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Summer Workshop Lecture Schedule

While most of you are still recovering from this or that, the hard workers here at The Open Bar are sobering up diligently preparing for our tenth annual Summer Writer’s Workshop, which kicks off this Sunday. While it is too late to officially join the fun as a participant, all of the amazing afternoon craft lectures we offer are open to the public (for a small fee).

For those of you can’t make it up, down, or out to Portland, we will be featuring many of these mind altering talks on our podcast beginning in August.

Monday, July 9th

2:00 pm
The Agent Game,
A panel with Claudia Ballard, Sarah Burnes, and PJ Mark, moderated by Rob Spillman
Finding an agent to represent your work can be a time-consuming and hair-raising endeavor. Ideally, the relationship between agent and author is both professional and personal, providing a writer with much-needed support and encouragement. In this seminar, New York agents talk about what writers should know before seeking representation and offer unique insight into their profession. Vollum Lecture Hall

2:00 pm
The Odd Ode: Exploring the Poetry of Strange Celebration, with Matthew Dickman

3:00 pm
The Embodiment of Meaning, with Paul Harding
Fiction does not work rhetorically but by immersing its reader in experience. It is an art form that is therefore concerned with immanence, with our actual human selves acting and feeling and perceiving in this fraught world. Much of the meaning that a piece of fiction generates, preserves, and reactivates each time it is read is achieved through what we might call embodiment – reproducing the characters’ experiences of love, loneliness, despair, and hope so fully that the reader in some real, aesthetic sense, live through them for herself. This idea might be expressed by saying that the best fiction embodies its own meaning. We will crack this idea open and explore some of its artful, elegant implications through close readings of John Cheever’s “The Jewels of the Cabots” and Italo Calvino’s “The Distance of the Moon.” Vollum Lecture Hall

Tuesday, July 10th

2:00 pm
Blueprints for Building Better Novels
A panel with Christopher R Beha, Jonathan Dee, & Dana Spiotta, moderated by Michelle Wildgen
This panel will look closely at the various ways our authors have structured their novels, examining the relationship between the story they are telling and the structural rules they have invented in order to tell it. Is it important to adhere to these rules the entire way through? What are the challenges of nonlinear narration? How do you avoid making your novel too schematic? Vollum Lecture Hall

2:00 pm
Useful Poetry, with Matthew Zapruder
Wallace Stevens famously wrote that the role of the poet is to help people live their lives. How? Can poetry remain poetry while also being useful? In this lecture and subsequent discussion, we will explore in detail this seeming paradox. Topics discussed may include inherent mystery, imagination and the pressure of the real, metaphor, surrealism, cell phones, associative movement, shadows, John Ashbery, negative capability, high school, Susan Sontag, Aristotle, the heresy of paraphrase, conceptual rhyme, meaning, and the healing power of wakeful dreaming.Chapel

3:00 pm
A Voice Like Thunder, A Text in Whispers: Reading as Performance, with Dorothy Allison
Let us talk frankly about the performance aspect of reading off the page. What if you are a better reader than you are a writer? Can performance become a part of the craft? Can performative aspects detract from the written work?  How do you train yourself to use performance to improve the work on the page? Is performance necessarily a lesser work?  Is there a set of rules and exercises that help make this process more useful?  Finally, are there ways to write out verbal expressions that so enliven performance but seem awkward or obscure on the page? Vollum Lecture Hall

Wednesday, July 11th

2:00 pm
How We Write About Ourselves
A panel with Stephen Elliott, Ann Hood, & Ellissa Schappell, moderated by Steve Almond
In this cross-genre panel, we will discuss the different ways writers objectify their own experiences, and how they turn the dirt of the personal into artistic gold. We will look at the strategies and framing devices our authors have used for unlocking their lives and integrating the worlds they know with those they create. Are some boundaries more easily crossed than others? How do you find the right details and what sort of research should you do? What’s scary about this kind of creation, and what is simply freeing? Vollum Lecture Hall

2:00 pm
Writing Foreignness, with Mary Szybist
A popular quip about poems is that they can do one of two things: they can make the familiar strange, and they can make the strange familiar. We will interrogate the latter half of this assertion by considering poems that take on foreignness as subject matter. What, for example, are the possible dangers and rewards of writing poems that include reference to foreign places and cultures? We will consider various attempts and allow them to provoke admiration, suspicion, and questions. Chapel

