How did spending an academic year in another country as a Fulbright Scholar impact the way we think, write, and experience the world? Four former scholars discuss the impact of their time abroad on their writing. Matt Davis traveled to Syria and Jordan and is the author of When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter’s Tale. He is the director of Mason’s Alan Cheuse International Writers Center. Tania James spent her Fulbright in India, after which she wrote the novel The Tusk That Did the Damage. Kimberly Burge spent her year in South Africa and wrote The Born Frees: Writing with the Girls of Gugulethu.
Award-winning travel writer Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands is a meditation on the lands on the fringes of the nation, and those who live on that periphery. From examining her changing native home of South Texas to hearing stories from Mohawks from the Akwesasne Nation, Griest weaves together a narrative of places both north and south marked by the legacy of colonialism and the practices of the Border Patrol. Her other titles include Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana and Mexican Enough.
In the essays of I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well, James Allen Hall takes readers along on his journey growing up queer in Florida, and surviving his family’s mental illnesses, meth addiction and incarcerations. Lia Purpura praises Hall saying his “work lays bare all manner of vulnerability, not to confess or shock, but to reckon into language the nearly unsayable.” I Liked You Better is the winner of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s 2016 Essay Collection Competition, selected by Chris Kraus.
Memoirist and novelist Courtney Brkic, poet Tarfia Faizullah, and children’s author Juana Medina, and poet Vivek Narayanan come together to wrestle with issues surrounding language and land barriers. Brkic is a Croatian American, Faizullah is a daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants, Medina is a Colombian American, and Vivek Narayanan was born in India and raised in Zambia. Moderated by Danielle Badra.
Can one person really know another? In Other People: Takes and Mistakes, essayist David Shields presents what the publisher calls “an intellectually thrilling and emotionally wrenching investigation of otherness: the need for one person to understand another person completely, the impossibility of any such absolute knowing, and the erotics of this separation.” In essays covering Kurt Cobain, the agony of first love, alter egos and more, Shields explores the possibilities, and impossibilities, for human connection. Sponsored by Mason’s Creative Writing Program.
In the memoir When the World Breaks Open, Seema Reza chronicles her journey from being a suburban mom to using her own lessons to build a unique writing and art program in military hospitals. Using a non-linear narrative, Reza exposes her triumphs and fears and regret through the dissolution of a dysfunctional marriage, and investigates her own experiences and societal attitudes towards loss, love, motherhood and community, undermining the idea that strength requires silence.
Janet Mock, New York Times bestselling author of Redefining Realness, TV host, speaker, and trans advocate will speak on navigating her twenties without a roadmap. Her newest memoir Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me traces her journey of becoming an adult: moving out, falling in and out of love, and working her way up in the magazine industry. Her work has appeared in publications such as Marie Claire, The New Yorker, and Allure. Sponsored by African & African American Studies and Women and Gender Studies.
For centuries, there have mysteries and misunderstandings between the East and West. Gish Jen explores this relationship in The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East West Culture Gap, specifically looking at how differences of the self and society complicate and enrich debates between cultures. The Washington Post describes Jen as “uniquely suited to explore this topic.”
Three award-winning writers come together to discuss immigration and writing. Jennine Capó Crucet, author of Make Your Home Among Strangers, writes of the story and struggle of a child of Cuban immigrants. Gish Jen, author of The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East West Culture Gap examines the distances between cultures. Marie Marquardt, author of the YA novel The Radius of Us discusses gang culture surrounding the US/Mexico border.
Noah Lederman’s memoir A World Erased: A Grandson’s Search for his Family’s Holocaust Secrets, poignantly captures stories of his grandparents’ Holocaust experiences. Booklist describes it as a “vital contribution to Holocaust collections.” Lederman uncovers his grandparents’ past, from the detailed account of Poland pre-WWII, to the extermination camps, to the repression of memories by holocaust survivors.
Jason Reid’s Get Out of my Room! A History of Teen Bedrooms in America explores everything from posters to personal space in teen bedrooms as a surprising source of cultural power over the years. Reid emphasizes how shifts in the economy, demographic changes, and technological advances shaped the way that teenagers came to “own” their spaces over the years to become “autonomous.” The Times Higher Education calls this book “engaging and affectionately written.”
