Just as I yearn to be in Saskatoon for the upcoming Woolf conference in June, so I longed to be one of the 9,000 in Chicago this past weekend for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference and bookfair. Alas, neither is possible this year, but I can follow them vicariously.
I couldn’t keep up with the 400 readings, lectures, panel discussions and forums, but I was able to follow a bit of the action in my chosen field, creative nonfiction, through Brevity—the online little sister of Creative Nonfiction, the esteemed journal that tops my list of “wannabe in it” publications. (They did print my letter to the editor in which I pointed out an error; they had published a piece asserting that Woolf wrote one of her essays in 1943. That may be as close as I get to being inside their coveted covers.)
I was most interested in a report on an AWP panel discussion entitled “Modernist Nonfiction: Virginia Woolf and Her Contemporaries.” Jocelyn Bartkevicius led the panel with her paper on Woolf, discussing perception and interiority. She cited Woolf’s definition of a good essay as one that has “a curtain that shuts us in, not out,” from the closing line of “The Modern Essay” in The Common Reader.
In another post, Daniel Nester recaps a session on “Negotiating Time and Narrative Distance in Nonfiction.” He talks about Woolf’s idea of the “I-then,” the remembered self, and the “I-now,” the present, and about “moments of being” (from “Sketch of the Past”), about teaching writing students how we write in different tenses to make this stand out.
I’m sure these two posts represent just a smattering of the breadth of Woolf’s ethereal presence hovering over the conference.