3:00 pm
Say Yes, Say No: Conflict, Tension, and Opposition, with Anthony Doerr
Direct conflict is just one way to keep a reader’s interest, I tell my students, but what the hell am I talking about?  Can anyone tell a compelling story without conflict? Can we, like television news producers, simply rely on an ever-present threat of annihilation to make everything seem meaningful? This will be about narrative structure and oppositions and how even in contentment we, in Wallace Stevens’ words, “still feel the need of some imperishable bliss.” Vollum Lecture Hall

Thursday, July 12th

2:00 pm
Reading History, with Antonya Nelson
Writers are critical readers in different ways than other readers. We read to be entertained and enlightened, but we also read to be inspired, or to be reminded of why we write, to educate ourselves on how our forefathers and -mothers did that thing that they did so well. And we write in response to literature. We write to argue with it, to update it, to renew it, to borrow and steal from what has come before. This lecture will be about the conversations various writers have had with those who came before. Familiarity with Cynthia Ozick’s “The Shawl” as well as Louise Erdrich’s “The Shawl” would be helpful although not essential. Vollum Lecture Hall

2:00 pm-
They Paid Me With Drinks: How to Navigate the World of the Modern Poet
A conversation with Matthew Dickman, Melissa Stein, and Matthew Zapruder
More often than not, poets are left to their own devices when it comes to securing publication, booking readings, and promoting their work. This can be both empowering and overwhelming. In this causal discussion on the business side of poetry, our panelists will share strategies for making your way through the murky waters of the poetic world. Chapel

3:00 pm
Equilibria of Nasty: Negotiating the Grotesque in Fiction, with Wells Tower
Not long ago, in the town where I live, a pair of young incarcerated murderers conducted a cell-to-cell romance speaking only through the jailhouse toilet pipe. A fine short story, no? Actually, no. But so often, the outré, the dark, the ugly seem a safe, sere jumping-off place for fiction, far from the gooey shores of sentimentality. Yet when does the grotesque become the equally manipulative inverse of the sentimental? This conversation will worry the problem out. Vollum Lecture Hall

Friday, July 13th

2:00 pm
We Always Hurt The Ones We Love, with Karen Karbo
Memoirs and personal essays only work when we tell the truth about ourselves and — here’s the sticky part — other people. How do we write with confidence and authenticity about the people in our lives? How do we approach their role in our stories from a craft perspective? What are the ethics involved? Is there any way, really, to write honestly about our spouse or partner without tossing a grenade into the relationship? These questions and others will be entertained. Vollum Lecture Hall

2:00 pm
A Compact and Delicious Body: The Short Poem, with D.A. Powell
In his remarks on style, Demetrius notes that “the very first grace of style is that which results from compression, when a thought which would have been spoiled by dwelling on it is made graceful by a light and rapid touch.” Poetry, with its emphasis on precise diction, is an artful series of compressions: mental, linguistic, and spatial. In this quick talk, we’ll look at examples of short forms and examine the ways in which brevity enables both wit and grace. Readings will include work by Robert Grenier, Lucille Clifton, Charles Wright, David Bromige, Suzanne Buffam, Tim Dlugos, Etheridge Knight, Rachel Zucker and Kay Ryan. That seems like a lot? Not to fear, they’re short. Chapel

3:00 pm
How “The Wire” Put a Cap in Your Narrator, with Steve Almond
In this eagerly incoherent lecture, Almond will argue that the traditional literary narrator (the “teller”) has been replaced by a more frantic, subjective mode of narration that is actually a mimetic response to our immersion in a frantic, visual culture. It’s not just that writers are competing with all those deluxe cable dramas; it’s that we’re imitating them. As a result authors, younger ones especially, have forsaken the pleasures and assets of a strong, independent narrator — of the sort Jane Austen and George Eliot and Tolstoy used to such epic and sweeping effect — for the dubious thrills of a shoulder-mounted camera. Woody Allen and Hemingway will also be cited. Vollum Lecture Hall

Saturday, July 14th

2:00 pm
Useless Rules, with Aimee Bender
There are so many rules we hear over and over again: “show don’t tell”, “character moves story”, “careful with flashbacks”, etc. etc.  But then there are the rule-breakers, the writers who know that fiction and poetry and more are extremely flexible, capacious forms.  When do rules become totally useless?  What rules are helpful?  What writers help show us the way, and remind us of the largeness of process?  This lecture will be a rule-breaking celebration, a deconstruction of some of the most annoying ones, a few handouts of writers who reinvent the form, a gripe session about rules that have messed with a messy process, and an exercise or two to seal it all in. Vollum Lecture Hall

3:00 pm
How I Met My Wife: Alternate Strategies of Characterization, with Robert Boswell
The lecture will describe a dozen alternate strategies for making characters come alive. Vollum Lecture Hall

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