Kourtnie.net

Kourtnie McKenzie-Williams. Writer. Artist. Educator.

Trip to AWP LA 2016, Part V

I thought I’d finish the restoration of the AWP LA ’16 blog posts by now, but after today, I still have two days left to go.

Today’s post includes nuggets of wisdom for review writing, which is timely, considering I teach that in college now. But before that, of all things, I found a 💪 Lifeview!

Lifeview 🤩 Life’s an Adventure

During the drive home, I’ll pull into the Phillip Raine Rest Stop—which I use frequently, during my monthly trips between Central and Southern California—and I’ll see, for the first time, with the sun still washing the earth with yellow glow, an hour before the Golden Hour, how the ground scintillates with blue glass, a striking and dark color that would hide late at night—like a mosaic in subordination to the natural world—and this’ll dredge up a curious and alien feeling, the “Awe of a New Discovery in a Familiar Place,” which is a powerful and inspiring feeling and, I’d dare to venture to say, one of the feelings that helps us fall in love.

So I’ll fall in love with the rest stop, taking dozens of photographs, trying to capture that moment of wonder before it escapes again.

I travel too often. I went to Humboldt to see my sister last weekend; and next weekend, I’ll go to Orange County to see my father; so I’ve been in all sorts of beds lately, rather than my own. Yet this feeling will only find me here, at Phillip Raine.

Two weeks from now, I’ll go to the Monterey Aquarium to research the setting for my thesis, Why We Fall in Love, (61,000 words,) and also, to get more intimate with the next project I’m working on, I Will Love Like Loki, (which I think is a poetry manuscript,) expanding from the Central Coast to the Central Valley, and to the O.C. too, and even wider, the way my writing wants to do.

But for now, I’ll post notes from my 10:30AM panel.

Meaning Making 🤗 Everyone’s a Critic

Sometimes panels vibrate with tension—disagreements between panelists that are handled with respected yet palpable space—and I think if it’s done right, this discord can actually benefit the panel experience considerably, pulling the audience closer, as we try to understand the gray matter, the gray areas that allow these panelists to laugh together while also sharing conflicting opinions about whatever subject matter they’re presenting; and at the panel, “Everyone’s a Critic,” this sort of magic happened, panelists of lovely balance, juggling part discomfort, part comfort, while offering informative ideas to anyone who came to listen.

Nancy Lord, the moderator, teaches science writing at John Hopkins University, as well as creative writing for the University of Alaska, and her book reviewing experience spans decades, with a specialty in Alaskan voices and literature. She and other panelists, including Valerie Miner, Amy Hoffman, Leigh Newman, and John McMurtrie, enter a vibrant discussion with three centers of gravity:

  1. Should book reviewers specialize in a field, or should they be “generalists,” able to write about several bodies of literature, based on the needs of the review publisher?
  2. Should book reviewers only write “good book reviews,” (which McMurtrie described as, “We’re in the era of shiny and happy,”) or is it more ethical to write honest criticism?
  3. How do you get into book reviewing?

Other subjects are discussed too, like what makes a good book review, (doing it for love, instead of money,) (like all genres of writing,) and whether a review should include the I-pronoun, (depends on the publisher’s preference,) (like all markets of writing,) and whether experimental book review writing is a good thing, (Newman says yes,) (it’s based on each editor’s opinion, though,) (like all slush readers,) (like the world of writing,) but the hour-and-a-half panel revolves mostly around those the three centers of gravity…

Which I’ll visit more next post. 😋


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