Tag Archives: AWP 2014

Literary Author-Editor Collaboration: Riverhead’s Manuel Gonzales and Megan Lynch

Posted by February 27th, 2014

THE MINIATURE WIFE coverThis weekend, Megan Lynch, a senior editor at Riverhead Books, will be joining her author Manuel Gonzales at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Seattle. They’ll be there for “Celebrating 20 Years of Extraordinary Fiction from Riverhead Books,” an unmissable reading on Saturday afternoon at the conference (Find more details here). Manuel will be reading from his short story collection THE MINIATURE WIFE, which Megan edited.


LS: Why shouldn’t aspiring writers give up on the short story form or on the prospect of putting together their own short story collections?

Manuel Gonzales: The beauty of the short story is that everything has been done to the short story. It’s been turned into a shopping list, a set of twitter posts, a menu (Roxane Gay‘s “Contrapasso”), and a PowerPoint presentation. It’s been minimalized and maximalized; it can be as short as 500 or 100 words or as long as whatever Alice Munro wants to write and call a story. So there’s nothing you can’t do with the short story. As a writer, you’re free to do practically anything, can experiment or not, and there’s something exciting about all the possibilities open to you as a writer. But truthfully, if you write short stories, if you can’t help but write short stories, if that’s how narrative spills out of you–not as a poem or a novel or a script, but as a story–then that is reason enough not to give up on the form.

Megan Lynch: As a reader, I love short stories and always have. As an editor, their appeal is simple: they can be perfect in a way that even the most polished novel can’t touch. And getting to really perfect something in the editorial process is a true joy; plus it works different creative muscles than the kind of structural edit you might do on a novel. So I hope writers will absolutely continue to write brilliant short stories, but they should also be aware that not only can stories be perfect, they pretty much should be. I take on plenty of novels that need significant work, but can’t do that with stories. Continue reading

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Writing Prompts: Finding Inspiration with Manuel Gonzales

Posted by February 26th, 2014

the amazing story generator by manuel gonzalesMy own stories start—as most stories do, I’m  sure—with a voice, or an image, or a normal annoyance extrapolated into something severe and outlandish. Lately, though, I’ve found myself drawn to story starters, which I give to students as writing exercises. Most of these I’ve pulled from THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR, a flip-book that offers three story elements with which to start a story. They’re often ridiculous and rarely produce workable stories. For example: 1) Upon winning the lottery, 2) a reformed hit man, 3) meets the ghost of Ernest Hemingway.

As ludicrous as the prompts might be, they make for good writing exercises, though, forcing the students to write something new every week and giving them constraints, which are good for writers. Whenever possible, I like to hem writers in with constraints.

I am refreshed, too, by the expansive variance that comes out of these exercises. It is less that no two stories are alike and more that there is such a wide gulf between each writer’s crack at the prompt that time and again my faith in the wicked, cruel, sorrowful, and hilarious minds of new writers is renewed. And every so often, a writer will tackle a prompt and something compelling—to the readers, but most importantly to the writer—will emerge and a true story will have been started. Continue reading

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Why I’m Going to AWP 2014 by Arna Bontemps Hemenway

Posted by February 18th, 2014

Arna Hemenway author photoAnybody in the Book Country headed out to Seattle next week for the Associated Writers and Writing Programs Conference, colloquially termed “AWP”? Our friend, the writer Arna Bontemps Hemenway, will be attending, as he’s done every year for the past four years. Here he explains what this conference means to him, and why Book County members might consider participating in this massive conference themselves.


It is not hard to find someone who will tell you his or her opinion of AWP, the massive Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference held annually. A simple Twitter search for “AWP”, for instance, will deliver a representative sample of the very wide range of opinions and witticisms offered on the subject. There’s everything from presenters asking you to go to their panels to novelists loudly and proudly proclaiming why they will or won’t be attending this year. But very few of these thoughts are directed specifically at you, dear reader, by which I mean the kind of aspiring writer and reader who has found a community like Book Country. So let me attempt to rectify that.

To wildly misappropriate a quote from Corinthians (that is nevertheless spot on), it might be said that AWP has become all things to all people in order that it might help you, whoever you are.

When the conference begins this year in Seattle, Washington, I will be attending as many things: a panel presenter (my panel on post-Iraq War fiction was accepted earlier this year), a professor of Creative Writing from Baylor University, an author with a book coming out (my short story collection, Elegy on Kinderklavier, will be released in July from Sarabande Books and is available to pre-order now), the holder of an MFA from Iowa, and, relatively speaking, an AWP veteran. But when AWP 2010 was held in Denver, I was, basically, nobody. I was a college graduate living in Pittsburg, Kansas with the girl who is now my wife, working as a janitor and writing fake blog entries for certain jewelry companies’ Google results for money.

Now, there was no bookstore in Pittsburg, Kansas. There was one literary reading in town that year, given by a New Yorker flown in by the local university, a man who berated me for daring to ask a question about his influences in the Q&A that followed. This is all of which to say I had no writing community. Each day that I had the chance, I drove to the local university and pretended to be a student there so I could sit in the library and write. Continue reading

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