Join memoirist Amy Butcher and short-story writer and essayist Rachel Yoder for their prose centered on the struggle, survival, and strength of people in extraordinary circumstances. Butcher discusses Visiting Hours, what Kirkus Reviews calls a “gripping and poignant memoir” about her friendship with a man with untreated mental illness who murdered his girlfriend. Butcher digs through research after finally returning to the city of the crime scene to find answers and closure. Yoder is the founder of draft: the journal of process, creator and host of The Fail Safe podcast, and has had her fiction and nonfiction published in The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, Best American Short Stories, and more.
Reporter Jared Yates Sexton and essayist Tim Denevi discuss covering the squabbles, scandals, and victories of the 2016 presidential election. Denevi wrote about the election for outlets like LitHub and New York Magazine. Jared Yates Sexton reported on Trump’s campaign from the beginning. His book The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters on Your Shore: A Story of American Rage chronicles the nation’s most unexpected and divisive election to date, from an insider’s perspective.
Every year, the Northern Virginia Writing Project publishes an anthology of exemplary writing by students of NVWP Teacher Consultants. Come listen to young authors read their poetry and prose from the newest anthology. Sponsored by Northern Virginia Writing Project.
Want to become a published author? Join the conversation with marketer Jennifer Crawford; memoirist Joanne Lozar Glenn; publisher Meredith Maslich; and professional storyteller Jessica Robinson. Crawford tackles the world of marketing for writers, as Glenn discusses her publication, Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Through Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More, which was written by a group of 6 artists known as The Roundtable. Maslich peels the curtain back to the publishing world and Robinson talks about opportunities available for writers in the storytelling profession. Come hear more about the writer-to-author process from these professionals in the writing community.
Melanie McCabe seeks to discover more about her father in His Other Life: Searching for my Father, His First Wife, and Tennessee Williams. Following her father’s death, McCabe was surprised to learn about his former wife Hazel, her romance with playwright Tennessee Williams, and Williams’ choice to create characters based on McCabe’s father and Hazel; so she set out to find answers. Elizabeth Winder follows Marilyn Monroe in Marilyn in Manhattan: Her Year of Joy, 1954, the one year the iconic actress lived in Manhattan, which forever changed her career. Andrew Gifford documents the fall of his family’s D.C. ice cream empire in We All Scream: The Fall of the Gifford’s Ice Cream Empire. Gifford is the last living Gifford heir to the fortune…if there had been a fortune. Instead, there is a tale of theft, betrayal, and suicide in the fall of Gifford’s.
Come hear the work of these nonfiction forces: Sheila Kohler, Rajpreet Heir, and Shawn Wen. Kohler’s memoir Once We Were Sisters grapples with heartbreaking loss and the enduring bonds of sisterhood in her homeland of South Africa. Heir’s essays on race in America have been published in The Atlantic, the New York Times and The Washington Post. Karan Mahajan called her work “dirty, hilarious, and utterly original.” And In a Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause, Wen depicts the career of French mime Marcel Marceau, uncovering the unknown about the master of this lost artform.
Ada Calhoun, Lindsay Detwiler and Katy Upperman chat about the art of writing about L-O-V-E across genres. In Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give author Ada Calhoun is revered for her honesty, poignancy, and sense of humor in her memoir about the complexity of marriage. Calhoun is a contributor to the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column. Romance novelist Lindsay Detwiler shares the gripping tale of a married couple, fighting for their lives and their love in the novel Remember When. Katy Upperman continues the discussion with her debut YA novel Kissing Max Holden about a forbidden teenage romance with the boy next door.
Celebrate the writing published by Stillhouse Press, including works of poet Carmen Gillespie and the memoirist team of Anna Leahy and Douglas Dechow. Gillespie recreates the trials of Sally Hemings and other slaves of Thomas Jefferson’s plantation through lyrical dramatization in her latest collection, The Ghosts of Monticello. Leahy and Dechow celebrate their love for eachother and outer space in their book, Generation Space. This collaboration is described as “part memoir and part homage to the unquenchable thirst of exploration,” with Leahy and Dechow writing alternating chapters. They will be joined by the guest judge of Stillhouse’s poetry contest, Kyle Dargan.