The first full day of conference activities began (not counting my early morning walk down Tennessee Avenue into the woods, a hearty breakfast, and the campus tour that I skipped but nearly 100 others joined, requiring a split into three groups and dragooned guides) with an Editors Panel moderated by Andrew Hudgins. We heard from David Baker, poetry editor of Kenyon Review, George Cole, editor of Sewanee Review, Ted Genoways, editor of Virginia Quarterly Review, and Mary Flynn, editor of Blackbird. Not present--he's been a regular and had been expected originally--was T.R. Hummer who just left his position as editor of Georgia Review. (That was news to me, and perhaps will be to you also; no word on his replacement that I heard.) The panel said mostly things that you've heard before, although Hudgins tried to focus the discussion on how the editor forms an aesthetic for a particular issue. The answers were all different as you might expect, and I think not necessarily all that helpful to potential contributors.
Next was a craft lecture by John Hollander, who talked about "language gone wonky" or "writing about righting"--he never settled on a title. But his focus was on exploiting errors in usage, examining whether some errors are intentional for effect or characterization or whether they are mere authorial blunders. He cited a good many examples. Look up the derivation of "gunsel" and think about how you've heard it used, for example. I was surprised by what Hollander had to say.
The afternoon was for workshops, but my workshop will begin on Thursday. I considered auditing one of the other workshops--I could have sat in on Barry Hannah/Christine Schutt or on Margot Livesey/Erin McGraw--but instead I used the time to read for Thursday and to dry off from the torrential downpour that caught us all by surprise.
The late afternoon reading (always there is one at 4:15) was Diane Johnson, reading from a book she published last year about her neighborhood in Paris, which was charming and funny as you would expect. She also read from a novel-in-progress, about a young woman recruited into the CIA who is travelling to Morrocco on a mission. It seemed charming and dark, and maybe something of a departure for Johnson, but I liked it.
After the Vice-Chancellor's reception and dinner, we came to the day's high point: Claire Messud's reading from her forthcoming novel, The Emperor's Children. It will be out next month and should definitely be a good one. Claire is a terrific writer, and also an entertaining reader.