#AWP19 Featured Presenter Q&A with Karen Russell

AWP | February 2019

Event Title: Swamps, Forests, & Borders: Literature of Place & Displace, Sponsored by Grove/Atlantic, Hugo House, and Seattle Arts & Lectures
Description: From the surreal swamps of Florida to the gothic woods of the upper Midwest to the fraught US-Mexico border, the American landscape has long fired up the imaginations of writers and readers. In this panel, renowned authors Emily Fridlund, Karen Russell, and Luis Alberto Urrea will read from their work and discuss how they have been influenced by landscapes both external and internal, actual and invented, political and personal.
Participants: Emily Fridlund, Luis Alberto Urrea, Karen Russell
Location: Portland Ballroom 253-254, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2
Date & Time: Friday, March 29, 3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.


What are some of the conference events or Bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing at AWP?
I wish I could clone myself and go to everything. I'm really excited to hear Colson Whitehead's keynote.

If you’ve been to an AWP before, what is your favorite conference memory?
I was so thrilled to give the keynote at AWP in 2015. It was a surreal and wonderful experience. Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges came to welcome the conference, and ended her introduction by reading a poem by Tomas Tranströmer.

What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
Fatima Mirza's A Place For Us, Rachel Kushner's The Mars Room, Morgan Parker's Magical Negro, Tommy Pico's Junk, Daniel Torday's Boomer1, John Wray's Godsend, Daniel Alarcon's The King is Always Above the People, Erica Dawson's When Rap Spoke Straight to God, Carey McHugh’s American Gramophone, Idra Novey's Those Who Knew, Karen Thompson Walker's The Dreamers, Avery Gordon's The Hawthorn Archive, Letters from the Utopian Margins, and Kristen Arnett’s Mostly Dead Things.

Has public funding for the arts made a difference in your life and career as a writer?
I've participated in reading series and book fairs that are heavily subsidized by public funding, and I spent so much dreaming time inside of libraries. 

If you could run into any author, contemporary or historical, at #AWP19, who would it be and what would you talk about?
I'm really looking forward to a massive friend reunion at #AWP19—all of my favorite people are coming to Portland. Way too many to list. This is the joy of AWP, the chance to see your favorite authors and humans under one giant umbrella. I mean that literally. I need to find the world's biggest umbrella so that I can ferry my friends around this rainy city. 

If you’ve been to Portland before, what places do you recommend that our attendees should visit?
Everybody should make a mecca to Powell's, a writer's Valhalla, and there's also the tiny, perfect sanctuary of Mother Foucault's Bookshop, 523 SE Morrison St. Stop by Kachka for horseradish vodka while you're over there. Forest Park is a green oasis in the middle of Portland.

Karen RussellKaren Russell, a native of Miami, won the 2012 National Magazine Award for fiction, and her first novel, Swamplandia!, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She is a graduate of the Columbia MFA program, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, and a 2012 Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. She lives in Portland, Oregon.



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