into any author, contemporary or historical, at #AWP19, who would it be and what would you talk about?
I've always wondered how F. Scott Fitzgerald would hold up at the hotel bar.
If you’ve been to Portland before, what places do you recommend that our attendees visit?
My favorite fancy restaurant there is Southpark, which does sustainable seafood but other stuff too. I can't advocate skipping panels for the Portland Saturday Market, but if you were to skip panels, this is where you should go. It's an incredible outdoor craft market. I once bought these wire figurines there from a place called Wire People Here, which still makes me happy.
Rebecca Makkai is the Chicago-based author of the novel The Great Believers, longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award, as well as The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, and the collection Music for Wartime—four stories from which appeared in The Best American Short Stories. The recipient of a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Makkai has taught at the Tin House Writers' Conference and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and is on the MFA faculties of Sierra Nevada College and Northwestern University. She is Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago.