Tag Archives: AWP

I NEED MORE TWITTER FOLLOWERS! (AWP day 2)

At a panel at AWP, writers and journalists talk about the need to use Twitter as a way to reach an audience … just need an audience. Something I need to work on.

Adam in Seattle Coffee Shop

Nice Seattle Selfie. Thanks, Antagonist Me. I try. So, I went to a panel this morning at AWP about how writers can and should use Twitter. It was an interesting idea, though I would say that the panel itself felt a little undirected and more about personal stories than direct application.

Still, it was somewhat enlightening. As I Tweeted from the room, a number of people I could see were retweeting me. Strange relationship, that. But, I have about fifty Twitter followers right now, and the panel talked about how 200 followers was a low amount … which made me feel that my little Twitter empire was rather insignificant. So, I need to work on increasing my follower count.

It’s all about you, isn’t it. I think part of the problem is that I don’t have much of a Twitter strategy. Right now, I basically just make silly comments or point people to my blog posts. These are fine and good and all that, but I think I need to find a way to be more interesting to a general reader. Not sure how to do that, but it’s a good place to think from.

Anyway, having a large group of Twitter followers would be super useful to get more readers to my blog, to point people to publications (should that ever happen), to talk about events and whatnot that I’m taking part of. Twitter is a great tool, and I do agree with the panel that Twitter should be something every writer does.

I wish you kept your thoughts, so called, to 140 characters. Anyway, if you’re a Twitter user, let me know your handle so I can follow you. And if you want to follow me, my twitter site is Twitter.com/adamnannini. Any suggestions on how to expand my follower group, blog fan(s)? I’d welcome your thoughts.

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AWP Seattle 2014: Day 1

This is my third year in a row attending AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs {yes, I know it should be AWWP}), and this year it is in Seattle, WA. The last three years it has been in my three favorite cities: Chicago, then Boston, and now, Seattle.

You call yourself a writer? AWP is a great time. As I said before, I’ve gone three years in a row, and I plan on continuing to go (See you next year, Minneapolis!). Why, you ask? Well, it’s a great place to meet writers face to face (I’ve shaken Benjamin Percy‘s manly hand a couple times), talk to publishers (journals and presses), and hopefully, learn more about the craft and business of creative writing.

Writing as business … Ha! That’s a good one. So, I’ve been to two panels thus far this morning. The first was on structuring a novel. I’m interested in this because I have tried (unsuccessfully) to write a few novels, and I want my MFA thesis to be a novel. I have an idea for a new one, but the talk was helpful. The presenters were a few novelists: Summer Wood, Amanda Boyden, Melissa Remark, and Joseph Boyden. They talked at length about thinking of forms like the three act play or the hero’s journey. A few of them recommended paying attention to movie plot structures as a sort of easy way to think about sustained stories. As a movie fan, this is extremely helpful advice for me, so next time I watch a great movie, I plan on keeping a notebook out to track the general structure.

The next panel I went to was called “Like Sand to the Beach: Bringing Your Book to Market.” The presenters in the panel were an editor from a small press (Jarret Middleton), a bookseller (Karen Maeda Allman), an expert on self-promotion and social media (Rachel Fershleiser), and a very quirky and interesting author who’s made it on self-promotion (Jonathan Evison). I love self-promotion. I love the internet. I suppose I don’t trust the idea that anyone will be as invested as I am about my thoughts and my work, and this panel laid out the process of bringing a book to market and finding a reader base. They kept stressing relationships, that times have changed, and we have to connect directly to readers.

I’m sure readers are happy enough not to find your work. It was an empowering panel. I say that because, though I love AWP, I find a lot of the panels to be rather useless. There are a lot of abstract and ungrounded thoughts (example: “write from your heart” sort of advice), and it’s great to see a well-organized and practical panel that gives me tools to immediately apply. For example, based on the last panel, I created a Tumblr account for myself. If you’re a Tumblr fan, feel free to follow me here. My blog posts will now show up there. But with that, I’ve been thinking a lot about building up my Twitter followers. So, if you feel like following me on Twitter, go here.

Yes, yes. Good, good. I gotta go home now. Alright, well, the moral of the story is this: if you’re a writer, think about coming to AWP. It’s worth it. It can be overwhelming or disappointing at times, but the experience, the panels, the bookfair, I mean … it’s worth it. Give it a shot. On to more panels …

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The Wilding by Benjamin Percy

In this post, I’ll discuss the book I most recently finished, The Wilding by Benjamin Percy. I’ll examine his style and themes then share my overall opinion of this writer and his work without spoiling it for the rest of you.

The Wilding by Benjamin Percy

What by whom? It’s a book called The Wilding by an author named Benjamin Percy. I’d first heard about, and then subsequently met, Mr. Percy at AWP in Chicago last year. He was doing a talk on writing violence (which was an excellent panel, by the way), and since then I’ve been intrigued to get into his work. Not to go all “hipster” on you, but if you haven’t heard about The Wilding or Mr. Percy, you’re not really in the literary know … it’s okay. I forgive you.

My moments with Mr. Percy have been brief. I’ve been able to shake his hand, compliment him on his talk, and then ask some writing questions rather awkwardly. He was very generous and patient, and I appreciated how approachable he was. One of the first things you notice about Mr. Percy is his deep baratone voice, so when you get this book for yourself, it’s key to imagine the narrator’s voice sounding like this.

Enough about this guy. What about his writing? Well, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I bought his book. I enjoyed Mr. Percy’s talk on violence, but then again, I have not been taken by too many modern writers. But as I read this novel, I was impressed. Many people talk about his sense of place (he writes about woods in the Northwest), and it’s true, his sense of place is vivid. It’s easy to imagine the landscapes he draws, and it’s also apparent how dear that area of the country is to him.

Still, it wasn’t his description of landscapes that caught me. It was his rich characters and deep themes. The characters in The Wilding are extremely human and troubled, and yet, animalistic at the same time. Percy plays with this binary, and it becomes the central theme. He takes that familiar theme of civilization encroaching upon the wildness of the world, but he adds the twist of civilization and animal urges butting up against each other inside the minds of his characters. Suddenly, wants aren’t so logical and people are overcome with passion, hunger, and violence.

There are no throw-away characters in this book. They feel as real as the gas station clerk down the street. And each and every one of them has distinct and self-serving motivations. Still, despite the animalistic qualities, the selfish and human wants, the violence, the sexuality, all of the characters, including the most villainous (though there are no easy villains in this book), are extremely identifiable. Oddly, I found myself rooting for most everyone by the end, which is a strange feeling indeed.

A few plots crisscross throughout the novel, mirroring each other in ways, echoing some central questions, like What does it mean to feel loved (by father or spouse)? or When is it permissible to do violence? or perhaps the more important question, What does it mean to be a man? The action and the tension continually ratchet up throughout the book organically, as the characters feel that tension inside of them grow, until the reader is left with a satisfying and complete ending.

Way to be vague on the ending. Well, I didn’t want to ruin it for you. It’s a great book. I’d recommend it, especially for those readers who miss the man’s man authors like Orwell or Steinbeck. I’d say Percy fits well with that tradition of male writers. The Wilding is both great fun and yet, still willing to challenge the reader on some deep levels, questioning core issues. Read this book.

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Sports & Literature: Can they mix?

Writing Today. Wrote 1,576 words today to finish a first draft of the ninth story in my collection. It’s called “Worms with Marinara Sauce.” It took a very dark turn today … wasn’t expecting that.

I write a lot about the relationship between fathers and sons. Therefore, I write a lot about what it is to be a man. This has got me thinking … what kind of man is it OK to be as a writer?

Past Examples. There are plenty of manly writer examples in the past: Orwell, Steinbeck, Hemingway, etc. But I don’t feel like it’s that way these days.

I went to AWP this year for the first time, and I noticed the ratio of women to men was something like five to one. And the men I saw were not what I typically think of as “manly.” There was one guy who spoke at the conference who struck me as manly, and I found it interesting. I think he was the acceptable type of literary manly, which is the loner woodsman.

What I didn’t find there was anyone I could ask for the score in the basketball game, or shoot ideas about who would be drafted at what spot in the NFL draft coming up. This doesn’t necessarily make one “manly,” but I find myself somewhat alienated from a lot of the literary crowd, because in a way, I guess I’m more stereotypically male than many of the men I saw there.

What makes sports “manly?” Well, they represent confrontation, aggression, war, and masculine camaraderie. It’s about taking on another man and defeating him. It’s testosterone embodied in an acceptable 21st century fashion, and I get it. Growing up with four older brothers, I had to. Sports was a bonding agent, like pink bellies, wet willies, wrestling matches, and fist fights.

Feeling jock dumb. Recently, I’ve been trying to read Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. I’ve struggled to break into it. It’s so heady. It’s like reading T.S. Elliot without the footnotes.

Sometimes I get irritated … offended by writers. Sometimes it feel like they’re trying to make me feel stupid. This may be the case with Lowry, I don’t know. I’m about ready to give up on his novel, though. Still, I get self-conscious. I feel like so often literary texts are like the emperor’s new clothes.

The King’s tailors (professors / critics / intelligentsia) shout out, “Oh! What a lovely green robe he has on!” The crowd then begins to say, “Oh yes! I see it! It’s a beautiful emerald green!” And it builds and builds from there.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they all do see what I can’t see, and I have the brain of someone who enjoys football (which is a way smarter game than people give it credit). I don’t know. I don’t like feeling that way.

I don’t want to be the writer who sets out to confuse or irritate the reader. Maybe that makes me “low-brow” as a professor once said about me … *EUGH* … but I feel like low-brow is better than pretentious dick.

My attitudes, my libertarian politics, and my love of baseball will keep me out of academia, I think. Time will tell.

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AWP 2012: Chicago

So, this year, I went to AWP. It was in my favorite Midwestern city, Chicago, and was a fantastic experience. The talks were not always productive, as a number of presenters gave advice like “Trust your instincts” or “follow your intuition,” which are about the most useless bits of writing advice one could give.

Still, there were many fantastic presenters. One I liked talked about the difference between his approach to writing a novel and a short story. He said a short story is like stealing a car and crashing into a tree. He said the novel is working to avoid crashing into the tree, to resist that urge. He said he hadn’t realized why he struggled to switch from short stories to novels until he noticed that novels were driven by a character and not by a conceit.

While there, I familiarized myself with a number of great authors. I am not one who is that familiar with contemporary writers, so this exposure made modern writers very approachable. Ha Jin was fantastic. Brilliant. I need to buy Nanjing Requiem. Also was exposed to the idea of Midwest Gothic, which, when hearing the description, is essentially what I write. I usually refer to my genre as NH Gothic or Magical Realism.

I got to meet a number of faculty from MFA where I applied. Houston and Georgia College jumped much higher on my list, and as of this post, I have yet to hear from them. Thus far, I’ve heard from six programs (rejections: Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, Alabama, Virginia Tech, and Eastern Michigan {got accepted, but didn’t get funding}), and I’m waiting on six more (Houston, Georgia College, NC State, South Carolina, UNC Greensboro, and Bowling Green State).

Next year, AWP is in Boston. You know I’ll be there.

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