#AWP20 Featured Presenter Q&A with Alice McDermott
AWP | February 2020
Event Title: NBCC Presents: Louise Erdrich and Alice McDermott
Description: Two National Book Critics Circle–honored novelists—Louise Erdrich and Alice McDermott—read from their work and talk with former NBCC President Kate Tuttle about inspiration, research, awards (Erdrich and McDermott also have won National Book Awards), evolving forms, the unique challenges of writing in these times, and the imaginative process that shapes their work. A double master class in the art of fiction. The event will be introduced by former NBCC President Jane Ciabattari.
Participants: Louise Erdrich, Alice McDermott, Kate Tuttle, Jane Ciabattari
Location: Hemisfair Ballroom C3, Henry B. González Convention Center, Ballroom Level
Date & Time: Friday, March 6, 3:20 p.m. to 4:35 p.m.
Q: What are some of the conference events or Bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing at AWP?
I'm reluctant to name a mere two or three and leave out all the rest. I've always counted on a certain serendipity at AWP (maybe because making a conscious choice about which events to attend seems so difficult). I'll wander around a bit, see where I find myself and what suits my schedule, and then, I know, discover a writer, a publisher, a book, an idea I had not discovered before.
Q: What do you remember most about your first AWP? What advice would you give to an AWP first-timer?
I remember being overwhelmed. Sort of like my whole life passing before my eyes in the form of friends, colleagues, former students, current students, from all the various places I've lived and taught, milling about in the same room. My advice to first-timers is take it easy, don't try to do everything, and if you see an old friend, teacher, writing buddy, always remind them of your name and place—by mid-conference we're all a little addled, I think.
Q: What is your favorite AWP conference memory?
Hard to choose a favorite. A bounty of fabulous readings. (Again, to name one would be to neglect a dozen others). Personally, getting to share a stage with the marvelous William Kennedy. Or seeing Wyatt Prunty, who I'd known for years but only in his native habitat, the Sewanee Writers Conference in Tennessee, standing on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, hailing a cab with the aplomb of a stockbroker... Sitting down for a catch-up chat with novelist Mary Kay Zuravleff somewhere on the periphery of things, and being joined, one by one, by a flock of other marvelous writers—birds on a wire, we said.
Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
Oy, it's that “playing favorite” thing again. But I've enjoyed and admired The Milkman by Anna Burns and Roxanna Robinson's Dawson's Fall and Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys. Novels by two former students: J.P. Gritton's Wyoming and Brian Platzer's The Body Politic. Nonfiction: Barnum by Robert Wilson. Tim O'Brien's sweet Dad's Maybe Book... too many left out, I'm afraid.
Alice McDermott is the author of eight novels, most recently The Ninth Hour, winner of France's 2018's Prix Femina, and Someone, an NBCC finalist. Charming Billy won the 1998 National Book Award. At Weddings and Wakes, That Night, and After This were all finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.
(Photo Credit: Jamie Shoenerger)