I drove to Bloomington today from Richmond. I haven't been back to Bloomington since, I think, 1982, when I came back with a law school buddy to attend a football game. It looks different, to say the least. It's hard to imagine I spent 4 years of grad school here! I'm staying in the hotel in the Student Union, where some of the IUWC events are being held. It's all very disorienting.
Amy Bloom's workshop met this afternoon to distribute manuscripts. She seemed hilarious and just by asking a few questions developed a list of topics that we'll be looking at over the next several days. She also tried to give us a sense of her style of conducting a workshop, but the main point she made was that if anyone has a thin skin they should tell her now. I'm assuming I've been through enough workshops at this point that criticism won't feel personal. We'll see. The group is diverse, although we didn't really do big introductions. Some have never done workshops before, so that will be interesting. We've got 12 in our group--the other fiction workshops only have 8.
After dinner we had a reading. First up was Susan Gubar, an IU faculty member I recall from my own grad school days here. (I asked her later--she arrived in 1973; Jim B., if you are reading this, do you remember Susan?) She read from her forthcoming book, Rooms of Our Own, which is in a mode of her own creation: narrative criticism. I thought it was wonderful--it uses fiction techniques to approach issues of literary theory. It should be an interesting book--due out later this year I think. Next was Scott Russell Sanders, also on the IU faculty, who read from his latest book, A Personal History of Awe. The chapter he read includes an account of meeting E.M Forster while Sanders was a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge. Awe, indeed. I was able to talk briefly to Sanders at the reception afterwards--he's an extremely nice guy.
Stay tuned--more to come. By the way, upon checking in I was allowed to cart away two loads of literary journals. When I'm going to read them I have no idea. Good thing I drove.